Friday, 6 June 2014

The Longest Day........

70 years ago today and the second world war turned into the decisive beginning of the end.....

But the D-Day landing, successful though it was came at a very heavy price. There is no absolute figure of all deaths, that is all as in, regardless of nationality....but here is some extracts quoted from the D-Day Museum web page......
How many Allied and German casualties were there on D-Day, and in the Battle of Normandy?
There is no "official" casualty figure for D-Day. In April and May 1944, the Allied air forces lost nearly 12,000 men and over 2,000 aircraft.  The Allied casualties figures for D-Day have generally been estimated at 10,000, including 2,500 dead. However recent painstaking research by the US National D-Day Memorial Foundation has achieved a more accurate - and much higher - figure for the Allied personnel who were killed on D-Day. They have recorded the names of individual Allied personnel killed on 6 June 1944 in Operation Overlord, and so far they have verified 2,499 American D-Day fatalities and 1,914 from the other Allied nations, a total of 4,413 dead (much higher than the traditional figure of 2,500 dead). 
The total German casualties on D-Day are not known, but are estimated as being between 4,000 and 9,000 men.
Naval losses for June 1944 included 24 warships and 35 merchantmen or auxiliaries sunk, and a further 120 vessels damaged.
Over 425,000 Allied and German troops were killed, wounded or went missing during the Battle of Normandy. 
Today, twenty-seven war cemeteries hold the remains of over 110,000 dead from both sides: 77,866 German, 9,386 American, 17,769 British, 5,002 Canadian and 650 Poles.
Between 15,000 and 20,000 French civilians were killed, mainly as a result of Allied bombing.

These figures are quite staggering when we compare them to loss of life events today. But which ever side of the fighting you were on, it was still war and thinking about it, as I sit here typing this, exactly 70 years ago to the very moment that the fighting on the beaches was at it's most brutal.

It may well be Hollywood, it may only be a movie, an American one at that, but Saving Private Ryan does at least give the closest perception what events could have been like on that day. I do recognize that perhaps it's not remotely the same, but I can reflect relief at being born in 1963 as opposed to say 1923.

A few years back we were on holiday near Bayeux at the time of 6th June and so the history of the invasion did form part of my history lesson, not sure that the wife and kids were too keen though.... but we visited Arromache, which was reportedly the first French town to be liberated by the allies in WW2.

I [sans wife and children] visited the 360 degree Cinema....... should you ever find your self in that part of the world, and are interested in the history of the war and D-Day landings, I urge you to visit the Cinema, you will not regret such a humbling experience.... There are no seats and the film wraps around you 360 degree's. It starts off all very relaxed as you appear to be on a fishing boat, leaving harbour on a beautiful sunny day, and then just as you least expect it, the footage reverts to a landing craft on D-Day..... the same is done for plane, and tank and I assure you there is no more sobering film than this. As all the patrons walked out of the Cinema not word was spoken by anyone..... it certainly wasn't Saving Private Ryan but I would be hugely surprised if Steven Spielberg has not visited this Cinema.

Of course the D-Day landings were the precursor to the end of the war in Europe, but WW2 would not be over for some time yet. It would still be some time before the war ended in the far east.

One of the best historical accounts of the full effect of war, as seen through the eyes of a young man, then that would be With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa by E B Sledge [born in 1923] .He passed away shortly after the turn of this Century but his book makes it visible to the reader, the day to day life of the soldier from the mundane of army life, to the brutality of hand to hand combat.

So as I sit here today, in my comfortable seat, supping coffee on demand, I shall spare a thought for all those soldiers of whatever nation, who faced that challenge 70 years ago today.

Not a day for a Song of the Day, perhaps a Poem of the day maybe........

Soldier's Ghost

I bled for you - would you for me?

I blessed a skin in blazing fuel
Then took a bullet in a duel of
‘He or I to Die.'

I often question ‘Why? '
Do you?

My country was my life to give -
Would you for country cease to live?
Sinking in a mire of death,
You have no choice -
So while you're still alive,

I cried in failure - did you care?
And as I waned, were you aware of
What I did -?
Fighting for my country while you hid
Behind your comfort back at home?

Still relaxed?
My wife and child are fading at the tomb.

Copyright © Mark R Slaughter 2009 [source]