Today, ladies and gentlemen, is not just any ordinary Friday. Today marks the 70th anniversary of D-Day, aka Operation Overlord, or the primary turning point of World War 2 where the Allies invaded France and setup the initial thrust that would eventually cripple the Germans and end the war in Europe in 1945.
Without being overly dramatic, that day changed your life, the lives of our parents, the lives of their parents, and the lives of many untold others on that bleak, cold morning when the Higgins boats crashed onto the shore at 6:30 AM. The primary language of many western countries could very well be German, and the map of Europe may look very different if not for that day in June. It’s a great tragedy that this day doesn’t get more remembrance, especially as the veterans from World War 2 are quietly slipping away with old age into the embrace of history. Those men and women, and the memories they keep are precious treasures of history that can never be recovered once they are gone, and those tales, stories, and photos should be treasured by each generation to come.
I have always been fascinated by World War 2, and my coffee table is lined with thick books, fiction and non-fiction alike, that discuss everything from the great battles, to the heroics of commando units, all the way up the chain of command to Eisenhower. It was a great time in history, not because the world was buried in tyranny, the Jews were being persecuted, or the German and Japanese armies were pursuing world domination, but because people were forced to stand up on a global level for what was right. In whole, it required incredible, almost unbelievable sacrifice from every single person during this brutal time, as whole countries were turned upside down as they were swallowed by the fiery jaws of many war machines.
I cannot relate to the sacrifices of the “average Joe” in the early 1940’s, and frankly, I can honestly say that my generation would be too soft to handle a situation such as that. So many people complain when movie ticket prices go up, Starbucks runs out of coffee, or your commute to your plush job at a desk where we wither away for hour after seated hour, that we almost think nothing of it. I honestly don’t think we could rise to the occasion requiring Meatless Mondays, sending our best and brightest out to die in the first 12 seconds of the Normandy invasion (note: look up how many graduates from Harvard or Yale were involved in D-Day), or have the courage to stand up in the face of despair.
But enough with the depressing stuff. In complete and total fictional honor of this momentous and lasting day, I put together the list of my three favorite D-Day movies. Granted, Hollywood botches fact from fiction so often, but these movies still have a great place in my heart, and are a wonderful addition to any movie buff’s collection:
1. The Longest Day – John Wayne and a killer cast plow through three hours of German warfare covering various scenarios from the beaches to the small French quarter towns. It’s a classic (black and white) but is worthwhile of enjoyment. There is no glory in war, but the Longest Day conveys the camaraderie and sacrifice required of those who were there.
2. Saving Private Ryan – Only those of you living in rocks, caves, or other assorted tundra residences (Hobbits?) would have missed Steven Spielberg’s thunderous depiction of June 6, 1944. The first 20 minutes is enough to blow you away, and Tom Hanks leads his rugged crew of GIs through peril and danger to rescue a very young looking Matt Damon. Then again, I guess 1998 was a reaaaaally long time ago. Is this movie a class yet? Yikes…
3. Band of Brothers – although technically not a “movie,” this miniseries is right up there with Saving Private Ryan in capturing the grit, dirt, and gunpowder in the eyes action and drama of World War 2. This unique tale starts with a roaring explosion onto the D-day beaches, and follows the band through the entirety of the war to V-J Day. Again, another can’t miss.
In the days of the internet, it is so easy to do your homework on a subject, to research fascinating videos and other multimedia presentations, and to pull in exponentially more information on a topic than was previously available. I encourage you to spend some time this weekend doing some digging. Find out some great things about what really happened on those beaches, look through the list of those who gave their lives, or just simply appreciate the fact that those who died did so selflessly for a greater purpose far beyond our understanding. We owe them far more than our gratitude.
Happy Friday everyone!