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D-Day and Memory

 

Seventy-three years since D-Day.  In the first law firm I worked for in 1982 the Senior Partner had lost a son on Omaha Beach.  A former partner of the firm was now a Judge, and still walked with a limp from being shot up on Omaha Beach.  Another partner had been with the Eighth Air Force in England, helping to plot flight missions in support of D-Day.  This was in a five man firm, including myself.  D-Day left its mark on this nation, with its approximately 3,000 dead and 6000 wounded Americans, but with the passage of time the memories of that time grow fainter.  All three of the men connected with the firm I worked for are now deceased and their living memories of that longest day are gone with them.

About 620,000 of the sixteen million American who served in World War II are now left.  They are leaving us now at the rate of 500 a day.  The youngest of them now are in their ninth decade.  All too soon the men who fought in the Great Crusade as Eisenhower termed it, will be joining Washington’s Continentals, the Blue and the Gray, the Rough Riders and the Doughboys, as figures of history, no longer people we can talk to and meet.  Continue Reading

2

The Civil War In Historical Memory

Any understanding of this nation has to be based, and I mean really based, on an understanding of the Civil War. I believe that firmly. It defined us. The Revolution did what it did. Our involvement in European wars, beginning with the First World War, did what it did. But the Civil War defined us as what we are and it opened us to being what we became, good and bad things. And it is very necessary, if you are going to understand the American character in the twentieth century, to learn about this enormous catastrophe of the mid-nineteenth century. It was the crossroads of our being, and it was a hell of a crossroads.

Shelby Foote

An episode of an excellent series on YouTube, the Civil War in Four Minutes, the above video takes a look at the differing interpretations of the War by Americans.  The Civil War is, of course, an immense event in American history, perhaps the immense event in American history.  Most Americans I think do not understand how huge it is, simply because we think we are familiar with it, and because we are still too close to it in time for us to gain the historical perspective to judge.  The many, many differing interepretations of it:  a glorious war for human liberty, a valiant defense of States’ Rights, the war against the rebellion, the second American revolution, a needless conflict, etc, often say more about the times when the interpretations are made, than they do the Civil War itself.  Almost my entire life I have been studying the conflict.  However, the scholarly necromancy that we perform in historical texts can, at best, only put before our eyes pale shadows of what the War was like for the men and women on both sides who lived the triumphs and tragedies of a conflict so vast as to perhaps dwarf all our other historical experiences as a people.  Sadly, perhaps this scene from the John Adams miniseries sums up the daunting, if not futile, task of presenting to succeeding generations the reality of an event as historically significant as the Civil War: Continue Reading