D-Day at 70

Seventy years ago today, Allied forces landed on the beaches of Normandy — opening the long-promised “second front” in the European experience of World War II and ultimately sealing the fate of the Third Reich. There’s plenty of coverage of the anniversary — let me just suggest a few links:

• The Washington Post has a striking photo gallery, plus links to even more images from the Time-Life archives.

• Over at my war commemoration blog, Memento belli, I shared some of my father’s photos of the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia — a small town that suffered more losses per capita (19 dead on June 6, 1944, out of a total population of 3,200) than any other in the United States.

• British author James Holland exploded a few myths about D-Day for CNN. #1 – That Operation Overlord was predominantly an American operation. (Holland focuses on British contributions, but Canadian, Polish, and Free French forces also played critical roles.)

• Ten years ago the 60th anniversary marked the first time that Russia was invited to take part in a D-Day commemoration. It’s back again this year, but Russian president Vladimir Putin’s presence — in the wake of the Ukraine crisis — has been controversial.

• 2004 was also the first anniversary to include German participation. But The Guardian reports that, at least this year, D-Day is overshadowed by the Eastern Front in German memory of the war.

• For many Americans, D-Day looks a lot like the opening to Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan. Novelist-playwright John Biguenet revisited that powerful, flawed movie, suggesting that its much criticized first and last scenes actually manage to “pose what remains a fundamental question after the blood-drenched 20th century: What is our responsibility to those who have gone before us?”

• The Allied invasion of France succeeded despite the presence of a mammoth string of defenses constructed between 1940 and 1944. Malise Ruthven offered a fascinating essay on that so-called Atlantic Wall, revisiting their terrible human cost (up to 300,000 workers at a time, most non-Germans forced into the work, and many died in horrible conditions), their influence on European architecture, and how they have been preserved, repurposed, or forgotten over the past seven decades.

• John Tierney of The Atlantic urged readers to remember that the collective story of D-Day is composed of many, many individual stories — like that of his father, an American fighter pilot.

• One British veteran celebrated the occasion by recreating his parachute landing — at age 89.

• And an American vet did the same thing — at age 93.

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