We can never forget them. There was only one European D-Day and I will let historians argue about its significance. There are not too many left that fought in either Europe or the Pacific. Treasure them while they are still here
Capital Thinking • Issue #1111 • View online
I am still in awe of D-Day. I have been my whole life.
As a little kid, I read history books and specifically World War Two history every chance I could get.
It was my great fortune to serve on the National World War Two Museum board of Trustees in New Orleans. I highly urge you to visit the museum physically, but spend some time on their online site.
If you had an ancestor that served in the war, buy a brick for them.
A lot has been written and said about D-Day. Politicians love to wrap themselves in the flag. It always makes me uncomfortable.
I am proud to be an American and I devoted to the founding principles of the country. But, war makes me super uncomfortable because of the consequences.
I can remember walking to the bayonet assault course when I was a basic cadet at USAFA and we chanted, “Blood, blood, blood makes the grass grow.”
I don’t have any great stories about D-Day. However, I have met people that were there. I have visited the beaches and when you look at the terrain you still wonder how they did it.
Dr. Al Baumgarten was in the first boat in the first wave. He passed away but he talked plenty about it and thank goodness he did.
I was very very lucky to make the acquaintance of a man named Walter Ehlers. He went ashore in the “back half of the first wave” at Omaha Beach. I recall he was on Dog Red.
His brother Roland was down the beach in the Green sector. If you remember the opening sequence of Saving Private Ryan when the Higgins boat gets blown to bits before it reaches the shore, that’s what happened to Roland.
Walt was luckier.
Once when he told me about D-Day he said he thought the greatest thing he ever did in his life was lead his platoon ashore and no one was wounded. Truly amazing. Walt never ever beat his chest or talked big about what he did during the war.
I told him I didn’t think I could have done it. He said you could with the right training. If I was following Walt, I think I could have at least gotten off the boat.
Hell, what am I talking about? I hate boats. I for sure would have gotten off the boat.
Walt had the presence of mind to tell the Navy man driving the boat not to put the ramp down. They went over the side. The water was deep and over most of their heads.
Walt grabbed one of his troopers under his arm and they dog paddled until he could feel sand under his boots.
Then, they ran as fast as they could through everything to the first sand wall.
*Featured post photo by Diane Picchiottino on Unsplash