Paul Greenberg

A scrap of childhood doggerel has become only a memory of a memory by now. They say that's the way the little gray cells record and re-record memories, taping over the previous one and changing it here and there each time it's rehearsed.

By now that little ditty has acquired the patina of a folksong you might have learned at your mother's knee, like "O Susanna." But the sing-song lyrics keep coming back every D-Day.

Was it Cab Calloway or Spike Jones or some other minor but colorful songster who recorded that scrap of song in the wartime Forties? My Internet search for the words has come up empty, but there's no forgetting them, or at least the words I now remember or imagine. Any more than you would forget a promise that help is on the way and growing ever nearer, like the Lord of Hosts himself, about to tumble down the walls of Jericho:

Hitler got the heebie-jeebies,

He knows we're comin', but

He don't know where

and he don't know when,

But we made our reservations--

And we're comin' in . . .

And on this day 70 summers ago, D-Day, the Sixth of June, we came. Like an avenging army -- and navy, air force, marine corps, coast guard and everything else. Terrible as an army with banners, as the Good Book says. And we did not come alone. There were GIs and Tommies, Free French and valiant Poles, the Canadians and Scots and remnants of every captive people of Europe.

Has there ever been a greater or more American force than the one assembled that day? Or a more eclectic one? They might as well have been a cross-section of the country: New England bluebloods and conscripts from Southern chain gangs, New York Jews and good old boys from back home, slum kids from the tenements and scions of Roosevelts, small-town boys from the Midwest (one named Eisenhower) and the corpsmen and nurses and gravediggers prepared to deal with the mountain of casualties about to come. Black and white we came, and every shade in between, all converging on those beaches that would soon be raked by gunfire and covered by the acrid smoke of artillery barrages.

A world in arms was out there approaching the French coast. And it was about to surge, hurling itself against Hitler's vaunted Atlantic Wall, his unbreachable Fortress Europe that would be breached that day by a tide as unstoppable as the spirit of liberty itself. However long suppressed, light was about to come back to Europe, The long night of barbarism was about to lift. And let freedom ring.


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.