What Does D-Day Mean to Us Now?

Jun. 6, 2014

Today is the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the American-led Allied invasion of Nazi Germany’s “Fortress Europe” that marked the beginning of the end of that horrific regime. It was, and remains, one of the most ambitious military undertakings in all of human history.

The scope of D-Day was immense in every measurable way – the number of soldiers, aircraft and naval vessels involved, as well as the depth of planning and the level of obfuscation to keep the Nazis guessing as to the date and location of an attack that both sides viewed as inevitable.

One thing that cannot be measured is the bravery of the men who descended on those French beaches that ugly June day in 1944. Ronald Reagan gave one of his most memorable speeches at the 40th anniversary of D-Day in 1984 at Pointe du Hoc, France, focusing on the bravery and faith of men to whom all Americans owe a deep debt of gratitude.

“The men of Normandy had faith that what they were doing was right, faith that they fought for all humanity, faith that a just God would grant them mercy on this beachhead or on the next. It was the deep knowledge – and pray God we have not lost it – that there is a profound moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest.”

It is tragic that 70 years after D-Day and just 30 years after Reagan’s speech we are losing the recognition and the knowledge that he spoke of. Anyone with a sense of history remembers or at least recognizes the incredible sacrifices that took place during World War II. Yet today, surveys among college students and their instructors show that many of them, as well as many citizens beyond college age, don’t know who the Allied leaders were during World War II. They can’t identify Dwight Eisenhower or Franklin Roosevelt, and many cannot link the D-Day invasion to the correct war in which it took place.

These people are supposed to be at the forefront of American education, yet they have no functional knowledge of one of the most seminal moments in American history. Perhaps it’s a byproduct of the extreme Left view of anti-Americanism that rejects all good things achieved by the United States, even the liberation of Europe and the defense of the American homeland.

Those who do not know the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them, so goes the saying. Apparently, this lesson hasn’t been repeated enough to be heeded. An entire generation of Americans sacrificed their comfort, their well-being, and in many cases their lives, so that we could be free. And that was just 70 years ago. It’s bad enough that people don’t remember the Founders and the Constitution. Yet here we are just a few decades removed from one of this country’s greatest undertakings, and half our population doesn’t have a clue about it.

Keep the stories alive. Remember what happened on that day, and share it with others. We owe it to those who served, those who died, and to our children, if we ever hope to live in a world free from the tyranny that our country has faced. “An informed patriotism is what we want,” said Ronald Reagan in his farewell address. “[A]re we doing a good enough job teaching our children what America is and what she represents in the long history of the world? … We’ve got to do a better job of getting across that America is freedom – freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of enterprise. And freedom is special and rare. It’s fragile; it needs protection.” That’s what D-Day means for us today.

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