Editorial: The spirit of D-Day
To most people, when one talks of D-Day, images come to mind of grainy black-and-white photographs and newsreel footage of men in Higgins boats as they prepared to hit the beaches of France’s Normandy coast.
But to the remaining veterans from that fateful day, June 6, 1944 is still emblazoned in their minds in vivid color, with all the accompanying noise, terror, fear and adrenaline remaining just below the surface of their otherwise calm exteriors. That landing, and the battles in the days that followed to secure the beachhead, represented a turning point in the war. Yes, there would be tough fights ahead, both in Europe and the South Pacific, but from that day on, the end of the Third Reich and the Japanese empire was an eventual certainty. It required the largest amphibious invasion the world has ever seen to get that done.
As the Gazette-Journal commemorates the 69th anniversary of that epic battle, we take time to remember the soldiers and sailors whose sacrifices made that victory possible. Their ranks are dwindling every day. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, of the 16.1 million members of the United States armed forces who served during World War II, approximately 1.46 million are still alive today. In 2011, the VA estimated that 670 World War II American veterans died every day. America’s last surviving World War I veteran, Frank Woodruff Buckles, passed away in 2011. Some day in the not-too-distant future, the Greatest Generation too will be gone.
But we hope that the spirit that drove those young soldiers to risk all will still remain. The ideals of service above self, of community, of shared sacrifice, are still present, although like the memories of those D-Day veterans, lying just below the surface.