Tag Archives: WWII

74 years later, D-Day still stands alone

The Greatest Generation generally is defined as millions of American men and women who stood firm against tyranny during an intense, bloody and desperate global conflict.

Meaning no disrespect to those Americans who answered the call for freedom, let me suggest that the Greatest Generation comprised men and women from around the globe.

Seventy-four years ago today, American soldiers — along with Canadian and British comrades in arms — splashed ashore at Normandy, France. They had just completed a harrowing journey across the English Channel to pierce Adolf Hitler’s Fortress Europa.

These brave men endured unspeakable horror. They faced a determined enemy intent on keeping the land they had conquered four years earlier.

The D-Day invasion today stands as the greatest amphibious assault in the history of warfare. Five thousand ships supported the attack. Hundreds of airplanes flew sorties over the Nazi defenses.

What often gets short shrift, though, is the composition of the entire attack force. It was made up of French fighters and Poles. They formed gallant military units after their own countries fell to the Nazi juggernaut. Other nations took part: Denmark, Greece, The Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand all participated in this mammoth endeavor.

What’s more, French, Dutch, Belgian and Norwegian resistance fighters never stopped battling the occupiers in the years preceding the launching of Operation Overlord.

It was an international event of the first order.

And I cannot dismiss the bloody fight that was occurring along the Eastern Front as the Red Army marched from the Soviet Union, into Poland, Czechoslovakia and Germany as it sought to rid the world of the tyrant Hitler and his minions.

One final note I want to make: Supreme Allied Commander U.S. Army Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower was prepared for the worst on D-Day. He drafted an announcement that he never had to make. He would take full responsibility for the failure of the invasion had the international force been unable to secure the beachhead at Normandy.

That, dear reader, is true leadership.

The Greatest Generation, comprising fighters from many nations, ensured success in the weeks and months that followed the titanic assault against the forces of evil.

We owe all of them an eternal debt of thanks.

Trump ‘insults’ Canadians … nice!

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has some strong thoughts about Donald Trump’s decision to impose punishing tariffs on Canadian steel sent to the United States.

He said: “Our soldiers who had fought and died together on the beaches of World War II … and the mountains of Afghanistan, and have stood shoulder to shoulder in some of the most difficult places in the world, that are always there for each other, somehow — this is insulting to them.”

At a personal level, Trudeau has taken serious offense to the president’s curious decision to go to “war” against the nation with which the United States shares the longest unsecured border in the world.

Yes, Canadians fought alongside Americans and Brits at Normandy. Curiously, we are about to honor the D-Day invasion in a few days.

Sure, Trump recognizes the longstanding alliance between the United States and Canada. Then he said our allies are taking advantage of us in trade. His response is to get back at them; impose these tariffs in a classic protectionist move.

Trudeau is looking for some sign of “common sense,” but says he cannot find it in the policy announced by the “U.S. administration.”

Well, Mr. Prime Minister, a lot of Americans are just as confused as you are. Let us know when common sense presents itself.

Thanks, Mr. POTUS, for putting screws to our allies

Did anyone out there realize the irony of today’s decision by the president of the United States to withdraw from a deal that aims to deny Iran the ability to acquire nuclear weapons?

Here’s how I see it: Seventy-three years ago today, the shooting stopped in Europe, ending one phase of World War II; the result of that was to build alliances with nations across the continent, those with which we fought side by side and, yes, those we opposed.

Those nations had lined up in favor of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. They lobbied Donald J. Trump to stay the course, to improve it, to renegotiate a better deal if he saw fit. What’s more, didn’t Trump campaign for president in 2016 on a pledge to negotiate the “best deals” ever?

The president today — on VE Day — stuck it to our “allies,” the nations we helped liberate from tyranny in World War II.

The president has managed to isolate this nation from much of the rest of the world in its effort to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, which no self-respecting civilized nation anywhere on Earth wants to see happen.

I should point, too, that the deal struck by the Obama administration in concert with several other nations provides for the world’s most vigorous inspection process, which has resulted in Iran ridding itself of many centrifuges used to enrich uranium, the key component in the making of nuclear bombs.

Donald Trump, though, wants to speak directly to the hardliners among his inner circle of advisers — and to those voters who continue to abide by the fiction that isolating the United States from this country strengthens American interests.

It does nothing of the kind! It weakens the United States in a world that is shrinking at an accelerating pace.

I fear the president once again has failed to “make America great again.” He instead has made us untrustworthy among those with whom we once fought side by side.

Recalling the last time we were truly ‘united’

I heard a cable news talking head make an interesting point the other day. He spoke of the issues that drive wedges between the political parties — and between Americans. He was speaking of the intense divisions existing today.

The United States has been “truly united” just twice in the past century or so, he said. The first time was after the Pearl Harbor attack by Japanese aviators, the act that pulled us into World War II. The second time? It was 9/11, when those terrorists flew hijacked jetliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Oh, how those of us old enough to remember that day can recall the rage we all felt at the monsters who committed that dastardly act.

Today I saw through a two-hour film that transported me back to that time of unity. It’s called “12 Strong.” It tells the true story of a dozen U.S. Army Green Berets who were sent into Afghanistan a month after the terrorist attacks. Their mission was to destroy a Taliban military operation. They rode into battle … on horseback!

The film speaks of their loyalty to each other and of the commitment the unit’s commanding officer made, that all of them would survive their mission of extreme danger.

The mission only was recently declassified. Indeed, after these Special Forces returned home from their mission, they weren’t given anything like the heroes’ welcome they deserved. Their mission was kept super-secret. No one outside those who were involved directly knew what they did.

The film is intense to the max.

But I sat through it, cheering the bravery of our soldiers — and the bravery of the Northern Alliance Afghan fighters with whom they were teamed to fight the Taliban.

The film does remind us that this country is able to unite. Americans are able to coalesce behind a common cause. The 9/11 horror produced our nation’s most recent sense of unity.

I pray, however, that we can join together without having to endure the tragedy and misery through which we have suffered. Pearl Harbor and 9/11 were unique events in our nation’s history.

I am left to wonder whether the unity those events produced must be attached uniquely to such heartache. I hope that’s not the case. I fear, though, that it is.

We’re winning the ‘war,’ but the fight will go on

Iraq has declared victory in its war against the Islamic State.

It has declared that ISIS is defeated in Iraq. The terrorist fighting force no longer is able to wage war against the Iraq military machine. Good news, yes? Of course it is.

But wait. What about the terrorist who tried to kill innocent victims in New York? He is “ISIS-inspired,” according to the FBI and New York law enforcement officials. How are we going to stop these monsters? How do we prevent the so-called “lone wolf” terrorists from perpetrating their evil acts against civilized society?

We cannot?

A Bangladeshi immigrant is now recovering from his injuries after he terrorized people in a New York train station. He tried to blow himself up, but failed.

Bold pledges and declarations of our intent to “destroy” the Islamic State shouldn’t be ignored. Indeed, our military forces have taken out many thousands of ISIS fighters; they killed or captured many ISIS leaders; they have disrupted ISIS’s command and control network.

The fight should go on. It must go on.

We are going to fight this war, however, for as long as terrorists exist anywhere on Earth. U.S. and Allied forces bombed Germany to ashes during the World War II; our forces killed thousands of Nazis; Adolf Hitler killed himself in that Berlin bunker.

Did that eradicate Nazi sympathizers in Europe — or in the United States of America? No! Nazi lone wolves are still on the prowl throughout the world.

This post-9/11 world continues to teach us a hard but necessary lesson, which is that we cannot let our guard down — ever — against those who would do us harm.

They are everywhere.

‘Pretty wild scene’ … do ya think?

I really have to hand it to Donald John “Orator in Chief” Trump.

The man has an amazing way of understating monumental historical events’ impact on our nation’s life, its history, its very identity.

The president played host to survivors of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which occurred 76 years ago this week.

He turned to one of the men who lived through that hell on Earth, telling him “That was a pretty wild scene.”

Yeah. Pretty wild it was, Mr. President. Why, you even told a small gathering of Navajo “Code Talkers” recently how much you “like” them. That was so, um, nice of you to say that.

It makes me wonder how this president would have reacted had he been standing at the Capitol Hill podium the next day to ask Congress for a declaration of war. Whereas President Franklin Delano Roosevelt called it a “date which will live in infamy,” and a “deliberate, dastardly attack,” I keep wondering whether Donald Trump could muster up the kind of awe-inspiring rhetoric that came from FDR that day.

Something tells me we’d be called to arms with “pretty wild scene.”

They wanted to get into the fight

My late father was 20 years of age on Dec. 7, 1941.

Pete Kanelis was a second-year student at the University of Portland (Ore.) when word filtered back to the mainland about the “dastardly act” in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

It didn’t take Dad long to make up his mind on what he wanted to do. He wanted to get into the fight. He waited about two whole months before going downtown. He went to the armed forces station and sought to enlist in the Marine Corps. The door was locked. He walked across the hall to the Navy office and signed up.

He was after all, young and full of what might be described as “p*** and vinegar.”

He would become one of about 16 million young Americans who responded just as he did. He went looking for a fight and oh, brother, he found it. The Navy sent him to the Mediterranean theater, where he fired a 3-inch, 50-caliber deck gun at Italian and German aircraft.

He was part of the so-called “Greatest Generation.” I was — and still am — so very proud of his service.

The attack at Pearl Harbor, which occurred 76 years ago today, defined a generation. Dad’s generation — virtually all of them, as near as I can tell — fought willingly in that great conflict. Their hearts were broken at the prospect of a foreign power killing so many of our young Americans — on American soil to boot!

They answered our nation’s call, did their duty and then came home to help build a postwar country that has set the economic and military standard around the world.

I’ve re-thought a bit the notion that Dad’s generation was the “greatest” this nation ever has produced. I am not yet willing to hand that title to another generation of Americans, but my sense is that today’s young Americans are competing with Dad’s brethren for the title of “greatest.”

Many of today’s military men and women dropped what they were doing one Tuesday morning, on Sept. 11, 2001. Let’s call them the “9/11 Generation.”

I’ve actually met young Americans who joined the military because they, too, wanted to get into the fight — just as Dad did so long ago. I recently made the acquaintance of a young physical therapist at the Thomas Creek VA Medical Center in Amarillo. She joined the Navy right after 9/11 because — like many of us — was enraged at the attack carried out on U.S. soil.

Whereas Dad and his brethren enlisted — or were drafted — to serve “for the duration” of World War II, the current fighting force has been deployed multiple times to battlefields in Afghanistan and Iraq. Indeed, I long ago lost count of the deployments a cousin of mine has served in those conflicts before retiring from the Army.

It’s good today to recall how an earlier generation of Americans surrendered their relative comforts to take on a direct and existential threat to their nation’s way of life.

Dad was one of them.

Declaration of war? Not even close, Mr. Foreign Minister

A statement by North Korea’s foreign minister might have gotten muddled in the translation, but I feel the need to set the record straight for this fellow.

Ri Yong Ho has accused Donald J. Trump of “declaring war” on North Korea with his threats of using military force if the North Koreans continue to threaten the United States and our allies.

According to Reuters: “The whole world should clearly remember it was the U.S. who first declared war on our country,” Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho told reporters in New York.

Let’s step back here.

I believe Ri needs a quickie lesson on U.S. government civics.

The president of the United States cannot “declare war” on anyone. A declaration of war in this country is a multi-step process, Mr. Foreign Minister — which is something that is alien to you and your dictator/despot Kim Jong Un.

The president prepares a declaration document, which he then presents to our Congress. He then requests the legislative branch of government to issue a declaration. The last time we did that was on Dec. 8, 1941, the day after Japan attacked our naval and Army air forces at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Congress voted virtually unanimously to declare war; by the way, U.S. Rep. Jeannette Rankin of Montana voted “no,” just as she had done when Congress declared war against Germany during World War I. Foreign Minister Ri also should know that Rep. Rankin wasn’t jailed — either time — for her principled votes.

Do I agree with Donald Trump’s bluster and bellicosity with regard to North Korea? No. He’s risking — with his taunts and childish name-calling — the potential for provoking Kim into doing something stupid in the extreme.

But he didn’t “declare war.” That’s not how we do it in this country. Our founders established a system that limited the president’s power to issue such a declaration. He’s got to ask for it from the legislative branch of government.

There. Lesson over.

Vietnam vets still tend to talk about ‘their’ war

One of the traits one often hears about World War II veterans is that they don’t talk much about their combat experience.

They answered the call after Pearl Harbor; they shipped out to the Pacific Theater or to Europe and went about joining other Allied forces in defeating the forces of tyranny.

They came home after that great conflict, shed their uniforms and cobbled their lives together. They moved on.

The Korean War came a few years later. That one didn’t end with an all-out victory and unconditional surrender of our enemy. Indeed, Korea is still in a “state of war”; they only signed a cease-fire. Korean War veterans became part of what’s been called “the forgotten war.” They aren’t known either to talk much about their years in hell.

Then came Vietnam. The Vietnam War ended in a stinging political “defeat” for the United States. It still hurts. Those who feel the pain the most likely are those who served there. Roughly 3 million Americans suited up for that war. I was among them. I’ll get back to that in a moment.

Vietnam veterans are more likely to talk about their experiences than those who remain from World War II or Korea. It must be a generational thing. It also must be a bit of a hangover of sorts from the crappy treatment many of those young Americans got when they returned home.

Thankfully, that treatment is receding farther into our national memory. Americans woke up to the reality that the young men who participated in that war did so solely out of duty. They were ordered to go. They went. They did their job. They came back.

Perhaps their willingness to talk about it is a function of their search for affirmation that they weren’t the villains that many of their countrymen and women perceived them to be in real time as they were coming home.

I have no particular need to discuss my service during the Vietnam War. My contribution to that effort was so insignificant, I don’t have the need that many Vietnam vets have — even as we all have advanced into “senior citizenhood.”

In one week, PBS is going to premiere the broadcast of a truly landmark television event. “The Vietnam War” will run over 10 days, covering 18 hours of what I am certain will be a riveting documentary on the nation’s most divisive and emotionally crippling conflict.

One of the outcomes of this documentary, assembled by the great documentary filmmaker Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, should be to spark more national conversation about Vietnam, the war, its aftermath and how we have made the journey from back then to the present day.

***

The first five episodes will air nightly on Panhandle PBS from Sunday, Sept. 17, through Thursday, Sept. 21, and the final five episodes will air nightly from Sunday, Sept. 24, through Thursday, Sept. 28. Each episode will premiere at 7 p.m. with a repeat broadcast immediately following the premiere.

Who should go? DACA residents or neo-Nazis?

Here it comes. I feel a raging rant boiling up. I know it won’t fly, but I must  get something off my chest.

Some of the very Americans who are angry at those who came here illegally as children, those who qualified for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals law, also represent an ideology against which this country went to war.

I refer to the neo-Nazis, the morons who hate all immigrants, particularly those who aren’t of European descent.

On one hand we have DACA residents, many of whom came here as toddlers or younger. They have forged good and productive lives as Americans. The U.S. of A. is the only country they know. Donald J. Trump has decided to rescind the executive order that granted them temporary protection against deportation. They might be rounded up in six months and sent packing if Congress doesn’t come up with a legislative answer.

Those despicable neo-Nazis want them out immediately if not sooner.

If I were King of the World, my preference would be to deport the neo-Nazis over the DACA residents. Yes, yes. I know. They have the constitutional right to express their political views, no matter how vile and disgraceful they might be. The neo-Nazis take the despicability cake by a mile!

While I’m at it, I’ll throw the Ku Klux Klan onto that dung heap, too.

My father went to war against the Nazis in 1942. He was among the Greatest Generation that saved the world from the tyranny espoused by the Third Reich and the Nazis that murdered roughly 6 million Jews in Europe. Nazi soldiers, sailors and aviators tried to kill Dad  on multiple occasions.

This is the ideology that some so-called Americans choose to honor with that hideous stiff-armed salute?

Who is more preferable to have walking among us, I ask? Those who have lived in fear because of something their parents did or those who speak as champions of an evil, tyrannical ideology?

There. Rant over. I feel better.