June 6, 2013–The Anniversary Of D-Day And Why I Don’t Forget [Video]
World War II is recent history to me. My Dad and his two brothers John and Jim were World War II veterans. I’m thinking about them because June 6, 2013 marks the 69th anniversary of the D-Day invasion of Normandy.
69 years ago, U.S. and Allied forces staged a daring invasion of the coast of France. It was an invasion that would eventually free all of Europe from Fascist tyranny.
My dad, Don Williams never got into any fighting. He served stateside during the war. At the tender age of 3, he lost his eye in an accident on the farm. That accident made him ineligible for combat during the war. He guarded German, Italian and Japanese P.O.W.’s at camps in California and Washington.
His younger brother John, was drafted into the 101st Airborne Division. If you’ve ever seen the HBO Series Band Of Brothers or the movie Saving Private Ryan you have a pretty good account of what type of fighting the Screaming Eagles encountered. The 101st used gliders and also parachutes to drop behind enemy lines in Normandy. Their objective was to destroy the shoreline defenses before the main invasion force arrived. As it turned out, the 101st ended up scattered all over and did not have the sufficient power to neutralize those defenses.
Dad and John’s oldest brother Jim, was on one of the Higgins boats that made the frontal assault on Omaha beach. To say the least, they walked into a meat grinder. These men on the boats were sitting ducks for the German defenses on that beach. They took an incredibly high number of casualties that day.
Both my Uncle John and Uncle Jim never talked about the action they lived through in World War II. After seeing Saving Private Ryan I know why. These men had been together since basic training and they saw their buddies die and others maimed beyond recognition during that assault. They lost others in their outfits on the way to Berlin. As young men, they saw first hand the unspeakable acts of war. The memories were so unbearably painful to think about.
My Uncle John was still alive in 1998 when Saving Private Ryan hit the theaters. I called him up and asked him if he saw it. I also told him I finally understood why he and others didn’t talk about it. But I also had to know if the movie came close to actual conditions. “It didn’t get any more real than that,” was what he said.
Some people think that D-Day was the end of the war in Europe. It wasn’t. It was just the beginning of the end. For those who lived, they would have to endure the hell of the Battle Of The Bulge. German Panzer tank divisions had virtually surrounded the U.S. and Allied troops. It was Christmas and it was freezing. They did not have adequate food and clothing. Ammunition was low. They were way ahead of their supply lines. It took an act of God and General Patton’s 3rd Army to travel a little over 200 miles to the north to save the day.
On the anniversary of D-Day, I think of my Dad, Uncle John and Uncle Jim. I think of the hell my two Uncles and others went through to end the war and free millions of people in Europe. I am extremely proud of these men and I remember them all with gratitude and a prayer of thanks to the Almighty who brought them and others back home.