Saturday, June 6, 2015

D-Day, 6th of June

June 6, 2015: D-Day remembered: Seventy-one years ago today, brave soldiers by the thousands attacked equally brave soldiers by the thousands, in one of the most daring and dangerous missions in war history. By the end of that very bloody day, thousands lay dead but the Allies had their foothold on the beaches of France, placing the German military in between two massive fronts and helping to bring about the end of the bloodiest and most cruel war ever fought. It was a remarkable achievement, both in terms of strategy and sheer determination, an amphibious attack against heavily fortified defenses, aided by a careful deception that fed into Adolph Hitler’s certainty that the Allies would attack at Calais, not the beaches of Normandy. Regardless of my personal hatred for war (or, perhaps, because of it) and my inherent suspicion over the motives of the war-bringers, I admire the courage exhibited that day and remain grateful for the sacrifices made by so many. I just wanted to say that. I was born six years after that crucial battle. My family lived through the German occupation of the Netherlands. They saw war from the point of view of the vanquished, the conquered, who were powerless to stop their country from being overrun, but who nonetheless stood tall and resisted that enemy, all the while preparing for the day their rescuers would come. It is impossible to say that the soldiers who landed in Normandy, or who fought through the hedgerows, or who parachuted into the flat near Eindhoven, or failed to take the bridge at Arnhem, or pushed back Hitler’s last gamble at the Bulge, that what they did was not justified or necessary. It was. History attests to that. They helped bring about the end of the fighting. They helped my family to regain their freedom. I am 65 years old. I did not experience that terrible war, but I have seen smaller wars, war after war after war, fought ever since. New people come up and want their turn, it seems, and we have not yet found an alternative to all that immortal aggression. And in that sense, I suppose, the dead of Omaha, Juneau, Utah, Gold, Sword and Point du Hoc died in vain. The chain was not broken. I think about this because I have had such good fortune to be touched by war only, though deeply, by association. Four months ago on this day I had a heart attack, and it makes me remember how many young, young men have died in battle long before their hearts could give out on them naturally. I have been stuck in lethargy since that date, writing a little, yes, yelling once in a while, yes, but overall licking my wounds. No more of that: I owe it to myself, and I owe it to the memories of men who would say, loudly and clearly, that war is wrong. That is my message. I can see times when it is necessary, but it is always wrong, and it is young men and women and children, and children yet to be, who pay the price for the folly and ambition of old men like me.

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