Tag archives: D-Day

Rare D-Day “Colour” Footage

by Robert Morrison

June 6, 2014

London’s Daily Telegraph provides us a link to this rare “colour” footage of D-Day. The Allied attack on the heavily-fortified coast of Nazi-occupied France was the largest seaborne invasion in history. With this clip, we can see what the uniforms looked like, what color is meant by the German word feldgrau (field gray).

In the White House, President Franklin D. Roosevelt broadcast to the nation over all radio networks. The Commander-in-Chief was unembarrassed about his faith. He asked his fellow Americans to join him in this prayer. He told the people the D-Day invasion was a struggle to preserve “our republic, our religion, and our civilization.”

For thousands of those young warriors in the invasion force, June 6, 1944 would be their last day on earth. Many of them would carry among their battle gear small New Testaments. These good books, including the Psalms, had been issued to our troops. They bore an inscription by President Roosevelt encouraging the soldiers, Marines, airmen, and Coast Guardsmen to read and attend to the message they contained.

D-Day has always had a special significance in our family. My father and my wife’s father were both veterans of World War II, and though neither man took part in the Normandy invasion, all Americans of their day felt that those troops who stormed ashore that cold June morning carried our hearts with them.

My wife and I went to Normandy for our twenty-fifth anniversary. We wanted to see the place where so many American, British, Canadian, Polish, and Free French forces had fought. It is an unforgettable sight.

The French have preserved the landing beaches largely as they were then. They are still designated with their D-Day code names — Utah and Omaha (American), Gold (U.K.) Juno (Can.), and Sword (U.K.).

Standing on those forbidding cliffs, high above the beach, we looked down on the approaches from the perspective of the German soldiers who were part of Festung Europa (Fortress Europe). Field Marshal Erwin Rommel had spent a year and millions of man-hours pressing Norman farmers as slave laborers. He made them build up the ugly concrete bunkers and steel obstacles that were supposed to stop the Allied invaders on the beaches. Rommel knew if the Allies gained a foothold in France, he would not be able to stop them pushing all the way to Germany.

We especially wanted to stand at Pointe du Hoc. That’s the spot where President Ronald Reagan stood in 1984 to commemorate the Fortieth Anniversary of D-Day. President Reagan saluted “the boys of Point[e] du Hoc.” He lauded those U.S. Army Rangers as “men who left the vivid air signed with their honor.”

Historian Douglas Brinkley wrote a book on The Boys of Pointe du Hoc. Brinkley believes that Ronald Reagan understood that we cannot focus on the massive number of troops; we cannot appreciate the enterprise of the largest invasion force by a listing of all those tens of thousands of many nations and many units that took part. So, Reagan chose to honor those Rangers who scaled those cliffs and placed their daggers in the land they would soon liberate. In so doing, Brinkley writes, Ronald Reagan sparked a resurgence of patriotism in America.

We stood at Pointe du Hoc, just a few months before President Reagan died in 2004. He had summoned up the best of our nation’s past in the service of his great quest to free that half of Europe still held captive. It was Ronald Reagan’s great achievement. Best of all, he helped to free hundreds of millions from Communism without war.

We wanted to have some remembrance of this signal moment in our lives. My wife, a thirty-year veteran of the Navy, was made even prouder of her service by standing at that spot. As a veteran of the Coast Guard, I was thrilled to see the place recorded for history in this photo taken by Coastie manning a landing craft. He had delivered those dauntless warriors “into the jaws of death.”

The French allow no commercialization of those beaches. They are pristine. No souvenir stands are allowed. The closest museum is in Caen. There’s no place there to buy even a post card.

So she spied a discarded ice cream container neatly deposited in a receptacle. “Let’s take sand,” she said. So I scooped up a gallon of that sand for which our fathers’ great generation bled and died.

Returning home, Capt. Kathleen Morrison filled small plastic containers with those sands of Normandy. For years, she gave these vials to Navy and Marine Corps friends upon their retirement from honorable service to our country. Often, these retirees would tear up when they received these gifts. Today is a time to remember the gift those Invaders of June 6, 1944 gave us: freedom itself. 

D-Day then and now

by Robert Morrison

June 6, 2013

President Franklin Roosevelt addressed the nation on this day in 1944. He spoke of the invasion of Normandy that had been proceeding since the pre-dawn hours. FDR also offered a prayer to the nation, and to the world. “Thy will be done,” the president intoned in his rich baritone. He spoke of re-dedicating ourselves to “faith in Thee…faith in our united crusade.”

His language was informed by the biblical cadences of the King James Version and echoed the uplifting style of The Book of Common Prayer. Columnist George Will has said of the BCP that is gives us our very idea of stateliness. And President Roosevelt, who had heard those lines since childhood, gave to his address a stately quality that inspired millions.

Compare Roosevelt’s speech with the dull, flat statements of leading figures of both parties today and we realize what we have lost. There is much in FDR’s Prayer. But this day should remind us of the kind of leaders we had then.

In those long-ago years, politicking for the White House did not begin in Iowa and New Hampshire years before the quadrennial election. Still, it was 1944, and even though he was very ill, President Roosevelt believed he had to carry the war through to victory.

If the D-Day invasion had failed, so in all likelihood would the presidential prospects of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Then, his remarkable and unprecedented three-term tenure in the White House would have ended in defeat—in the hedgerow country of France and at the November ballot box. Roosevelt had staked his political life and his place in history on this invasion.

So had General Dwight D. Eisenhower. He was just a colonel when the Japanese struck Pearl Harbor in a sneak attack just two and a half years earlier. Through the war, however, when the U.S. armed forces expanded from a few hundred thousand to twelve million—one in 11 Americans then being in uniform—”Ike” rose in rank like a rocket.

On this D-Day, Ike was Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces in Europe—SCAEF. He would wear five stars on the trim “Eisenhower jacket” he had designed.

We can surmise what would have been FDR’s political fate had the D-Day invasion failed. But what about Ike? He could well have expected to be replaced. Possibly by General of the Army George C. Marshall. Maybe even by “Old Blood and Guts,” Gen. George Patton.

Knowing this, Ike drafted a communique for release in the event of a failed invasion. Eisenhower biographer Carlo D’Este provides this insight into the character of our SCAEF.

Our landings have failed and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based on the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that bravery could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.”

This is what American leadership once produced. In the past months, we have seen scandal pile upon scandal in our government. High ranking officials tell Congress “What difference does it make?” Others take the Fifth Amendment or seek to place the blame on their subordinates. It’s Cincinnati’s fault, they tell us.

We cannot think of D-Day without thinking of victory, for sure. But we remember the losses, not only of the brave soldiers who gave their all that day, but also of the lost leadership we once had.

When Victory Is Hard: Remembering D-Day

by Family Research Council

June 5, 2013

D-Day June 6, 1944.  The day in which the Allies entrance into France was brutal and costly.  What ended in a victory and a beachhead also marked a mass grave where many brave men gave their lives for something greater than themselves.  I can imagine that disembarking from a landing craft in the face of heavy machine gun fire and knowing the chances of death were high was not a comforting thought.  So why did those men leave the craft? The men who lay strewn on that fateful shore did not prove their courage when they took a bullet but when they left the ships.  Courage is not being a casualty but being willing to be one.  Whatever battle we engage in we must not ask ourselves the question “Will I win?” but rather “Am I willing to stand?” 

Heroes like Churchill, Patton, Eisenhower, De Gaulle, and others would not have been successful if men had not been willing to die for their cause.  It is easy to measure one’s mission in life by following the easiest path that will lead to material success.  But the great men are those who endure to the end standing for truth.  As FRC President Tony Perkins often says, “When you’ve done everything and can do no more, just keep standing.”  Standing doesn’t mean temporal success, it means being faithful.  Let us remember on this historic day that the men who taught us best how to stand were those who fell forever on that war ravaged Normandy shore.  May we stand faithfully wherever we find ourselves.

FDR’s D-Day Prayer

by Robert Morrison

June 6, 2012

Ladies and Gentlemen, the President of the United States: Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.

Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.

They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest until victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and by flame. Men’s souls will be shaken with the violences of war.

Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, thy heroic servants, into thy kingdom.

Oh Lord, give us faith. Give us faith in thee; faith in our sons; faith in each other; faith in our united crusade. Let not the keenness of our spirit ever be dulled.

With thy blessing we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogances.Thy will be done, Almighty God.

The nation listened at their radios. Many families gathered to hear Franklin D. Roosevelt’s stirring words. The country had been at war two and a half years at that point. In World War II, one of every eleven Americans was in uniform. By contrast today, the Great Republic is defended by a volunteer force comprised of one in two hundred Americans.

President Roosevelt spoke from the White House. His heartfelt prayer was carried by everycommercial network and, of course, by Armed Forces radio. In England that morning, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower bore the awesome responsibility for the “go/no go” decision. He had already had to postpone the invasion of Normandy for bad weather. If he had to postpone it again, it could be disastrous for success. Eisenhower, too, used the word “crusade” to describe the liberating forces arrayed against the Nazi occupiers of Europe. (Ike’s memoirs, Crusade in Europe, have never been out of print.) The night before the invasion, Gen. Eisenhower as Supreme Commander of Allied Forces Europe (SCAFE), had moved easily among the heavily armed soldiers of five nations—U.S., Britain, Canada, Free France, and Poland. (Recently, Defense Sec. Leon Panetta had to order all American soldiers disarmed for a joint meeting with Afghan and U.S. troops. We did not want our Afghan allies to feel disrespected. But war correspondent Michael Yonhas written that as many as 200 of our soldiers have been killed by uniformed Afghans whom we trained and armed.) There is no record of any U.S. soldier having been killed by our D-Day Allies.

My wife and I were proud to go to Normandy for our twenty-fifth anniversary. She is a retired Navy captain. Walking the beaches—Utah and Omaha for the Americans, Gold, Sword,and Juno for our steadfast Allies, we marveled at how the French have so lovingly and carefully preserved them. No souvenir stands dot the coastal towns. All is quiet and peaceful now.I strained to imagine the scene on D-Day. Ships and planes filled the sea and skies. The invasion fleet was the greatest in human history. Coast Guard boat coxswains drove the landing craftonto the shore, often under heavy German fire. I thanked God that I served with the Coasties.

Our French guide, Vincent, told us that France lost 50,000 lives in Normandy in the three months after D-Day, most of them peasants. “We had been warned of the Allied invasion by the BBC and by leaflets dropped by American and British planes, of course. But they could not tell us, obviously, exactly where or when the invasion would come. These are peasants. Their cattle and sheep are their livelihood. They had to take their chances.”Eager to memorialize our visit in some special way, my wife asked me to scoop up a bucket of sand. For several years afterward, she gave small containers of that sand—for which our fathers fought and died—to retiring friends in the Navy. They never failed to tear up. Nor do I.

Forgetting Who We Are

by Robert Morrison

June 7, 2010

If we forget what we did, we will forget who we are. So said President Reagan in his Farewell Address to the Nation in 1989. That year would see the collapse of the evil empire that Reagan fought all his adult life. When confronted by the fact that the Catholic Church would surely oppose his occupation and rule over Poland, Soviet dictator Joe Stalin had cynically asked: How many divisions has the Pope? In 1989, the world found out how many divisions the Pope had. Millions of Poles cried out We want God. Poland became the fulcrum for Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and the Polish Pope John Paul II to move the world.

The good folks in Bedford, Virginia, are trying desperately to make a go of their troubled D-Day Memorial. They have just put up a statue to Josef Stalin. They claim, defensively, that they are merely trying to complete a quartet of Second World War leaders which includes Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Charles de Gaulle.

Minus the frosty Frenchman, the Big Three did meet—at Tehran, at Yalta—to map out grand strategy for the allied victory against Hitler. The Anglo-American allies worried all the while they dealt with dictator Stalin that he might change sides once again and team up with Hitler. Stranger things had happened. It was Stalins 1939 Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact, after all, that allowed Hitler to launch the Second World War just weeks after the pact signatures had dried. It was at that time that the young Karol Wojtyla, the future Pope John Paul II, fleeing eastward with his ailing father, would turn back to live under the Nazi occupation rather than risk life under the Soviets. Stalins NKVD henchmen captured some 22,000 Polish army officers and shot them, each one with a single bullet to the back of his skull, and buried their bodies in the Katyn Forest.

And this was just the beginning. FDRs ambassador to the Soviet Union, Joseph Davies was all-out for Stalin. He even made a Hollywood propaganda movie titled Mission to Moscow. When he lived in Moscow, Davies tried to quiet his wifes concerns. Housed in their elegant embassy residence, Mrs. Davies could hear the sharp crack-crack-crack all night. Davies said it was heroic Soviet workers, using jackhammers, eager to meet their production quotas. In truth. was Stalins NKVD execution squads, working through the nights, eager to meet a different kind of quota.

We do need to remember our unholy alliance with Stalin during World War II. It was necessary for the survival of the West to make a marriage of convenience with this most brutal of dictators.

The Russian proverb says when you go to dine with the devil, make sure you take a long spoon.

Churchill carried a long spoon and, typically, said it better: If Hitler invaded hell, I would at least make favorable reference to the devil in the House of Commons. When Hitler invaded Stalins empire built on bones, he did indeed invade hell.

The D-Day Memorial folks in Bedford might have remembered the wartime alliance with a photo of FDR, Churchill, and Stalin. They might even have rendered the photo as a sculpture.

But in erecting a bust of the beast, they have dishonored themselves and the United States of America.

It was President Reagan who spoke in Normandy at Pointe-du-Hoc in 1984, praising the Airborne Rangers who reclaimed a continent for freedom:

Something else helped the men of D-day; their rock-hard belief that Providence would have a great hand in the events that would unfold here; that God was an ally in this great cause.

And so, the night before the invasion, when Colonel Wolverton asked his parachute troops to kneel with him in prayer, he told them: Do not bow your heads, but look up so you can see God and ask His blessing in what were about to do. Also, that night, General Matthew Ridgeway on his cot, listening in the darkness for the promise God made to Joshua: I will not fail thee or forsake thee.

Thus did Ronald Reagan teach us how to remember D-Day and the Boys of Pointe-du-Hoc. Thus he led us in holding aloft the torch of freedom.

One year ago, President Barack Obama stood at Normandy D-Day observances and, in the words of Newsweeks Evan Thomas, hovered above the nations, like a sort of God. What did Mr. Obama say there? Can even his strongest advocates recall a single line the President delivered there? Erecting a bust of Stalin in America—anywhere in America—would only be possible because we are now forgetting what we did, forgetting who we are.