Today is the seventieth anniversary of the Allied invasion of Normandy. It marks the turning point in World War II in favor of the Allies, but it has taken on so much more meaning since the end of the war. It has become a symbol of democratic ingenuity and determination in the face of evil. The democratic Allies (U.S., Canada, and Britain) pulled off an amazing feat. They were able to surprise attack the Nazis with a 7,000 ship armada. It took tremendous planning, coordination, and daring to pull off such a complex mission. It certainly deserves its place in history but it also has a darker side. The loss of life on this one day is astounding, especially on Omaha beach. It must have been terrifying for those men who were shuttled out of landing craft only to face unrelenting fire from the heavily fortified German defenses. These men in no uncertain terms deserve to be honored for their bravery and sacrifice. D-Day has so much to teach us about human ingenuity and courage. But in our desire to mythologized this event we shouldn’t be afraid to examine the many mistakes that were also a part of this awe-aspiring event. To do so is not to denigrate the event but to do honor to those who lost their lives as a result of those mistakes. And if we are willing to learn from these mistakes we will be the better for it. Let’s honor the men who sacrificed their lives on that day by trying to understand what really happened seventy years ago.
What else makes the anniversary of D-Day special? The History Channel will actually show history! Tonight they are showing a new documentary on D-Day (9:00 to 11:02pm). I don’t know if it will be good or not (it’s hit or miss with the history channel) but at least it’s history. But I do know that NOVA’s “D-Day’s Sunken Secrets” (PBS) is excellent! It was on last week so you’ll have to watch it online but it is well worth it. Rather than focusing on the landing and the fighting on the beaches, this documentary focuses on what one of the speakers calls “the hidden battlefield.” At the bottom of the ocean off the coast of Normandy is a treasure trove of wreckage that tells the story of the amphibious landing from a different perspective. Therefore, this documentary includes information that has not been covered in other documentaries on the subject (minesweeping the English Channel, the existence of sunken DT tanks, etc.). One of my favorite parts of the documentary was when they took D-Day veterans with them in submersible submarines to view the wreckage. It was so moving. This documentary has also given me a new appreciation for what the Allies pulled off on that fateful day. NOVA you rock!