By the autumn of 1944, and in the wake of the very successful landings in Normandy the previous June, Allied troops and commanders in the field, and civilian authorities in Washington, D.C. and London, were confident of victory in Europe.
It was just a matter of time.
In fact, as our forces moved like a juggernaut across France and into Belgium en route to the Rhine and Germany itself, the Nazis were in full-scale retreat, ceding back territory they had aggressively devoured four years earlier. There was even some talk – and it was surely well received – that some of our boys might be home by Christmas. People had been crooning about it in a popular song for more than a year.
But all that changed when the Germans launched a massive, unexpected winter offensive that December, and a fierce conflict known famously to us as the Battle of the Bulge disabused the Allies of the notion of an expeditious victory. The war was by no means over and the enemy not at all vanquished. This brings to mind a musing from the mind of the great philosopher Yogi Berra, when he said: “It aint over til it’s over!”
You see, while many were prematurely preoccupied with postwar dreams, the good guys were given a brutal, bloody, and costly reminder that the ravages of war are ever possible until an enemy has actually been completely defeated. Eight years after the attack on Pearl Harbor, it was pretty easy for Americans to remember what had happened without fear, because the threat was no longer there.
Eight years after the attacks on Sept. 11th, we have no such luxury. We must remember with resolve. We must remember through vigilance.
Have you ever watched a movie where the bad guy gets away at the end or enough loose ends are left hanging that you just know the producers are going to make a sequel? Well, our enemies have been longing for just that. Whether or not they can do it, or will, is, of course, a fair and open question. But for anyone to suggest that such a thing can never happen again is not only ludicrous; it is perilous.
I certainly think that this eighth anniversary of that horrific day in 2001 should be remembered – but not as a long ago, of a different time and place, event. It must be remembered in the way a Marine on Guadalcanal would have remembered Pearl Harbor in late 1942, or as an Army Ranger would have while scaling the cliff at Ponte Du Hoc, two years later.