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I'm Mike Pope. I live in the Seattle area. I've been a technical writer and editor for over 30 years. I'm interested in software, language, music, movies, books, motorcycles, travel, and ... well, lots of stuff.

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Blog Statistics

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First entry - 6/27/2003
Most recent entry - 1/15/2018

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Posts - 2475
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Hits - 2,015,316

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Updated every 30 minutes. Last: 9:29 AM Pacific


  11:01 AM

Today is 6-6-06, and all morning I've been hearing on the radio about the apocalyptic overtones of triple six. But leaving such numerological foolishness aside, today does commemorate something that, to my mind, is strangely overlooked: today is the anniversary of D-Day, the day in 1944 on which Allied forces launched an assault on "Fortress Europe." As one Web site says:
The invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944 exists as the largest build-up and movement of soldiers in the history of mankind. It also marked a significant turning point in the second World War, one that would aid in the eventual defeat and downfall of Hilter's armies.
The movie "Saving Private Ryan" was based on the experiences of some soldiers during the invasion, but of course D-Day has featured prominently in hundreds of movies. A very fine movie about WWII was "Patton"; although Patton himself did not have a command during the invasion, it was still an important part of the story.

It would not be hard to find military historians who would argue that this effort represented the finest hour ever for the American military, a feat of planning, logistics, and military execution never equalled before or after by our armed forces. It is difficult to imagine what it took to carry out the invasion. On the one hand, the amount of planning boggles the mind, as do the logistics of assembling and transporting a force of this size. To add to the difficulty, the Allies made every effort to reinforce the German belief that any invasion must happen at Calais, going to the extent of creating dummy encampments and equipment for the benefit of German spies. Instead, of course, the invasion took place at Normandy, which proved successful in fooling the defenders, who were so uncertain that this was the "real" invasion that they delayed too long in committing troops to a counterattack and quite possibly lost the battle as a direct consequence.

On the other hand, few of us in this generation can imagine the terror of the individual soldier who was expected to jump out of a boat, wade through water, and secure a beachhead. The fact that thousands of soldiers did just that (and not just during D-Day, but throughout the Pacific, over and over) is something that we probably should remember more often on a day like today.

The invasion represented not only the military turning point of the war for the Allies, but also a psychological turning point for the German army. As Stephen Ambrose describes in his book Citizen Soldiers, Hitler was convinced that Americans had grown soft on democracy and could not stand up to the superiority of his own troops. Although the Germans had already been learning a lesson to the contrary in Northern Africa and in the Italian campaign, they remained convinced that on their own turf, so to speak, they had it over the Allies. D-Day changed that perception in a hurry; except for one final counter-assault (the "Battle of the Bulge") and a stand at the Rhein, the German Army was essential in retreat from June of 1944 until the surrender of May 1945. Ambrose's book is a wonderful mix of military and personal history, providing alternately a high-level description of the plans and outcome of the campaign, and very personal stories of soldiers on the ground. The latter emphasize over and over the skill and courage of individuals and to what a great extent these qualities carried the day.

Anyway, I thought I'd put in a good word for this day of 6/6 which, to my mind, doesn't get the due that it deserves in our national memory.

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