Opinion: A portrait of Normandy

Looking down on Omaha Beach, decades later. (Photo by Kyle Wingfield)

Living in Europe has been described as inhabiting one large museum. While many eras of history speak from its cobbled streets and centuries-old buildings, few resound as clearly in the American ear as that of World War II.

And nothing of any era spoke to this American quite like the beaches of Normandy.

Seventy-three years ago today, as the Allied troops dug their first foothold on an occupied Continent, you wouldn’t have been able to hear your own thoughts, much less any voices. Visit them today — Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword — and you can’t get over the quiet, the stillness, the jarring serenity across their vastness. At low tide, and viewed with the knowledge of what lay between the invading heroes in their boats and the machine guns firing at them, the shore is such a span from ocean to hillside as to seem measurable in miles, not yards.

From atop the hills, among the pock-marked plateau that still bears some of the concrete and steel and barbed wire left by its one-time occupiers, the job looks even more daunting. At Pointe du Hoc, a name etched prominently in the lore of the legendary Army Rangers, daunting doesn’t cover it. You wouldn’t believe anyone had done what they did, if they hadn’t.

Moving inland are the hedgerows behind which friend or foe may have lain, offering one little more than sound to base a judgment as to which was which. And there are the churches: The most famous one, at Sainte-Mere-Eglise, still has a paratrooper (statue) dangling from its spire. The one at Angoville-au-Plain has bloodstains on the pews where the wounded were treated, and stained-glass windows depicting the screaming eagle of the 101st Airborne; outside its doors is a marker commemorating the spot as Place Toccoa, as in Georgia, as in the place where members of the 101st trained.

From those beaches to those churches to the crosses and stars at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial — the nine thousand three hundred eighty-seven crosses and stars, which amazingly enough makes it only our third-largest overseas gravesite from that war — a spiritual sense pervades. The religiously inclined may attribute it to a calm granted by the Almighty, to whom on the eve of the invasion many a soldier prayed, seeking to hear, as President Reagan recounted 40 years later on the part of Gen. Matthew Ridgway, “the promise God made to Joshua: ‘I will not fail thee nor forsake thee.’ ”

Those men, and that place, surely earned such a calm.

(Note: This was originally published June 6, 2014. It went down the memory hole when we changed blogging platforms, but we’ve recovered the text so I’m republishing it today.)

Reader Comments 0

30 comments
breckenridge
breckenridge

I Whine you become more unhinged every day.  Have you considered Prozac or something similar? If not, you should.

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

Wanna see why the monkey liberals love qatar, all of a sudden?


The small Arab country of Qatar, bordered only by Saudi Arabia and the Arabian Gulf, has been accused of allowing terror financiers to operate within its borders. The country has been called "the Club Med for Terrorists"[1] and "most two-faced nation in the world, backing the U.S.-led coalition against the militants of the Islamic State while providing a permissive environment, in the words of one top American official, for terrorist financiers to operate with impunity".


Same reason they oppose the travel ban. They want terrorism and they want you to be a target of it.


The terrorists aren't the real enemy, the monkey liberals are.

Robert Karma
Robert Karma

It is interesting to see the argument about killing civilians. Our wars have always killed, maimed and otherwise injured civilians as well as destroying their homes, villages, and cities. Even something we hold as sacred as the Normandy D-Day invasion took quite a toll on the civilian population. 


"After four years under the Nazi occupation, the men, women, and children of Normandy welcomed their liberators. But their gratitude was often mingled with confusion and bitterness: On D-Day, American firepower took 3,000 French civilian lives, as many as the Americans lost to German firepower at Omaha Beach. By the time Normandy was fully liberated, more than 20,000 civilians had died, most of them victims of the Allied bombings that pummeled the region’s cities and towns." - https://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2014/05/31/how-french-saw-day/U7JLZNtaUxTw4s5qaNKueO/story.html


There is always a cost to war and when we make that payment in our blood and treasure, we should also fight to make sure the cost was worth the effort. Most of us can agree that cost paid by our armed forces and civilians in Allied countries were worth the freedom gained by defeating the Nazis in Europe and the Japanese in the Pacific. 


There is some debate about the toll taken to defend South Korea but history has shown that was a sacrifice worth making. South Korea today is a vibrant, thriving democracy and strong ally to the US. In hindsight, the war in Vietnam was clearly a massive mistake that claimed the lives of far too many Americans and Vietnamese. At the time, the political powers bought into the 'Domino Theory' and that led us down a dark path in Southeast Asia. 


You think we would have learned a valuable lesson from the Vietnam experience but we still had the Bush II administration manipulate and lie our country into another baseless war. The consequences of the invasion and occupation of Iraq still haunt us today and will continue to do so for at least another generation to come. Rather than the promised peace and explosion of democracy in Iraq and the Middle East, we have seen a sharp increase in instability, conflict, and terrorism. 


Now we have a President who knows nothing of history, who used his position of wealth and privilege to avoid service during the Vietnam War, who lives in his uninformed bubble of ignorance, causing great damage to our alliances by attacking our allies while befriending and enabling hostile regimes. Qatar is only the latest casualty in this tragic comedy of incompetence and hubris. 


June 6th should be a powerful reminder of the high cost of freedom and just how precious our Constitutional Republic has been in the history of the world. The war against Fascism didn't end in 1945 but continues today against those who have betrayed our Constitution to support this cult of personality masquerading as President. Every day that Trump stays in the Oval Office is a slap in the face of those who fought to keep our world free of such tyranny and authoritarianism. Never forget their sacrifice and how every generation has to fight for our Republic. 

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

If you want to know what is truly wrong with this country, think about this for a moment; Republican majority Congress, foot wiping doormats for the liberal agenda but the Screaming Eagles, storming the shore and climbing the cliffs against their own agenda, the same platform they campaigned on.


They got a problem with tax cuts?!?!?!?!? Say what?!?!?!?!


Dude, what the hell has happened to my country?



AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

Honest to God, Blessed be His Name, they have issues with reducing the size of government? They want to keep obozocare?


Have I missed something?

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

Yes, it was a democrat president in WW2 that PURPOSEFULLY killed millions of innocent civilians and I do not fault him at all. These innocent Germans had a duty to rise up against their own government, who at the time was also PURPOSEFULLY killing millions of innocent civilians, and since they did not, they chose the rock instead of the hard place. Same with islam today, you have a disease amongst your own people, and if you won't "heal" it, we will. 


We will try not to hit your women or children but there are no guarantees in war, a war that you should have taken care of your own self. 

bella-
bella-

Super and Easiest  Home opportunity for all. make 87 Dollars per hour and Make 12000 Dollars per month.All you just Need an Internet Connection and a Computer To Make Some Extra cash.on this site  http://x11.pw/online-jobs



_____________

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

I just noticed that the monkey liberals, the same people who don't know how to back up their emails and can't retrieve data from a broken hard drive, think that the Russians hacked into our voting machines. Voting machines that don't have modems or wireless radios. They probably have usb ports but good luck getting them to communicate with the outside world.


Clueless dunderheads. Total morons. Providers of left wing "information."

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

This was originally published June 6, 2014.

Remember reading it then; glad to read it again. Thanks, Kyle.

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

These tear jerker columns and occasional holidays seem so hollow in the day and age we live in. It's like checking a box. Sure, at the VA, they will have a moment of silence and then go right back to placing our veterans on waiting lists. We got a blogger here that equates the actions of US soldiers with those of isis, a truly deranged thought. These people climbed the hill for you, for us, if they had failed, if they had put us on a waiting list, this would be a very different world we live in, especially for Europe. You can't cancel a round of golf to make sure that they get the best care possible? 


Every day we should all ask; what more can we do for those who gave it all for us?


But we don't.

JFMcNamara
JFMcNamara

@AndyManUSA#45 For the 5th time, pointing out that we have killed 200,000 civilians between Iraq and The war on ISIS is not equating our soldiers to theirs.  It's simply the facts.  We need to be outraged that all civilians are being killed.


On D Day, if we had killed 50,000 French civilians, that likely would not have been acceptable.  Today, we kill civilians in mass, and no one cares.  In fact, people like you defend killing civilians and are for torture.


They were great Americans.  I'm not sure we are living up to their ideals.

AndyManUSA#45
AndyManUSA#45

@JFMcNamara @AndyManUSA#45 Not only are you deranged, you're clueless.


Between the time of the German victory in the Battle of France and the liberation of the country, the Western Allies bombed many locations in France. In all 1,570 French cities and towns were bombed by Anglo-American forces between June 1940 and May 1945. The total number of civilians killed was 68,778 men, women and children (including the 2,700 civilians killed in Royan).[1]


And the French were considered Allies. Think of how many German civilians died in cities PURPOSEFULLY targeted for their war industries. 


The United States Armed Forces no longer PURPOSEFULLY targets innocent civilians, like al qaeda does. Yes, some are killed by poor targeting or the terrorists hiding among them. 


Show me your source for the 200,000 and I'll show you how they counted people killed by al qaeda suicide bombings.


You are truly sick, dude.


JFMcNamara
JFMcNamara

@AndyManUSA#45 @JFMcNamara ,  How am I the sick one?  I'm  the one saying that all killing of civilians is wrong. That has, and always will be, my only point.


You actually just agreed with me.  Killing those 68,778 civilians was NOT okay, and that is exactly what I said.  We stopped doing it because it was wrong.


The fact remains, however.  Whether you kill those civilians on purpose is irrelevant to their families.  To them, they died from our bombs and that's all that matters.


I'm not even sure what your point is.  Is it that it's okay to kill civilians if you aren't trying?  Is it that killing civilians is justified as long as they are muslim?  Is it that killing civilians doesn't matter unless they are pur civilians.  


How do you feel about civilians being killed in war?  I'm very clear.  I'm against it in all cases.  How about you?

td1234
td1234

Just a note for my Conservative friends over here, Hedley did not deny that he believes the Russians hacked our election machines, changed votes and is the reason Hillary lost. 

Eye wonder
Eye wonder

@td1234

That's a total, utter, complete and shameless bald faced lie, treason dog. Despicable (or, said differently: td being td).


RednecksKing72
RednecksKing72

Kyle the AJC should double your salary during the trump presidency, no Republican or Conservative should have to explain the unexplainable!  It's sad to watch fox news become "snowflakes" and a network that went from attacking  D.C to a network crying about "libs" 24/7!

Terpman
Terpman



Kyle,  Thank You for your words....We, the USA and our fellow Allies  came as Liberators , NOT  as Conquerors, a very important difference.....Liberty and Freedom do come at a cost, we shall NEVER forget these brave people who sacrificed for this. God Bless





Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

Very well done Kyle. Some things are not political and unite us all. Even today.


I have been to Arlington Cemetery on multiple occasions. No R's or D's on any of the graves. Just Americans from all walks of life.


New movie on Dunkirk is a must see as well as long as they are doing it from an accurate historical perspective. 

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

And our Congress, dominated by repubs, cannot come to an agreement on erecting a monument/statue of Dwight Eisenhower. What patriots!

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

@RoadScholar

I believe, correct me if wrong, the Ike memorial project started in 1999 and the reason not complete is disagreement on how it should look.

So unless I'm missing something it's hardly something to gather in with current criticisms of Repubs.

McGarnagle
McGarnagle

D-day. Salute to all the men and women who fought bravely on that fateful day.



JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

 “the promise God made to Joshua: ‘I will not fail thee nor forsake thee. ”

What wondrous love is this.

What dedication.

Sadly lost on so many now days.

DeepStateDawg
DeepStateDawg

Nice bit Kyle. 


I did Normandy during the post college Eurrail trip. Pretty sobering stuff.