By Jim Thompson
I don’t often write about holidays, but for some strange reason, this time, I will. I suspect most young people in the United States today give little thought to D-Day. It was 79 years ago. You can even be old and perceive it as ancient history.
On June 6, 1944, 133,000 troops crossed the English Channel and landed in France. That’s roughly the same number as the population of Dayton. These troops were from the U.S., the British Commonwealth and other allies.
Granted, most of them were conscripted, but nevertheless they were of a mindset to do their duty. If you have seen the old pictures of the landing craft crossing the Channel, the soldiers were just kids, 17-18 years old.
This was the bloodiest single day in the history of the U.S. military, with 2,500 U.S. soldiers killed on this one day. The second bloodiest day of war was during the battle of Antietam in the Civil War, where 2,108 were killed (and where both sides were counted among the U.S. casualties).
Was D-Day necessary? Given the technology of the day, yes it was.
Hitler and his allies were evil people by any reckoning and the only way to effectively cause their capitulation was with ground forces. Granted, carpet bombing occurred, but that was not enough to push for a surrender.
It took brave people, largely men, both volunteers and conscripted, to get a beach head in France. In 1988, 44 years after the invasion, I visited Normandy. It was sobering to see the cemeteries on the high bluffs with their rows upon rows of crosses and Stars of David, almost as far as one can see.
By June 30, 1944 – only 24 days later – 850,000 men, 148,000 vehicles and 570,000 tons of supplies had landed on the beaches. The supplies equaled the weight of about 4,000 railroad coal cars full, or 10,000 modern semi-trucks.
It took another 11 months and many more casualties to force the surrender of Germany and its allies (May 7, 1945). Yet, World War II was not over. There was still Japan to deal with.
How would the world look had Germany, Italy and Japan had won? You can be sure there would be no European Union. Canada would likely be a part of Germany, and so would we. Russia would have likely been split between Germany and Japan. China would be a colony of Japan; in fact, the entire eastern rim of Asia would likely be Japanese.
The Jewish population would have been further decimated, with the only survivors likely living in hiding.
Freedoms would have been greatly diminished and it is doubtful that society would have reached today’s standard of living.
We should never forget that very brave people made the world what it is today. We may not think it is perfect, but it is far closer to perfection than defeat in World War II would have brought us.
Our debt to those who sacrificed their lives and their families is beyond our ability to pay.
Jim Thompson, formerly of Marshall, is a graduate of Hillsboro High School and the University of Cincinnati. He resides in Duluth, Ga. and is a columnist for The Highland County Press. He may be reached at email@example.com.