Hats Off to the Greatest Generation
Seventy-seven years ago today, 156,000 Allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy in northern France.
The year was 1944 and the world was about to change. A change was desperately needed because the bloodiest conflict in human history had been raging for the past 5 years. Ever since Germany invaded Poland in 1939, the world had been engulfed in World War II.
By 1944, almost the whole of Europe was controlled by Nazi Germany. Some months earlier, in late 1943, the Allied forces started planning an operation that would — they hoped — bring an end to the ruthless Nazi regime and restore freedom to Europe.
This liberation began with Operation Neptune, more commonly known as D-Day. On June 6 1944 at 06:30 in the morning, the invasion finally started as thousands of troops began landing on the beaches of Normandy in northern France. To make the invasion successful, the Allies planned elaborate deceptions to give the idea that the landings would take place at Calais, hundreds of kilometers to the east.
The deception plan worked because nearly all of the German officers were certain that the invasion would be happening in Calais instead of Normandy. Not even the troops stationed in Normandy were on high alert because of the poor weather conditions. In days leading to the invasion, the forecast for June 6 predicted stormy weather with rough seas and strong winds. As this prediction turned out to be correct, the Nazi commanders poorly concluded that any attempt of invasion would be impossible in such conditions. Many of the commanders stationed in Normandy left their coastal defenses; Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, the leader of the German defenses in Normandy, even left France to celebrate his wife's birthday.
With the successfully planned deception and bad weather at their side, the Allies began their invasion. Thousands of Airborne 101 troops made night parachute drops early on D-Day, followed by thousands more landing on the beaches in armored vehicles. The casualties were great for both sides but the Allies eventually prevailed, securing the beaches and the nearby villages. This critical day, June 6 1944, marked the beginning of the end for Nazi Germany.
To understand how significant D-Day was, we should imagine ourselves being among the soldiers who participated in the invasion. Personally, no matter how much I try, I'm unable to comprehend the strength and courage needed to participate in such an act. Most of these men traveled far away from their homes to get to this place. They said their goodbyes to their families. They left their homes knowing that they might not be coming back ever again. They did all this to go fight on some unknown territory in the middle of a stormy night. They did this not for personal gains or even for their own country, but for freedom.
In my opinion, this is among the most admirable things in all of human history. Because, whether they knew it or not, they were — quite literally — saving the world. Not only those who carried arms but also those who contributed to war efforts from home. Appropriately, this generation of men and women became known as The Greatest Generation. They were the greatest because they saved the world from tyranny and oppression, allowing all of us to live in peace years later. The world still has its ups and downs, but compared to those dark days, the world feels like a beautiful place, even with the ongoing pandemic. We owe our peace and liberty to the Greatest Generation. And this is something that should never be taken for granted.
As American journalist Tom Brokaw wrote, these men and women didn't fight for fame or recognition, but because it was the right thing to do. They were determined to fight for freedom, as I'm sure many of us would today if we realized that the only alternative would be to surrender to an oppressionist regime. The wish to live in peace undoubtedly provides the necessary strength and courage to overcome such extreme hardships.
Regardless of the ideas I've laid down so far, one might feel skeptical about this whole thing. Why should we care about something that happened such a long time ago? Why should we care for anything except for what's happening to us right now? To answer this question, let's consider a person that was alive during the Second World War. We might see them as some distant figure from the past but they didn't choose to be born in that time period. The fact that they were alive during the Second World War is as much of an accident as the fact that we are alive today.
This accident of birth is something that is beyond our control. None of us chose when we would be born, and neither did any of them. It could easily have been the other way around. The fact that I am now writing this article instead of loading my rifle on a battlefield is an accident of life. The fact that you're now reading this text in a peaceful environment instead of packing your clothes for evacuation is an accident of life. This is something that should be understood with humility and gratitude.
This accidence of birth gives us the opportunity to connect with someone long gone because that might as well could have been us. Being aware of all this, I cannot help but feel an endless amount of gratitude for the choices and actions of those people. Of course, it's not just the World War II generation. Throughout history, there had been many similar acts of courage and altruism that require our deepest respect. The story of World War II is perhaps the easiest to identify with because it is universally the most well-known.
To conclude: you and me and all of us, we are alive today. We have our past and future. We have our hopes and dreams. But let's not forget about all the people before us who also had their hopes and dreams. Some of them survived and made their dreams come true, but some of them didn't. From time to time, we should remind ourselves of these people because they sacrificed their hopes and dreams so that we could pursue ours.
Tomorrow we go into action. As yet we do not know exactly what our job will be, but no doubt it will be a dangerous one in which many lives will be lost — mine may be one of those lives. Well, Mom, I am not afraid to die. I like this life, yes — for the past two years I have planned and dreamed and mapped out a perfect future for myself. I would have liked that future to materialize, but it is not what I will but what God wills, and if by sacrificing all this I leave the world slightly better than I found it I am perfectly willing to make that sacrifice.
— Pvt. Ivor Rowbery, South Staffordshire Regiment, KIA 22 September 1944