Doom and Decision – The 75th D‑Day Anniversary 2019

By Kai-Arne Zimny

 

 

Only a hand­ful of history’s myr­i­ads of dates is uni­ver­sal­ly remem­bered even out­side the domain of aca­d­e­m­ic his­to­ry. June 6, 1944, is one of them. It was the day 156,000 Allied troops land­ed on the beach­es of Ger­man-occu­pied Nor­mandy. It was D‑Day.

After years of mech­a­nized, mil­lion­fold mur­der in Ger­many, the Nazis had spread their cold­ly deter­mined agen­da of death and sup­pres­sion across most of Europe. And in 1944, World War II had already been in its fifth san­guinary year, hav­ing wreaked hav­oc on three con­ti­nents and afflict­ed peo­ple from almost every cor­ner of the planet.

I’ve heard peo­ple refer to D‑Day as Dooms­day, and there was a lot of doom that day: More than 10,000 Amer­i­can, Cana­di­an, and British sol­diers were killed, wound­ed, or went miss­ing, and between 4,000 and 9,000 Ger­man sol­diers nev­er returned from the beach­es of Nor­mandy. Oth­er inter­pre­ta­tions of the D include Deci­sion Day, Depar­ture Day, and Dis­em­barka­tion Day. While all those ring true, D‑Day is sim­ply a term in Amer­i­can mil­i­tary lan­guage applied to the start of any sig­nif­i­cant mil­i­tary oper­a­tion. It is a code believed to sim­ply mean Day-Day, like the French equiv­a­lent J‑Jour, that allows mil­i­tary strate­gists to talk about an oper­a­tion with­out reveal­ing infor­ma­tion con­cern­ing time or place. Accord­ing­ly, there were many D‑Days through­out World War II and oth­er wars.

How­ev­er, since June 6, 1944, the expres­sion is wed­ded to the beach­es of Nor­mandy, both in pop­u­lar as well as aca­d­e­m­ic his­to­ry – because the tide began to turn on this D‑Day. It was the first step of Oper­a­tion Over­lord (the lib­er­a­tion of France between June and August 1944) which forced Hitler’s Ger­many into a war on mul­ti­ple fronts it could not win – a war that would final­ly come to an end a year lat­er. His­to­ri­ans fond of ‘what if’ games offer a vari­ety of spec­u­la­tive answers to the ques­tion about how World War II would have pro­ceed­ed with­out the estab­lish­ment of the Allied West­ern Front. Even though some of those sce­nar­ios are far more extreme than oth­ers, they all have one thing in com­mon: They’re terrifying.

 

 

It is wise to keep this in mind when think­ing about a day as hor­rif­ic and grue­some as D‑Day. It’s a day that can’t be cel­e­brat­ed but should be com­mem­o­rat­ed. For sol­diers killed or wound­ed in action, for all peo­ple who suf­fered in so many ways. And com­mem­o­rat­ed by all of us who feel some­thing that could per­haps be best described as a his­tor­i­cal sigh of relief when think­ing about what fur­ther tragedy was pre­vent­ed because of D‑Day on the sixth of June in 1944.

On June 5, 2019, over a dozen world lead­ers and hun­dreds of vet­er­ans gath­ered in Portsmouth, the south­ern Eng­lish port city from where the Allied troops had set off towards the beach­es of Nor­mandy 75 years ago. Accord­ing­ly, com­mem­o­ra­tions were held in Nor­mandy a day lat­er. These were the most promi­nent events of the D‑Day com­mem­o­ra­tions, but only two of many that will take place in France, Eng­land, Cana­da, and the Unit­ed States until Sep­tem­ber. Click the link below for a detailed overview of all the events: http://www.dday-anniversary.com/.

 

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