Seventy-five years – at first it appears more than the biblical “three score and ten” found in Psalm 90:10. Yet, the entire verse reads: “The days of our years are three score and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labor and sorrow for it is soon cut off and we fly away.”
Did the psalmist use the vision of God to peer thousands of years into the future, even to the present as we commemorate three quarters of a century since the mammoth invasion known as D-Day? Surely, as we salute the aged warriors, all of whom are at least in their nineties, they have eclipsed even the “four score” (80 years) mentioned.
And the flying, those vintage World War II airplanes mingling with modern air power, hearkens back to the verse itself. Our hearts soar in honor of the valor on display as a few hundred veterans stand before the world, often in awe themselves at how they are perceived as heroes by the free world.
To prepare for deadly fighting, every effort was made to promote life. Supplies included 100,000 packs of chewing gum, tons of biscuits and more than 6,000 pounds of candy. How big was the expedition? Historian Jay Winik notes “it was as if the Allies were ferrying the entire population of Boston, Baltimore and Staten Island and all their cars and vans in total darkness over 112 miles of rough seas in just a dozen hours.”
It is a paradox that has no doubt tormented many of them in the dark hours between dusk and sunrise, especially for the ones who may have served in World War II and Korea and Vietnam, all three. While we almost universally applaud these selfless soldiers, a great many of our readers will know that Korea has often been called “the forgotten war.” Still more, themselves now aging seniors citizens, know all too well when soldiers returning from ‘Nam were sometimes cautioned not to wear their uniforms when they entered civilian areas upon returning to the United States.
Such is the life of a military person. Even dating back to the Revolution, when it was generally estimated that one third of the Americans were willing to fight for independence, one third were sympathetic to the British and one third did not care one way or the other, serious life and death fighting has always been a thorny issue.
In fact, in the months and years leading up to the start of World War II, Americans were not eager to join the fray. Nationalism – a phrase mentioned often this very week in France – was a powerful force and the vote to begin a national draft passed by a single ballot in Congress.
One shudders what to think might have happened if the United States had hamstrung itself before the bombs began falling at Pearl Harbor.
Lend-lease was yet another significant issue. It was a cagey move that Franklin Roosevelt was able to cobble together so that supplies could be sent to England when Winston Churchill and his people were hanging on by their fingernails while Nazi Germany was running roughshod over Western Europe in 1940. Later, even Joseph Stalin, whose Russian army was fighting a horrendous war against Adolph Hitler’s legions that may have cost the Soviets as many as 10 million lives on the continent, it was American equipment that kept the battle going.
When the “Big Three” leaders met at Teheran in late 1943, Stalin issued a veiled threat that if the Allies did not begin a major push in Europe to confront the Germans head on, he might seek a separate peace with Hitler.
That was not likely since it was Germany who violated a non-aggression pact and attacked the Soviets three years earlier but the bluff – if it was one – turned the trick and the commanders set in motion a plan to invade France.
It was Roosevelt who came up with the date of June 1944 for the actual invasion since the massive infusion of men and material necessary for such an undertaking would surely have to be mainly supplied by the U.S. “arsenal of democracy.” It was not just an attack based on muscle but also heavily reliant on deception. From the King of England, who took part in a series of misleading public events designed to fool the Germans, to General George Patton, effectively used as a decoy for the mission, the Allies had to use every trick at their disposal to make the effort work.
There was no guarantee of success, as the Germans were the ones already entrenched on European soil. All of the Allied effort had to be brought in on ships or dropped from airplanes. It would be hazardous at best. Success had to be gained, however; there was no back plan.
The logistics were staggering. There were 15 hospital ships and 8,000 medics. More than 100,000 pints of plasma were available and 600,000 doses of penicillin. More than 124,000 hospital beds were made ready for casualties.
And the American commander General Eisenhower who said, “OK, we’ll go” to begin the mighty invasion, carried a name from the psalm writer, David.
As we pause to bow our heads in thanks for freedom and our valiant soldiers, it is a proper time to recognize that God has truly blessed America.
Larry Hypes, a teacher at Bluefield High School, is a Daily Telegraph columnist.