Where to begin? Today is the 70th anniversary of D-Day and I, like my colleague Ed Morrissey and others, feel as if mere words are wholly inadequate to describe the significance of that historic event. But perhaps I can help convey the magnitude of that great undertaking -- that is, when 156,000 allied troops charged the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944.
The statistics have been debated and revised by historians over the years, but according to the Portsmouth D-Day Museum in Great Britain, the most recent figures indicate that some 4,413 Allied personnel died on D-Day alone, more than half of whom were Americans. All told, the Allies suffered roughly 10,000 casualties that day. And yet over the course of the invasion, the numbers only grew more staggering. “Over 425,000 Allied and German troops were killed, wounded or went missing during the Battle of Normandy,” according to the museum’s official website.
On days like today, then, I often wonder: do we as Americans -- myself included -- truly understand what it cost to liberate Europe? To defeat Nazism? Perhaps one D-Day veteran put it best when he said the following in a a recent interview:
Indeed. Who could argue with him? I certainly couldn’t. I have no conception of what it was like landing on those heavily-guarded beaches or parachuting behind enemy lines on D-Day. No one does who wasn’t there. Of course, I’ve seen “Saving Private Ryan” countless times -- a film so real and life-like that many D-Day veterans reportedly suffered flashbacks upon seeing it -- but watching history unfold on the big screen doesn’t quite compare, obviously. These men, some of whom still rest at Normandy today, lived through one of the most terrifying and important military campaigns in our nation’s history. How do we, as ordinary citizens, honor such sacrifice?
Simple: by remembering and honoring it -- always. That would be a good place to start.