June 6th, 1944

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June 6th, 1944

Postby meteorite » Sun Jun 06, 2010 5:19 pm

I was still in primary school, just finishing; I wouldn't start high school till the fall. But we were all more than old enough to know what was happening; our country had been at war since September 1939. We knew that after all the years of nothing but bad news, the tide had turned, that finally, when we turned on the CBC News, the word would be good, not bad.

We cared a lot. My father was ineligible for service, and I was the eldest boy, but we had a constant procession of cousins through the house, the men on their way overseas, the women taking nursing jobs after seeing their husbands off. The papers carried daily casualty lists that we scanned for the names of neighbours, friends, acquaintances. They were daily and long.

The allied armies had cleared Africa, and were proceeding up the Italian boot. The American navy at stopped Japan at Midway and was now starting the tortuous slog up the island chain to Japan itself. The Russians had stopped Hitler at the gates of Moscow, and held Stalingrad, and were now on the return trip. The Indians on the CBI flank, the Chinese in their homeland, the Anzacs in New Guinea, had put the Germans, Japanese and their allies on the defensive. |Quickly air superiority was being won.

But we all knew that Hitler could only be defeated, and Europe freed, by land attack on the continent itself. And that required a beachhead. Hitler understood that too, and fortified the Atlantic Wall with desperate fanaticism.

Our people struck at dawn June 6th, the British on Sword and Gold beaches, Canada on Juno, the Americans at Utah and Omaha. The landed and fought at terrible cost - 1,200 Canadians died on Juno before they even reached the seawall, and the saga of the American Rangers on the cliffs overlooking Omaha Beach is legendary.

But they conquered. Despite defences that had been years in the hardening, despite the opposition of elite troops, the pressed on and took their objectives. And then pressed on inland, starting a German retreat that would not end and only be interrupted in the Battle of teh Bulge the following winter.

And we knew, just as Hitler knew, that once that beachhead was established and held, the Third Reich was doomed. It would be a long hard slog, but the end of the war and victory was in sight.

We remember. We will always remember. We will never forget.
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