I definitely don’t feel qualified to weigh in on D Day as a historian. What I am going to do is share a few images and thoughts.
The journalist and historian Elinor Florence shared this image on her Twitter feed. Thank you @florencewriter for this map — it is awfully “primitive” looking as she says. It’s also the actual map used on D Day. (Wow!)
This German gun had a great view of the beach, and it caused havoc on Juno All. Day. Long. It’s still sitting there on the coast of France, scowling across that beach, silenced.
Here’s what our Canadian boys were looking at and attempting to cope with on 6 June 1944, whilst being shot at. I have brothers in the age range of the majority of these young guys, and with love and respect, I wouldn’t necessarily count on them to pull of making a reservation at a restaurant for my parents’ anniversary, or to cook a meal for more than one person. Clearly, I underestimate them.
Here in Calgary, the afternoon edition of the Calgary Herald reported that as news of the successful invasion in Normandy was emerging, thousands of Calgarians offered prayers of gratitude and relief. June is an odd time to quote a Christmas carol, but “a thrill of hope” is the phrase that comes to mind as one scans the articles. And already, the great pride that Canada would take in its contribution was growing in Canadian hearts. This young country had gone into battle with the biggest superpowers in the world, had done what it set out to do, and done it with valour.
I know we have times when we feel frustrated and resentful of our American neighbours. But I want to shout out to them, because in the integrated mission that was Operation Overlord, it was American pilots who were overhead in the skies protecting our infantry. Thank you, Americans. (Canadian pilots were at the British beaches, FYI). Whilst Canadians can be rightly proud of our accomplishments at Juno, the price paid on the American beaches of Utah and Omaha was exceptionally sobering. Juno had to be used in American propaganda photos because their own beaches were littered with corpses and deemed inappropriate for public consumption.
- 340 Canadian families were to receive the news that a beloved person had been killed.
- 574 Canadians were wounded (or, is that number — total. The brain of every single person who participated in and witnessed that battle was wounded and cursed and destined to remember. For life.)
- 47 Canadians had the terrifying experience of being captured.
Seventy five years later, I am a Canadian woman who lives in a peaceful, first world country. I have never fallen asleep to the sound of gunfire (unless my brothers were shooting gophers). I have known nothing but peace, and safety, and freedom.
And far away at a beach in France there’s a tide that will always set a rhythm for my heart.