Monday, June 06, 2011

June 6, 1944

June 6, 1944, is one of the most momentous days out of many in twentieth-century history.

It was the day sixty-seven years ago that the free west summoned every resource available, and gambled everything on the outcome of this one day, and one vast attack—an assault across the English Channel on five beaches in western France. It’s object: to free Western Europe from the Nazi jackboot.

This was D-Day.

The tale of Operation Overlord, a heroic assault on the Atlantic Wall launched by the greatest invasion armada the world has ever seen, has been told many times but never so well or as effectively as the sweeping story told by Cornelius Ryan in his non-fiction account The Longest Day—which became a surprisingly effective 1962 movie starring everyone at the time who held an Actors Equity card.

Don’t accept cheap imitations.  Unlike the Spielberg splatterfest which purports to portray the same momentous event, this film (and more especially the book on which it was based) shows both the context of this landmark event and its human interest stories.

Cycling around those Normandy beaches a few years ago with my copy of Ryan’s book as one of my guides, I soon discovered that when they saw the book the locals were still keen to stop me and talk about what happened that day so many decades ago.  And sometimes (since they were talking very fast, very idiosyncratic French) I could even work out what they were talking about.  Or some of it.

And I remember sitting in a pillbox on Omaha beach, imagining how it must have felt that morning to have looked out to sea and seen the whole horizon armed to the teeth and heading straight for you…

… fast forward to 3:15. And keep your buttocks clenched.

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19 Comments:

Blogger G. E. Light said...

We must never forget what many men from a host of nations did there that day.

6/06/2011 03:11:00 pm  
Blogger Cato said...

Sorry just a quick correction, it was actually the day that the Western States, using as much resources and labor as they were able to expropriate from their controlled and partially planned economies, used their slave army to liberate the french.

6/06/2011 04:28:00 pm  
Anonymous Robert Winefield said...

It's only taken 67 years - barely the span of a single lifetime - for the depth and breadth of the evil that the Nazi's represented to be forgotten.

And the result, idiots like the one above can glibly skip over the fact that the Western States were in the fight of their lives and sought to use force both to rid themselves of the Hitlerite pestilence and liberate the dozen or more countries subjugated by probably the most efficient and ruthless armed force yet devised.

The irony is that pacifists and isolationists alike cast away eight or nine opportunities to stop Hitler in his tracks prior to 1938. Anything - even sacrificing Czechoslovakia - in an effort to buy off Hitler and prevent a European war.

The result: Hitler's armies were strengthened by the newly acquired Czech arms industry and came within an ace of first invading Britain and then starving her into submission.

But to the Cato's of the world, it is Churchill and his ilk who are the bad guys because in their hour of peril they nationalized the industries to maximize the output of tanks, aircraft and guns to defend their islands and liberate their defeated former allies.

Of Hitler, Himmler, the extermination camps, organization Todt (Hitler's slave workers) and all the rest we hear nothing - blank out.

You see Cato cannot see any difference between force used to liberate and force used to subjugate.

6/07/2011 07:44:00 am  
Blogger The Tomahawk Kid said...

I have been watching a few of these old movies lately, and I can think of nothing more terrifying, or abjectly stupid than the waste of these young peoples lives - I just watch and shake my head in disbelief and horror at the tragedy - and that is watching a movie - Imagine how horrendous it would have been to actually have to be there and do these things.
And I thank those men for giving their lives so we can live the lives we live today.

6/07/2011 08:46:00 am  
Blogger G. E. Light said...

Ironically the only death at the beach I played at in my youth are directly attributable to D Day. I'm speaking of St Theresa and Alligator Point FL. They form a sequestered little bay that in the 40s was home to Camp Gordon Johnson on the Gulf of Mexico. Here LSEs were test-run to figure out 1( if they would work and 2) what PROBLEMS might arise (or sink in this case). On one of the first trials, the LSE hit a sandbar, the gate opened, and the first soldier out walked about a foot before sinking to the bottom of the bay (35 feet or so) due to the weight of his pack: the only drowning on record at this beach. Another sacrifice that was definitely worth it . . .

6/07/2011 09:12:00 am  
Anonymous B Whitehead said...

Well said Robert.

6/07/2011 03:19:00 pm  
Blogger Cato said...

Well Robert there was another evil in Europe, a dictator with already more bodies than Hitler had or ever would have at his feet. Joseph Stalin is perhaps the greatest murderer in history. Hitler was trying to oust him and what did our brave boys and politicians do? They certainly didn't pick the lesser of evils in WW2. Instead of allowing the to tyrannical forms of Collectivism, Socialism and Fascim, kill each other in a war that likely would have caused the collapse of the Soviet Union. What did we do? We allied with them and spent billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of our own blood to make sure that he would not fall. The war also made government intervention a permanent part of our lives, and changed the way the american public viewed nationalism and overseas intervention. The war controls were not necessary either to fund the war effort.If you really believe in Capitalism, you would know that the most efficient way of allocating resources is the market price mechanism, the controls and commands were only necessary, because the american public would not have supported the taxation necessary to support the war effort, so the government had to resort to indirect wealth transfers. Such as conscription, which is a polite word for slavery.

6/07/2011 03:38:00 pm  
Anonymous B Whitehead said...

nice writing Cato, most of your facts are borderline true or out of context & are selected to arrive at a chosen conclusion. The sentence where you state that Hitler should have been allowed to take over the Soviet Union is almost laughable. I suggest you do some more research, if you seriously believe the point of view you have written.

6/07/2011 04:55:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Soviet Union built during the war 11 thousand kilometres of rail in 12 months, with the labour having more freedom than they had before the war.

This was followed up in the next 2 years with another 22 thousand kilometres.

How many years are the proposed Auckland rail extensions going to take ??.

Assuming that they will start.

American Liberty ships were built and launched in a week on average.

The Mary Grace took only 4.5 days.

None of these amazing feats came from slave labour.

adam2314

6/07/2011 05:12:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's true that the Eastern War was far more horrific than anything the Allies experienced in Western Europe, but that's because the EW was fought between two dictatorships.

It may have been, in hindsight, a nice idea to let the dictators fight it out, but the gains made by the Allies in Western Europe were far more important in allowing freedom to triumph, albeit in a limited form, west of the Iron Curtain, thereafter.

War and politics (but I repeat myself) is and inexact science. Rather we had a semi-free western Europe than Stalin aiming is missiles across the Atlantic from the advanced redoubt of the English Channel.

6/07/2011 09:24:00 pm  
Anonymous Ross Elliot said...

I should say, the previous comment was mine, including the spelling mistakes.

6/07/2011 09:28:00 pm  
Anonymous Ross Elliot said...

Further, Cornelius Ryan's book, The Last Battle, is a pretty good read re the Soviet advance upon Berlin from the east.

6/07/2011 09:32:00 pm  
Anonymous Ross Elliot said...

Further x 2, Saving Private Ryan is not a waste.

Tom Hanks' character is a wonderful example of the Renaissance Man doing his damndest to defeat the enemy for all the right reasons.

He wanted it over so he could get on with his life. He did his duty, to *himself*.

The saving of Ryan was incidental.

6/07/2011 09:42:00 pm  
Anonymous Robert Winefield said...

Cato again ignores the historical timeline and imagines that Britain could have sat out the European war.

Really? The UK entered into an alliance of convenience following Germany's attack on the USSR.

Certainly, Churchill was courting Stalin before during and after that event but that was because Germany could raise 200+ army divisions and the total available to the English/French/Belgian/Dutch forces was barely 190 even WITH conscription.

After Chamberlain stabbed Czechoslovakia in the back, Stalin made a non-aggression pact with Hitler and attacked England's ally - Poland - just after Germany did. And then they attacked Finland and had the Narvik campaign in Norway gone better for the Allies (it was touch and go), Britain and France would have been supplying arms to the Finns. In other words they would have basically been at war with Stalin.

Hell during the Russian Civil war 1919 Britain sent troops and gunboats in to help the White Russians against the Soviets. So basically they had been at war with the Soviets - to no effect.

So Britain didn't just suddenly decide to ally with the USSR.

Moreover, how in the hell do you expect that Britain could stay out of the war when PRIOR to the attack on the USSR, Belgium, Holland, Norway, Denmark, Poland, Czechoslovakia, France, Greece, Yugoslavia, Austria, and Albania had all fallen to fascist forces?

Not to mention Germany courting Franco for an attack on Gibraltar, threatening Sweden to keep the iron ore flowing and Hungary & Romania courting a German alliance to protect against the USSR.

You expected Britain to sue for peace - give up it's military & its bases in the Orkney islands (for surely this would be the price Germany would exact because Britain was in such a weak state in 1941 and, like France, it was a signatory to the Treaty of Versailles) in exchange for a piece of paper proclaiming 'Peace in our time MkII?'

Hitler's entire modus operandi was to promise peace in exchange for concessions that weaken his opponents militarily as a prelude to a walk-over invasion.

With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight you could of course predict that after cleansing the Balkans, Hitler would turn East to the USSR and not West to Britain.

Yes, I know about Ultra. But unless you had a bug inside of Hitler's skull, there is no way you would bet the farm on Ultra intercepts - as the events of December 1944 show.

So I don't have the ability to see into the future. Neither did Churchill nor Reynaud. Maybe Cato does and that's why he believes that Churchill and Reynaud and Roosevelt were all war-criminals (or whatever). Had he (Cato) been in charge, he would have done it better.

Likewise we see Cato's concept of how to run an economy in time of total mechanized world-wide warfare.

Just get out of the way he says. He expects capitalism to work during wartime - and if you doubt that you must be a pinko commie bastard.

Let us examine this. Capitalism is a system founded on free trade between consenting adults under a system of laws that prevent a third party from fire-bombing your factories and machine-gunning your work-force and interrupting your supply chain with indiscriminate U-boat attacks.

6/08/2011 04:17:00 am  
Anonymous Robert Winefield said...

It is a system whose fundamentals have only been established during time of peace. There has only been one world-wide mechanized war for economists to study and during that war all of the economies were centrally planned. So there is really no data about whether capitalism could work during a period where criminal action from the Nazi's could undermine the free exchange upon which capitalism rests.

Indeed, we see in the production figures what happens to a country (Germany in this case) that doesn't convert it's entire economy over to full war production before its enemies.

Namely, its armies get to fight without winter clothing and cold-weather lubricants. The rump of its army is restricted to foot or horse-drawn transport while its enemies ride in trucks. Its cities are laid waste by fleets of bombers much larger than its own produced by a country with a forth of its population (Britain's production of all weapons exceeded Germany's up until Speer took over in late 1943 - after which time it was too late). And lastly, it gets swamped in T34s and Sherman tanks which out-number its own vehicles by between 5-10:1.

Maybe if Britain and the USA had not nationalized their economies they would have developed this material superiority sooner. There is circumstantial evidence to support this (look into why how the quality of US torpedoes improved during the war).

The problem is, nobody - not even von Mises et al.- knew for sure and the cost of being wrong would be paid in a Nazi gas chamber.

In the absence of any surer way to get Britain & the US the military it needed to defeat Japan and Germany, Churchill and Roosevelt stuck to what worked previously in WWI.

There are many things for which these two should be condemned for. This is not one of them.

6/08/2011 04:18:00 am  
Anonymous Robert Winefield said...

And lastly, it should be remembered that Germany was prepared for this war. It's army and airforce had been almost 90% rebuilt and 100% rearmed.

Britain in 1939 couldn't even equip its territorial regiments to the same level as its understrength regular ones.

In 1940 just before the invasion of France there were 12 British divisions in the BEF. One of them, the 23rd had artillery communications or supply units attached. They were being used as manual laborers only and their unit was mauled during the Nazi onslaught.

Britain entered the war without enough anti-submarine ships to defend its merchant marine. And the lack of anti-aircraft guns at sea led directly to the heavy losses suffered by the RN during the first 3 years.

Likewise the RAF had been starved in the interwar years while the Luftwaffe wanted for nothing. Moreover, its squadrons had been mauled in France to the point that the during the Battle of Britain, the Germans had a 4:1 superiority over the defenders.

Churchill (and to a lesser extent Roosevelt) were faced with overcoming this neglect at the maximum rate possible or risk (in Britain's case) invasion or complete submarine blockade or decisive aerial bombardment of all cities or any combination of these.

And both Churchill and Roosevelt were fully aware of what sort of masters the Germans were.

I don't know who you are Cato nor what your economic credentials are . But if you want to judge a man's actions, you need to look at them in the context of the moment he took them.

In other words you need to read history or at the very least, establish a timeline of events so that you can judge whether the essayist you are aping (betting either a Rothbardian or a Pat Buchanan type) is being selective in their appraisal of the topic.

6/08/2011 05:02:00 am  
Blogger Berend de Boer said...

As descendant from a family living in one of those countries overrun by Hitler, thank God you were not in charge Cato, as we might still be under German control. The Soviet Union lasted 70 years after all...

And I salute the bravery of all those young men that, as history has demonstrated, gave their lives so we can live free.

6/08/2011 03:07:00 pm  
Blogger Cato said...

The ministers didn't know if the good ol' free market could provide the adequate resources? Well how in the hell could they know that a command economy would? I'm not denying the evil of the Nazi's or even the necessity of the US working to take them down. I'm merely pointing out that this was a war conducted with a slave army and stolen funds, and the leaders who apparently could not stand for the Nazi's invading Poland had no problem with the Soviets doing the same and then proceeding to occupy all of Eastern Europe. It's hypocritical and there is nothing heroic about it. Maybe those men were fighting for freedom, but it was with a yoke around their necks. Meanwhile FDR, Churchill and the beloved Uncle Joe carved up Europe into the zones of influence that would create conflict and tension that would last decades. Churchill already a decorated war criminal from his actions which led to the starvation of hundreds of thousands of German civilians during WW1, continued his sociopathy with another blockade and indiscriminate bombing of non-military targets. Roosevelt would get American hands dirty with the same. But go ahead and ignore me and call me a pacifist or a Nazi sympathizer merely for detesting crimes committed by the "Good" guys as well as the bad.

6/09/2011 08:15:00 am  
Anonymous B Whitehead said...

You haven't really read anything that Robert has posted have you, Cato?
He has been very patient,explained everything very well & obviously is quite knowledgeable on the subject. you are just argueing different shades of grey.

6/09/2011 10:05:00 am  

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