The 6th of June 2018 marks the 74th anniversary of one of the largest military operations in modern history, Operation Overlord, the invasion of Normandy which started off with what we’ve come to know as D-Day. In the early hours of 6th of June 1944 Soldiers from Britain, America, Canada and other commonwealths ventured onwards to the liberation of France and eventual crushing of the spread of Nazism across Europe. D-Day was the beginning of the end of the German occupation of Europe eventually leading to VE-Day 8th May 1945, marking the end of one of the bloodiest conflicts in human history.
Through the use of Paratroopers dropped behind enemy lines and a seaborne invasion over 156,000 allied troops entered Normandy by the end of the first day. The American’s landed on codename Utah and Omaha beaches whilst the British took on Sword and Gold and the Canadians landed on Juno. Many young men gave their lives in defence of their country and the hope for a better life and their sacrifice should never be forgotten. Indeed on Omaha beach alone, around 2000 American troops became casualties.
World War II has always been a part of history I have found so fascinating. The fact that a world still within living memory for an ever-dwindling amount could be so different to the world I was bought into. It’s always been a sense of comparison for myself and offered a weird sense of inspiration that’s helped me through the most difficult of times. Many of the lads that jumped out of those planes into the dark Normandy night or stepped off those landing crafts into the hellfire of the German MG42s were my age and younger. Indeed one of the most well-renowned heroes of Normandy Richard Winters (who was immortalised in HBO’s amazing mini-series Band Of Brothers) was 26 at the time of the invasion and with my 26th birthday in a week and a half it really puts my own struggles into perspective.
Indeed these young men were part of what was to become known as “The Greatest Generation” They fought in what many see as one of the last great wars. A turning point in history. You compare the public reaction to World War II with the American revolts against the Vietnam war and it’s clear to see that this was seen as a much more just war. A much more obvious threat to someone’s country with a clearer evil to face.
There has never been a war WWII since and I find it hard to believe there will ever be one like it. Many of the wars Britain and America have been involved in since have been wars of ideology, no set states more fighting against an idea. This was the case with The Korean War, The Vietnam War and the recent War on Terror.
The Nazi regime had occupied most of western Europe at this point and had made attempts to conquer the cold Eastern lands of the Soviet Union, committing atrocities to the civilians caught up in the crossfire as well as the persecution of the Jews, gipsies, homosexuals and ethnic minorities of these countries. The final solution is often considered to be one of the first instances of mechanical mass genocide. The most horrendous acts of violence performed by humans on other humans.
This is where I get annoyed at people in 2018 saying such obnoxious statements like “Trump is worse than Hitler” or “Trumps going to become to new Hitler” it’s incredibly ill-informed and somewhat disrespectful to the men who fought over 70 years ago. Sure many people in the world aren’t the biggest fan of the orange stained, floppy-haired fool who currently occupies The White House, but let’s be real for a moment, he’s nowhere near the deluded, destructive evil that Hitler and the other Nazi’s inflicted across the continent. If this comes back to haunt me then I’ll be the first to admit I was wrong but at the moment, people making these sorts of statements don’t have a clue.
My generation is struggling to find a battle to fight. The battles of social politics although seeming like the most important thing in the world pales in comparison to the sacrifices made by the young lads of the 1940s. If someone speaks out against the policies of Trump or May it’s not like you’re faced with the possibility of a rifle round to the face as was the case in 1930s/40s Germany. Indeed, many of the leaders of the Edelweiss Pirates, an anti-Nazi resistance group started in the late 1930s, were publically hanged in Cologne on October 25th, 1944 after a crackdown was ordered by Heinrich Himmler. The men of the allied forces fought for a country where this couldn’t happen and the first amendment of the right to free speech could be upheld.
I find it hard to imagine what my generation would do in the face of such overwhelming hardship. I’m going to admit that if there was a call to arms right now I wouldn’t be anywhere near volunteering. Many of the men who landed on Normandy that summer’s day in 1944 were indeed there due to their own obligation to sign up to the defence of their nation. It’s a world I can’t imagine, a world so far away from mine which is why I find it so interesting.
Now, of course, I’m not advocating that everyone should join the military right now to get a sense of fear, terror and hardship but Instead, I’m merely asking everyone to take things into account. Not getting the specific number of likes on a photo or having someone say something about you behind your back really isn’t the worst thing that can happen but that’s what many people (including myself) worry about in 2018.
Thankfully and hopefully I’ll never be in a position where I have to run towards the enemy fire watching my friends get wounded and killed around me, I have the utmost respect for anyone who takes on that challenge and cannot fathom the bravery it must have taken to jump out of that plane or step foot off that landing craft that day in 1944.