D-DAY, SEVENTY-FIVE YEAR AGO
D-DAY ANNIVERSARY ON JUNE 6
Photo Globe & Mail.
What is D-Day and who still knows about it in Canada, let alone in the USA, Britain, France, and Germany? And why is that so important?
Good questions. The Globe and Mail published two articles in its weekend edition about the 75-year anniversary of this event, which turned the tide of the battle of the Allies against Hitler and his Nazi regime.
It seems irrelevant to think back of the past, so long ago, and the old divisions in the world and long-dead soldiers. Anybody who saw the movies Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers will have some idea what happened, and that there was a bad war, once.
Between the Raptors, Trump’s shenanigans, the failing trade agreement between America, Canada, and Mexico, the China problem, environmental degradation, Genocide of Indigenous Peoples—there are just too many issues in the present competing for our attention.
Although I am not trying to deceive you, like AG Barr with his summary of the Muller report, here’s a summary of the articles, although it’s best to read them yourself.
The author Jerry Amenic wrote a dystopian book on the premise that nobody knew any more about the World War II after the last veteran of that war had died, but the publisher rejected it on the grounds that premise was unbelievable. So, to prove the publisher wrong, he set out with a videographer to interview students at a Toronto university and asked them questions about the Holocaust.
From The Globe & Mail, Jerry Amenic:
“On June 6, 1944, the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division penetrated further inland at Juno Beach on D-Day (on the coast of Normandy, Northern France) than did the Yanks or Brits at the four beaches they tackled.”
“The biggest military invasion in history, D-Day turned the tide of the Second World War. The 359 Canadian dead and 715 wounded were among 10,000 Allied casualties that day, and next week is the 75th anniversary. It will be the last one with actual veterans, which means there will soon be no more witnesses and that can be a dangerous thing.”
“We all know the words Lest we forget, but I fear that young people today know little, if anything, about D-Day and the Second World War. This became obvious to me when I taught college. They just don’t know. But when the last combatant is gone, knowing what happened and why it happened will be crucial.”
“We asked them about the Allies. We asked if they knew about Churchill and FDR. We asked about D-Day. With few exceptions, these kids knew practically nothing. The video we made has gone viral around the world. When I asked if they knew what happened on D-Day, their responses ranged from, “It happened in England,” to “It was a place where a lot of bombs went off,” to them just shaking their heads.”
“Two weeks ago, I attended the funeral of Milton Berger. He was 94. Milt was a long-time Toronto city councillor and we met when I was a young newspaper reporter covering municipal politics. He was also the father-in-law of a close friend. Milt was said to be the first Holocaust survivor to serve as a politician in Ontario. When he was 17 he was sent to Auschwitz.
“Lest we forget? It’s time for us to wake up and ensure that our young know why we have the freedoms too many take for granted. Having them not know disrespects those who made the sacrifice – such as the men at Juno Beach – and may even foretell a future that we don’t want to imagine.”
Roy Macgregor wrote the second article in the G&M..He interviewed a 94-year-old veteran of the World War II, Mr. Fred Turnbull, who said
“It’s one of the major events in history,” Mr. Turnbull says. “It saved Britain and possibly the whole Western world.
“I don’t think people know enough about it.”
“It was a nexus point for Canada as a nation. [France and Poland] aren’t there. Here’s Canada. We’re a junior ally. We’re not colonial. We’re there – and this was the beginning of the end for the Germans.”
“It was the greatest seaborne invasion in history. The Germans knew it was coming, but neither where nor when. The natural presumption had been around Pas-de-Calais, the shortest distance over the channel, but the military planners working under the allied command of U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower chose instead the sandy beaches along the coast of Normandy.”
“The Americans would take Utah and Omaha beaches to the west, the British had Gold Beach in the middle of the 80-kilometre stretch and Sword Beach to the east, with the Canadians assigned to take, and hold, Juno Beach between the two British targets.”
“The sheer numbers involved are to this day overwhelming to consider: 155,000 soldiers, some 11,000 planes, 50,000 vehicles and 5,000 minesweepers, battleships, carriers and landing craft, one of them carrying 19-year-old Fred Turnbull whose task was to lower the ramp, leap over the bow and steady the craft with rope while the soldiers stormed ashore under fire.”
“All the training helped you not to think about how scared you were,” Mr. Turnbull says.
“All around him mortars were exploding, machine-gun fire ripping into sand, water and men. Somehow, Mr. Turnbull got in and out unscathed.”
“The thing that bothered me most was the noise,” he recalls. “And the confusion. We just wanted to get it over with.”
“Some 14,000 Canadians landed that day shortly after dawn. The invasion had actually been in the planning process for many months, the Americans eager to attack but British Prime Minister Winston Churchill arguing for a delay so they could plan and practice down to the smallest detail. And they needed a break in the weather.”
“Someone said it was the most important weather forecast in human history,” Dr. Cook says.”
“Six Canadian regiments landed along Juno Beach: the Royal Winnipeg Rifles, the 1st Hussars, the Queen’s Own Rifles, the Fort Garry Horse and the North Shore (New Brunswick) Regiment.”
“Another 450 Canadians were dropped behind enemy lines by parachute and gliders. The air force sent Lancaster bombers and Spitfire fighter planes. The extensive naval operations involved around 10,000 Canadian sailors. But it was the ones charging off the landing craft who were in the most and immediate danger.”
“The soldiers took quite a beating,” Mr. Turnbull remembers.
“They did indeed. The Germans forces, under command of General Erwin Rommel – the infamous “Desert Fox” – were well fortified and prepared. The Allies suffered 10,000 casualties, 4,414 of whom were killed. The Germans, at first with such a protective advantage, had 4,000 to 9,000 casualties.”
““Remembrance Day nearly died out. But then it came back. I think it goes back to 1995, the 50th anniversary of the Second World War when thousands of veterans went back and we all sort of woke up and said, ‘Oh my goodness, we’re a country of peacekeepers, but who are these warriors? Who are these people who served and liberated? Who are these old men who are standing at the graves of young boys and crying? Who are these French and Dutch civilians weeping in joy? What have we done?’”
“Nothing less than what Mr. Turnbull says as, 75 years later, he stares down at the same harbour that once brimmed with convoy ships.”
“We had a job to do – and we did it.”
So far the articles in the G&M.
These days, military attacks take place using drones and distance targeting, with little hand to hand combat. Those who come back from war are often scarred for life. We need to realize that the soldiers gave their lives, and even as their bodies survived, their minds might drive them to desperation and suicide. We should be grateful.
The D-Day battle was the beginning of the push to defeat the Hitler Nazis. It took another year of battle before my country was liberated, it happened to be the Canadians who did that in The Netherlands. An estimated 60 million people died and many more were dragged and displaced, scarred for life by this war.
If the Allies (a collection of countries who could poorly afford another war after World War I), had not waged this long and brutal war, we would now live in a dictatorship under fascism. In the Netherlands, May 4 is a serious and all-respected event, Remembrance Day, with 5 minutes of silence in the country, followed by May 5th to party and for celebrating the liberators. The Canadians are highly respected and loved, with enduring ties to the Dutch.