Friday, June 06, 2008

D-Day, the 6th of June

The Allied attack on the fortified defense postions along the beach in Normandy, in northern France, began at dawn on this date in 1944. Officially known as "Operation Overlord," D-Day quickly became the widely accepted term for the commemoration of this event. I have chosen below less well-known footage of the invasion:

Roosevelt and Churchill had been under pressure from Stalin to open a new front on the war, to relieve the intense pressure that the Red Army, which had defeated the German Army to at Stalingrad the previous year.

Storming the beaches of Normandy was first a logistical difficulty, because of the resources needed to to put thousands of allied (British and Canadian, as well as US) troops necessary to take and hold the positions long enough to provide a jumping off point to re-take France. Most of the troops in the invasion were transported from the troopships to the beaches via the Landing Ship, Tank (LST). Most soldiers contended that the initials stood for Large Slow Target, which this footage from the beginning of "Saving Private Ryan" amply illustrates:

I have used this footage several times in the classroom, because it allows students, I feel, to vicarously experience what the invasion felt like for the grunts--the seasickness, the fear, the fatalism. Then the doors open on the craft, and the soldiers are under such heavy fire that many do not make it out of the boat.

One also gets a feeling for the carnage the war caused, and the personal bravery, as well--but also, near the end of this clip--

the occasional war crime (shooting surrendering prisoners) as well.

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