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More Than Self: Reflections on D-Day, while looking to Flag Day

Steve Fair

Editor’s Note: The anniversary of D-Day, the Sixth of June, passed rather quietly this year. With the approach of Flag Day (June 15), and then Independence Day, Steve Fair’s reflection is both timeless and timely. He brings to bring the reality of how America retained its unique role in world history through the sacrifice of those brave souls who stormed the beaches of Normandy in 1944.

Sunday June 6th marked the 77th anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of Normandy – code-named Operation Overlord. The battle lasted for two months and ultimately resulted in the liberation of Western Europe from Nazi Germany’s control. A total of 156,000 American, British and Canadian forces landed on five beaches along a 50 mile stretch of France’s Normandy region.

Ultimately, 73,000 Americans, 63,000 British, and 20,000 Canadian troops, 5,000 ships and landing craft, and 11,000 aircraft were involved in the largest military assaults in modern history.

General Dwight D. Eisenhower, commander of the Allied troops, told the troops: “You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you.”

The landings have been called the beginning of the end of war in Europe. Less than a year after the invasion, Germany unconditionally surrendered.

More than 8,300 American soldiers lost their life that day on the five beaches- Allied troops total losses were 12,000- most of them at Omaha Beach. Germany had twice that number of fatalities.

That evening, in 1944, President Franklin Roosevelt spoke to the nation via radio. Instead of making a speech, FDR offered a prayer.

That’s right, a liberal Democratic president prayed to Almighty God. The text of that prayer is available online and every American should read it.

Three observations about D-Day:

First, The Allied forces were liberating, not conquering. Some critics of the invasion claim America wasn’t under any threat, even though Hitler had declared war on the U.S. in December of 1941. They believe the thousands of young Americans who lost their life liberating people in a faraway land were simply pawns of the U.S. government.

But Americans in 1944 believed there was a cause. Nazi Germany had killed millions of Jews, Poles, and other Europeans in Hitler’s attempt to build a ‘super race.’ Freedom in countries under Nazi rule was non-existent. They saw Nazi Germany as a threat to their way of life.

Second, we don’t really understand what a Nazi was. The evil actions of Nazi Germany were some of the most oppressive, cruel and wicked recorded in human history. When a civil rights activist calls a political opponent a Nazi, they reveal they don’t really understand what a Nazi was. Nazis didn’t allow freedom of speech or dissenting in their totalitarian system of rule. Throwing the term Nazi around those who disagree is reckless and careless.

Third, it’s doubtful modern-day Americans could/would participate in another D day. The dedication to the cause of freedom that doesn’t direct impact them isn’t there.

They will fight for their individual freedom, but collective freedom and a way of life? It’s not their battle. They take a laissez faire attitude toward any cause that doesn’t direct impact them. They are woken, enlightened, and illuminated, but most lack the courage to storm a beach to fight for freedom.

President Ronald Reagan spoke from Omaha Beach in 1984 on the 50th anniversary of the invasion. He said:

What inspired all the men of the armies that met here? It was faith and belief; it was loyalty and love. The men of Normandy had faith that what they were doing was right, faith that they fought for all humanity, faith that a just God would grant them mercy on this beachhead or on the next. It was the deep knowledge — and pray God we have not lost it — that there is a profound, moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest. You were here to liberate, not to conquer, and so you and those others did not doubt your cause. And you were right not to doubt.”

Thank God for people who ‘more than self, their country loved.

Otherwise, woken Americans would be speaking German.

NOTE: A widely published commentator, Steve Fair is Chairman of the Republican Party in Oklahoma’s Fourth Congressional District. His reflections often appear on CapitolBeatOK.com, an independent, non-partisan and locally-managed news service based in Oklahoma City. He is also often featured in The City Sentinel newspaper. Steve can be reached by email at [email protected] . His blog is stevefair.blogspot.com.

Dwight David Eisenhower is shown with American soldiers on June 5, 1944, in final preparations for the D-Day Invasion of Europe. General Eisenhower commanded the Allied forces who stormed the beaches at Normandy, in France, the next day. He would later serve two terms as president the United States. Library of Congress Archive Photo. Wikimedia Commons.
At Omaha Beach in Normandy, France, 50 years after the events of The Sixth of June, 1944, President Ronald Wilson Reagan addressed American veterans of the D-Day Invasion. The speech he gave that day is widely considered the finest commemoration of D-Day ever delivered by an American president. Photo Credit: Ronald Reagan Library.
When he informed Americans of the invasion of Europe, in the hours after D-Day began in Europe, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt did not deliver a traditional speech, but prayed for the troops and their mission. Historical Photo: The last known photograph of FDR, taken on April 11, 1945.
Steve Fair is a conservative leader and commentator whose writing often appears on the CapitolBeatOK.com news service.