Sunday, January 21, 2018
Opinion

Sacrifice and success will never be forgotten

WASHINGTON

Decades after my father landed in Europe during the D-Day Battle for Normandy, he finally talked about it, including the horror of watching men laden with heavy packs and weapons drowning because they couldn't swim in the frigid, churning water.

He also talked about the grit, bravery and determination of the young Allied soldiers as they struggled to regroup and head up the beaches dodging staccato bursts of deadly German fire.

My dad would have two more years of intense fighting, but D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge remained pivotal in his memories of war throughout his life, although he would return home, father 10 children and march in Memorial Day and Veterans Day parades for more than 60 years.

Fewer than one in seven Americans alive today was alive on June 6, 1944, one of the most fateful military dates in history. But Normandy still stands as a synonym for courage, heroism and the best humans have to offer - making the supreme sacrifice to help others.

It's hard for us today to realize how electrifying the news of the D-Day invasion was on the home front, how dreadful it would have been if the invasion had failed as such a complicated, weather-battered operation could so easily have done. If Gen. Dwight Eisenhower had waited any longer, the great storm of mid-June might have been insurmountable.

I was privileged to be at the 50th anniversary of D-Day. I will never forget the lined, proud faces of the veterans who managed long airplane rides, canes, wheelchairs and arthritic knees to be there. I will always remember how their eyes shone with tears as they reached to grasp the left hand of Bob Dole, the Kansas senator who lost the use of his right arm and is beloved for his courage and service in World War II.

There were even some paratroopers who re-enacted their daring plunge from the skies over enemy territory to light the fires that would help the airborne assaults.

Former President Bill Clinton was the speaker that day. Some mocked him for walking alone on the beach, picking up a few stones, "staging a photo opportunity." But as a student of history, William Jefferson Clinton was completely awed as he contemplated the sacrifices and heroism of June 6, 1944.

And who could not be moved by what happened at Normandy, even today? The Germans were expecting an invasion and were well-fortified. They didn't know when it would happen but they believed a defeat at Normandy would mean the end of the Fatherland.

Eisenhower was a bundle of nerves, smoking four packs a day and drinking gallons of coffee, trying to plan the agonizingly postponed operation of moving nearly 150,000 military personnel over the storm-tossed English Channel, the first such successful opposed landing in eight centuries. He also had to coordinate the air attack for the largest amphibious landing ever to occur. In one month 1 million men were landed.

Who even today is not moved by the quiet nearby cemeteries, with their rows and rows of eerily symmetrical white crosses and Stars of David?

During the liberation of Normandy, 19,890 French civilians were killed and thousands more were injured. During three summer months in 1944, the Wehrmacht lost 240,000 men. During that period, 125,847 Americans died, and 83,045 British, Canadian and Polish soldiers were lost. An additional 16,714 Allied air force personnel perished.

On a bluff overlooking the channel, are 9,387 Americans who never returned home and are buried at the American cemetery Colleville-sur-Mer, including 33 pairs of brothers and a father and his son.

As Clinton said as he looked around the veterans in front of him 20 years ago, "Let us never forget, when they were young, these men saved the world."

Even when there are no Americans left who were alive on D-Day, the Normandy invasion never will be forgotten.

©2014 McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Comments
Editorial: Too soon for Tampa Bay to settle for buses over light rail

Editorial: Too soon for Tampa Bay to settle for buses over light rail

The good news on the transportation front is that Tampa Bay’s government and business leaders are working together like never before to connect the region’s largest cities, attractions and employment centers with a more robust mass transit system. Th...
Published: 01/20/18
Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

The smiles, applause and at least one hug belied the grim impetus for a gathering last week at a neighborhood center in Tampa — the Seminole Heights killings.The Tampa Police Department held a ceremony to thank those who helped in the investigation t...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

The death last fall of a 20-year-old Florida State University fraternity pledge revealed pervasive dangerous behavior within the school’s Greek system. Andrew Coffey, a Pi Kappa Phi pledge, died from alcohol poisoning after an off-campus party, and a...
Published: 01/19/18

Editorial: Confronting racial distrust in St. Petersburg, one conversation at a time

The St. Petersburg Police Department’s heavy presence in Midtown on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the community animosity it stirred have raised a familiar, troubling question: Can St. Petersburg’s racial divisions ever be reconciled?That big ideal ...
Published: 01/19/18
William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

A surge of Democrats seeking local legislative offices and hoping for a "blue wave" in the 2018 election continued last week, led by Bob Buesing filing to run again versus state Sen. Dana Young, R-Tampa.In addition:• Heather Kenyon Stahl of Tampa has...
Published: 01/19/18

Editorial: State’s warning shot should get attention of Hillsborough schools

The state Board of Education hopefully sent the message this week with its warning shot about the slow pace of the turnaround at Hillsborough County’s low-performing schools.The board criticized the school system for failing to replace administrators...
Published: 01/18/18
Updated: 01/19/18
Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

The Florida Legislature’s abrupt move to strip the University of South Florida St. Petersburg of its hard-earned separate accreditation and transform it back into a satellite of the major research university lacks detail and an appreciation for histo...
Published: 01/18/18

Another voice: Self-dealing by nursing home owners threatens patient care

The outsourcing of logistical support services, which became commonplace in the U.S. military in the 1990s and later was adopted by state prison systems, has now come to dominate the nursing home industry. And while nursing homes, unlike the military...
Published: 01/17/18
Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Three years into a crisis with its sewer system, St. Petersburg has a dandy new idea for dealing with the environmental fallout of dumping dirty water into the aquifer. Instead of committing to banning the outlawed practice, a consultant suggested th...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18
Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

A substitute teacher at a Plant City elementary school berated a class of fourth graders — and then the school principal. Another compared a student to a stripper. Others were caught napping, hitting children, making sexual remarks, giving students b...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18