Of the handful of days that can claim to be absolutely pivotal in the twentieth century, “D-Day” certainly ranks among them. To be sure, there were numerous “D-Days” in World War Two. Along with “H-hour”, the term “D-Day” merely designates the day and hour of a planned invasion.
Nonetheless, of the numerous invasions in World War Two (North Africa, Italy, the Pacific Islands, etc…), history mostly associates the term with the Allied invasion of Normandy, France in June of 1944. There are several reasons for this. First and foremost is the fact the invasion was the single largest seaborne invasion in human history. It involved the largest aggregate of landing ships (c. 5000) and troops (c. 156,000 soldiers and another c. 195,000 naval personnel) ever assembled.
The second reason is that the successful breaching of Hitler’s vaunted “Atlantic Wall”, an uninterrupted string of coastal fortifications that ran from Spain in the south to Finland in the north, led to the eventual (and inevitable) liberation of occupied Europe. Indeed, within a little over one month of D-Day, Hitler’s generals had turned against him; and within one year, Hitler himself was dead and Nazism was vanquished forever.
Fittingly, the seventy-fifth anniversary of D-Day has unfolded amidst much fanfare and pageantry in Normandy. Gatherings, parades, speeches, and similar festivities involving world leaders from across the globe have been the order of the day. Indeed, our own president has received high marks from both sides of the political aisle for the remarks he delivered.
But the one event that grabbed my attention more than any other was the story about the ninety-seven year old D-Day veteran who parachuted into Normandy a second time. According to various news stories, C-47 transport planes dropped a group of a couple of hundred parachutists, replicating a jump made by U.S. soldiers including veteran Tom Rice, as a prelude to the seaborne invasions on D-Day. Many of the original airborne soldiers, including Rice, descended into gunfire and death.
This time around, however, Rice’s jump was a different story. He came down in tandem with another parachutist, after preparing for six months with a physical trainer. He also flew down with an American flag fluttering beneath him, and landed to a wave of applause from the crowd of thousands that gathered to watch the aerial display.
How different this time was from his original jump. The first time around, he jumped with the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division, landing safely despite catching himself on the exit and a bullet striking his parachute. He called the 1944 jump "the worst jump I ever had”.
According to an Associated Press interview, he stated: "I got my left armpit caught in the lower left-hand corner of the door so I swung out, came back and hit the side of the aircraft, swung out again and came back, and I just tried to straighten my arm out and I got free.”
He added: "Everything was, for the most part, repeated except this is a daylight jump and the Normandy jump in ’44 was a nighttime jump. I didn’t know where I was. I knew where I was here! I represent the United States coming here … I really appreciate all the love and their kindness and their heartfelt emotions."
That being said, Rice admitted that he nonetheless remains troubled by the war. “All the GIs suffer from the same blame and shame," he said. "It bothers us all the time for what we did. We did a lot of destruction, damage. And we chased the Germans out, and coming back here is a matter of closure. You can close the issue now," he said.
As I read this, I was first of all impressed by the physical strength and dexterity of this World War Two veteran. Alter all, he is just three short years away from turning one hundred! I was also reminded once again that a whole generation of Americans sacrificed in untold numbers of ways in order that I might be free today.
Make no mistake about it; Hitler and his thugs had designs on North and South America just as they did Europe and Asia. Were it not for what Tom Brokaw called “The Greatest Generation”, we might all now be speaking German, marching in goose step, or even worse, living in a totalitarian world!
But the preacher in me was reminded of something else. The greatest of all liberators was our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He came down from above to this world the first time to do spiritual battle with the forces of evil. He won that battle on the cross of Calvary. And because of this, we have been set free for all eternity!
But there is more to the story. In multiple places in the New Testament, we are told that this same Jesus will one day return! He will once again descend from heaven to earth – this time to have full and complete closure on the whole matter of spiritual battle!
On March 21, 1942, more than two years before the Normandy invasion, General Douglas MacArthur was ordered by President Roosevelt to evacuate the Philippines and organize a strategy of attack against the invading Japanese from Australia, he famously told the people of the Philippines: “I shall return!”
On October 20, 1944, a few hours after his troops landed, MacArthur waded ashore onto the Philippine island of Leyte. That day, he made a radio broadcast in which he declared, “People of the Philippines, I have returned!”
The day will come when Jesus Christ Himself will also return. And when that day comes, we who have been liberated by Him, and who await His coming, will rejoice as He makes his second, long awaited appearance! What a day, glorious day that will be!
SOURCE: Reported widely in the news. My immediate source is: https://www.foxnews.com/world/d-day-veteran-97-parachutes-into-normandy-75-years-later.
The specific article cited above was written by Frank Miles, a reporter and editor covering geopolitics, military, crime, technology and sports for FoxNews.com. His email is Frank.Miles@foxnews.com. Note: Martha MacCallum of Fox News and The Associated Press also contributed to the report.
SEE ALSO: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/macarthur-returns.
NOTE: For a better appreciation of what it was really like, at least here on the home front, back on June 6, 1944, check out these websites that contain the original news broadcast coming in as D-Day itself unfolded in real time: