Today is the 66th anniversary of the D-Day landings. If the D-Day landings hadn’t occurred, the big news would have been the liberation of Rome. The above video is color footage showing the entrance of some of the American troops into Rome on June 5, 1944, and an audience they had with Pope Pius XII.
The Pope, like almost all Romans, was joyous to be free from Nazi occupation, and he made that clear when he met with General Mark Clark.
“A few days after the liberation of Rome, Lieutenant General Mark Clark, Commander of the Fifth Allied Army, paid his respects to the Pope: “I am afraid you have been disturbed by the noise of my tanks. I am sorry.” Pius XII smiled and replied: “General, any time you come to liberate Rome, you can make just as much noise as you like.””
Happy birthday Gipper! Reagan and I share the same birthday. My beloved bride has the same birthday as FDR, January 30. My daughter’s birthday is February 9. This time of year is a good time for cake at the McClarey household!
It will come as little surprise to faithful readers of this blog, that I consider Ronald Reagan to be one of the great American presidents. My views on him are sent forth in this recent thread. He restored our prosperity and brought the Cold War to a successful conclusion. His radiant optimism was a tonic for the nation’s shaken morale. He deserves to be on Mount Rushmore if there were room.
It will perhaps stun faithful readers of this blog to learn that I have similar feelings for Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Although I believe much of the New Deal was counterproductive and completely wrong-headed, FDR understood that raising the nation’s morale was absolutely critical. His sunny ebullient optimism, and his ringing phrase, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself!” were just what the nation needed. His fireside chats, which Reagan emulated in his Saturday radio chats, were a brilliant stroke which helped forge a personal bond between FDR and much of the nation. (Although not my Republican shoemaker grandfather who remained impervious to the charms of FDR to his dying day!) During the war his leadership was masterful and greatly aided the US in winning in 3 and a half years a global conflict. Prosperity was restored to the US on his watch, although it was due to the War and not the New Deal.
Reagan was a supporter of FDR. He used to say he didn’t leave his party, his party left him. Looking at Reagan side by side with FDR, it is hard not to believe that Reagan learned many valuable leadership lessons from FDR.
Reagan and FDR were both ardent patriots with a deep love for this nation. Their optimism was based on their belief that the US could overcome its present difficulties and go forward to a brighter future. I find this personally appealing. Optimism and courage are necessary both in our lives here on Earth and in our spiritual lives. I have always agreed with Saint Francis, “Let gloom and despair be among the Devil and his disciples.”
The men of the 5th Ranger Battalion could barely keep from laughing when they first saw their chaplain, Lieutenant Joe Lacy, a week before D-Day. These were young men, in peak physical condition. Father Joe Lacy was old by Ranger standards, knocking on 40, overweight by at least 30 pounds, wearing thick glasses and short, 5 foot, six inches. He was described by one Ranger as “a small, fat old Irishman.” No way would he be able to keep up when they invaded France.
On June 6th we commemorate the anniversary of D-Day, the Allied invasion of Normandy — conveying our thanks to those who fought and died for the liberation of Europe, and the world, from the Nazis.
Many stories and reflections will be shared today. Here are just a few.
On one occasion we were near some farm houses and some large shells began to fall, so several of us near a stone barn dashed into it to get out of the way of shrapnel. Just inside was a mother hen covering her little chicks. When we hurried in she became frightened and fluffing her feathers rose up to protect her young. I looked at her and silently said, “No, mother hen, we are not trying to hurt you and your little family, we are trying to hurt each other.”
Nobody can love God better than when he is looking death square in the face and talks to God and then sees God come to the rescue. As I look back through hectic days just gone by to that hellish beach I agree with Ernie Pyle, that it was a pure miracle we even took the beach at all.” Yes, there were a lot of miracles on the beach that day. God was on the beach D-Day; I know He was because I was talking with Him..
At 6:30AM on June 6th, 1944 — 65 years ago today — American, British and Canadian soldiers assaulted the beaches of Nazi-occupied France in the first day of the return of the land war to Western Europe in World War II. In some sectors of the 50-mile-long section of coastline chosen for the landings, defense was minimal and soldiers slogged stolidly through the surf and onto land. In others, especially the American Omaha Beach, the first waves came under a withering barrage of machine gun and mortar fire which nearly completely wiped out the first waves.
The bravery of young men in such conditions, and the fears and sadness of their loved ones back home, constitute the sort of heroism, sacrifice and tragedy which have moved human hearts from the most ancient epics until the present day.
In one of the British landing craft, an officer played for his men a phonograph recording of the St. Crispin’s Day speech from Shakespeare’s Henry V. And so it seems a fitting tribute to the bravery of all the men from throughout the English-speaking world who huddled in their boats in the terrifying minutes before battle sixty-five years ago to post this, one of the greatest martial speeches in English literature, in the rendition from Kenneth Branagh’s outstanding production.