This year marks the 70th anniversary of the June 6, 1944 Allied invasion of the coast of Normandy to accomplish an Allied push through France against Germany. I was privileged last week to have an opportunity to visit the Caen Memorial in France and to take a guided tour of the D-Day landing sites. At the memorial, we watched a live-footage film that was made of soldiers sitting ready on numerous landing crafts approaching the beaches, and the soldiers who prepared to parachute (the night before) further inland to the northeast. We saw their harrowing efforts to run through enemy fire and cross the beaches up into the town and the virtually hand to hand combat that took place among the tall hedges and narrow streets of that ancient town. Standing up above Omaha Beach, we could picture the determined faces of those soldiers in the film. Standing at the top of Pont du Haec, we could see how difficult it was for the rangers to scale the sheer cliffs up from the beach. The remnants of German gun emplacements are still there, up on the bluffs so close to the water. Some of those veterans are still with us, and their stories leave me with a sense of admiration and awe. here are two of them: http://online.wsj.com/articles/last-of-surviving-d-day-veterans-battle-time-to-bear-witness-1402003449 and http://www.tankbooks.com/interviews/boblevine1.htm
In previous blogs I wrote that I feel it is so important for our elder people — particularly veterans — to preserve their stories and memoirs so that their family and others can learn from their experiences. Many soldiers find it difficult to re-tell these stories. I believe, though, that people are interested in hearing what you went through. It enables us to better appreciate what you did and helps us to be more determined to find ways to confront danger and challenges as you did. I want to thank all of you who fought for the world’s freedom in World War II, I hope that you will find someone to record your story while you can.