For one day, one column, let’s put away the noise. Forget the president, Congress, the border wall, the whole thing.
For a moment in your mind’s eye perhaps you can conjure up the imagination to somehow see kids, mostly mere kids, jumping out of planes in the very early hours of this morning seventy-five years ago. They were scattered all over Normandy as their planes jinked to avoid ack-ack.
But, they organized themselves and began the fight.
Just a couple of hours before you got up this morning, in 1944, other kids could smell the English Channel’s salt air, mixed with fuel and seasickness, as their landing boats approached the French coast. Some of those men, on Omaha Beach, wore the same red number one on their shoulder, as I was to wear forty years later.
The boys on the boats who got them there wore similar U.S. Navy colors as my son did sixty-five years hence, the same his grandfather, my dad, did in the fall of 1944 on the other side of the globe, serving with Halsey in the South Pacific.
As you’re getting ready for work and making breakfast, they were falling like flies on Omaha that day, as the promised Navy and Air Force pounding of shore emplacements was largely ineffective. When their landing craft, with a ramp that insanely opened at the front (not the back as they do today) hit the beach and they were open to enemy fire, the Germans just generally aimed their machine guns at the ramp opening. They could hardly miss.
Down on Utah Beach, as you’re today getting into your car and going to work, the Navy dropped the 4th Infantry nowhere near their target beach. But screw that, Brigadier General Teddy Roosevelt, Jr., son of the president of his same name, seemed to say, we’ll start our war from right here.
The Brits and the Canadian lads landed at Gold, Sword, and Juno beaches. By nightfall June 6, 1944, after rough going on Omaha, everybody was moving inland by the time you get home from work tonight.
So on this day, take that moment and see this in your mind and your heart. Look around you at everything you have and love and know the boys on those beaches paid for it with their blood.
Today, myself…I’ll be thinking of them, as I’m attending receptions and meetings here in DC with our British allies. Tonight, at the Churchill Center at George Washington University, we’ll do more than remember, but will look to the past to guard the future against the inevitable forthcoming challenges to liberty and civilization.
When free men can do that, when they retain the spirit and vigor of our ancestors, then there is but one result to those challenges. It is the same outcome that came to pass on this June day in Normandy seventy-five years ago.