Friday, June 5, 2009
There are few military anniversaries that enjoy the universal recognition of "D-Day". Because of this universal recognition and its key role (from the Western perspective) in defeating Hitler's Germany, it is an accessible gateway to Military History and World War II.
The American War Effort during World War II epitomizes everything it means about being an American. It was a war fought for the Freedom of a Continent (even if that Freedom would take nearly fifty years for some parts of Central and Eastern Europe). It was fought by a fully mobilized American population whose single-minded goal was the defeat of Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany. It was fought by a strong-willed people who had the strength to endure defeat and face-down tremendous odds with the knowledge that the Tide Would Turn. World War II (and the Normandy Campaign) demonstrated the awesome power that the Arsenal of Freedom could bring to bear on an enemy when it was focused on a single aim.
Yet, it is difficult to look back on World War II and the Normandy Campaign and not feel a hint of Nostalgia for the past. The generation that fought World War II is rightly called the Greatest Generation. But America has come a long way from that generation. Could America fight World War II today? The answer I fear is no. If that is the answer, our apathy, our lack of national will, our lack of strength undermines all that "D-Day" embodies. We are in essence, a radically different country.
On this anniversary of D-Day, it is good and right to remember what that Generation did on the Beaches of Normandy and in the fields and in the air. But we should also resolve to try and imitate that Generation's noble example. We should strive to make ourselves worthy of their sacrifice and truly Thank them for their gift.
And on a side note, go watch the Longest Day, it is perhaps the greatest World War II movie ever made.