Sunday, June 6, 2010

A Day Of Deliverance

Magnet # 261:  Canadian Forces Photo Montage

Material:  Plastic

Purchased By:  Tammy

If it's June 6, I guess most of you reading this already know this is the anniversary of D-Day.  Yep, it was on this day in 1944 that the Allies undertook one of the most important challenges of World War II - recapturing the European continent.  They had successfully stopped the advance of the Axis powers, but to defeat them, they would have to take them down on the soil they controlled, a daunting task indeed.  For a long time, both sides had known this invasion was coming, and the Allies did their best to confuse the Axis powers as to where they would land, even having George Patton yell out to General Eisenhower in a crowded room that he would see him in Calais just three days before the invasion.  The Nazis actually moved some troops from Normandy to Calais, but the truth as to where the Allies would land was soon known and about 10,000 Allied soldiers were lost in the very bloody attack.  But victory would be achieved and Paris would be liberated in less than two months and the war in Europe would be won by the Allies in just under a year.  The Allies paid a great price on this day, but it allowed them to finally end the Nazis and stop their evil cause.

In remembrance of D-Day and all of their other battles, Canada has held its own Armed Forces Day on the first Sunday in June since 2002.  And this year, it just happens to fall on the 6th.  Yes, Canadians fought to liberate France, too - and around a thousand of their soldiers died during the Battle of Normandy.  This is the day they celebrate their armed services' contributions to keeping their nation free, and many military bases open to the public, allowing them to come in for activities such as demonstrations and air shows.  And in Ottawa, there's a Walk/Run in Red marathon open to both members of the military and civilians to recognize their military's contributions.  Although relatively new, Canadian Armed Forces Day seems to be getting more and more popular with Canadians who want to recognize their soldiers' sacrifices - be they on their own soil, at Normandy, Korea, and Vietnam, or more recently in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

One of my family members actually participated in the Battle of Normandy - my great uncle on my father's side of the family.  He was a paratrooper in the U.S. 101st Airborne who jumped out at night during a time of great confusion as they were being shot at by the Nazis, the sky was filled with clouds, and fires were raging all around them.  In fact, there was so much confusion that he and quite a few of his fellow soldiers incorrectly came down in the 82nd drop zone in the town of Sainte Mere-Eglise, a place where many paratroopers died.  The Nazis set buildings on fire to help illuminate the sky and make them easier to kill.  Some men were pulled into the fires, while others were caught in trees, utility poles, and even church spires and the Nazis were able to shoot them before they could free themselves.  My great uncle was injured by a mortar shell, but he survived, helping to take the town back from the Nazis and hold it until reinforcements arrived from Utah Beach.  In fact, Sainte Mere-Eglise was the first own liberated during D-Day.  He then went on with the 101st Airborne to help win the Battle of the Bulge.  In fact, his actions in Europe are very similar to those portrayed on the television miniseries Band of Brothers, which is centered around the 101st Airborne, but they focus on the Easy Company and he was in the George Company, which would have been two companies beside them.  And he was lucky enough to able to come home and live into old age, unlike many of his compatriots, but he carried fragments of that mortar shell in his legs for the rest of his life.  I remember meeting my great uncle at a young age, but I didn't know him very well and he never told me about his experiences at D-Day and during the rest of World II.  But thanks to him and many others like him, the Nazis have pretty much been wiped out and France and the rest of Europe are free.  It's fitting that these soldiers are part of the Greatest Generation and we set aside this day of the year to remember the courage they showed against staggering odds, courage that propelled them to eventual triumph over a formidable adversary.

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