Tag Archives: Normandy invasion

Adding ‘the beach’ to my bucket list

I don’t have a lengthy “bucket list” of things I want to do before I check out. I’ve lived a good and productive and eventful life full of rare experiences.

I have traveled three times to Greece, my ancestral homeland; I have been able to walk on the soil in Vietnam where I served during a long-ago war; I have spent more than a month in Israel, visiting holy sites and learning how people live so close to their mortal enemies just across borders in almost any direction.

And of course my family has filled me with great joy and pride.

But this week, watching the events commemorating the 75th year since the D-Day invasion of Europe, I have added a destination to my bucket list. I want to walk along “the beach.” I want to see where young men fought and died to save the world from tyranny.

Let me be clear: I do not have a direct familial connection to D-Day. My father was a World War II veteran, as was one of my uncles. Dad saw his combat in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations; he took part in landings at Oran, Morocco and later in Sicily and then at Salerno on the Italian mainland.

Dad faced continual bombardment from German and Italian aircraft. While manning a 50-caliber deck gun, Dad was credited with shooting down a JU-88 Luftwaffe bomber, but then had his ship sunk when an Italian torpedo bomber found its mark off the Sicilian coast.

So, no one in my family met death on the French coast on June 6, 1944. Oh, how I want to see that place nonetheless.

The ceremonies we have seen over the past few days as U.S. and French presidents have heaped praise on the men who fought to save the world. Donald Trump called these warriors the “greatest men who will ever live.” Emmanuel Macron turned to the men seated behind and said, “On behalf of my country … thank you.”

American, British and Canadian soldiers stormed ashore on five beachheads: Omaha, Utah, Gold, Sword and Juno. Their names are etched in world history as the places that changed the course of what we all hope is the last great world war.

I want to see those beaches. So help me, before I kick the bucket, I’m going to make it happen.

Three words launched campaign to save the world


“OK. We’ll go.”

Right then and right there, with those words, the order went out from the supreme commander of Allied forces in Europe.

The invasion of Europe was on.

General of the U.S. Army Dwight D. Eisenhower faced a terrible dilemma. The weather over the English Channel had been horrible. The invasion of France had been delayed once already. Hundreds of thousands of men had assembled and prepared in Great Britain for Operation Overlord.

Ike then caught a bit of a break. The weather was going to cooperate — more or less — on June 6, 1944. That’s when he decided to issue the order.

The men set out in ships. They boarded landing craft and hit the French coastline along five beachheads. American and British soldiers stormed four of them; Canadians stormed the fifth one.

Eisenhower had drafted two statements in preparation for that event, one to proclaim victory on the beach, the other to take full responsibility in case it went badly. He didn’t have to deliver the latter statement.

It has become fashionable in the present day to invoke Ike’s memory as we discuss the merits of the individuals seeking the U.S. presidency. Those who defend the current Republican presumptive nominee’s lack of government experience often cite Eisenhower’s own lack of such qualifications when he ran for president in 1952.

No, he didn’t have that kind of experience. All he did, though, was save the world from tyranny.

Eight years after saying simply, “OK. We’ll go,” the presidency became his for the taking.

So it was on this day 72 years ago that thousands upon thousands of young men followed their commander’s order.

May God bless them all.

'Think of these men'

Presidents of the United States often are called upon to pay tribute to their forebears, the people who made it possible — to a large degree — for them to hold the office they occupy.

President Reagan stood on a bluff overlooking Normandy’s Omaha Beach in 1984 to salute “the boys of Pointe du Hoc,” the U.S. Army Rangers who scaled the cliffs on June 6, 1944 to assault Nazi machine gun posts while launching the greatest amphibious assault in world history.

Today, one of President Reagan’s successors, President Obama, reminded the world of the courage of those men who stormed ashore that day 70 years ago, “wave after wave” of men seeking to liberate people “they had never met.”

“When you lose hope,” he said today in commemorating that monumental day, “think of these men.”


Indeed, cynics everywhere should think of what those men did that day — and what they had done for years prior and what they would do for another year after that landing.

Maybe a little reflection might wash away some of that cynicism.

Those brave young men saved the world from tyranny.

What’s left to say to those who are left?

Thank you.