Friday, June 06, 2014

Thoughts on D-day

You have to wonder why D-day is the one day of WW2 that gets all the attention. For WW1 it's Armistice Day. Which is cool as everyone in the war worked toward that, and it was really something to celebrate. Although today it is more of national day of mourning for many people.

Even though you could make a case that Vicksburg was the pivotal battle of the Civil War, it is Gettysburg that is always the big day in that war.  Do wonder if its geographical location being closer to DC and might have helped nudge it over the edge. But you think the ACW and it's Gettysburg. I don’t think there is a day remembered for the war of 1812, although one might suspect the day the British burned the White House.  In Boston the Revolutionary War day is Evacuation Day- the day the British left the city. However, that is really just an excuse to celebrate ST. Patrick's Day so it doesn't count.

We have no days for Viet Nam, nor for Korea or the French and Indian Wars. Napoleon will forever be linked to Waterloo, but I don’t think the British recognize Boudicca Day, or any Seven Years War Day.

I can’t think of what the future will bring for the Gulf Wars, however if someone makes a movie about the pulling down of Saddam's statue that could well become "the day." Or, if I wanted to be clever it could "Mission Accomplished Day." I doubt we'll ever really have a "final Day for those.

But for WW2 it is not VE or VJ Day.  I doubt most people even know those days. But they will remember December 7th, and June 6th. The sad part of June 6th being "the WW2 Day" is that not everyone took part in it. VE day everyone, even the very first guys to die, were part of the final victory.  Land on June 7th and you take a big step down in awesomeness. Heck, even land at dusk on 6 June and you are not as awesome as a guy who landed at 6:30.  Which is kind of sad. No, it's very sad actually.

I think that while Hollywood and TV documentaries have had a great deal to do with this vast interest in 6 June, it's also easier for most people to understand. On one day a bunch of guys got off boats, battles inland, and won the war. No maneuvering, no difficult maps to read (just memorize the five beach names for a Class one D-day Fan; memorize all the beach sections for a class two D-day Fan).  It's a very limited concept to grasp, and it is a lot easier to write about than a larger battle that covers weeks, moves over staggering amounts of territory, and some bits overlap other bits - making it more confusing to actually understand.   

By now I bet most of you could sketch out a D-day documentary in your sleep. You know all the bits that every show covers, all the proper film clips, and what the animations of arrows leading into the beaches should look like.

I'm not saying that June 6th is a bad day for WW2, but I do have to wonder what in human psychology makes us choose THAT day.  Logic would choose we celebrate VE/VJ day , and maybe December 7th, The Ying and Yang of WW2.  And it extends to collectors as well. If I were to have two 100% sure provenanced helmets : one that I can prove was at D-day, and the other I can prove was worn by someone on VE day- the D-day one would sell for astronomical amounts, which no one would care about the VE day one. Make that one a helmet worn by some lower ranking, no name guys how as there when the surrender was signed, I mean ACTUALLY in the room, and it would be a curiosity but no be very valuable.

D-day is now firmly ensconced in our minds as a legend. I wonder if years from now there will be an athletic event where you sprint up a few hundred yards of sand carrying a backpack? Will it be our Marathon?

But if you have read this far I suppose you deserve some sort of treat. So here: This is the coin given to vets in 1969 in Normandy. Actually, it was my dad's, but he tuned and handed it right to me. Back then they didn’t really care if he landed on 6 June or 4 July. All they cared about was that he came across the ocean and helped kick out the Germans.

No comments: