Is your family talking about what happened sixty-nine years ago today? I hope so.
Much of the world honors what happened on this day in 1944, D-Day, when American, Canadian, and British troops invaded Normandy, France. The event started the liberation of France and western Europe and led to the downfall of Nazi Germany.
Military and civilian casualties were stunning. Melissa Marsh, World War II historian, describes that day as “a bloody, horrific and terrifying day.”
Melissa urges us to consider real people who experienced D-Day. Think about it: Whether you knew them or not, probably some of your ancestors were involved in one way or another. Be sure your children and grandchildren know their stories.
“Sometimes, we need to take a step back,” Melissa says, “and look at the individuals who made this invasion possible—the infantryman, the paratrooper, the tank drivers, the landing boat drivers, and on and on.
“It wasn’t just about military strategies and generals and officers,” Melissa continues. “It was also about the common soldier.
“It’s easy to group these individuals into one entity: the military. But,” she reminds us, “each one represents a husband, a father, a son, a brother, a sweetheart. Each one had a family, a friend, a wife, a sister, a brother, a daughter, a son, a lover.”
In my family, for example, on D-Day, almost every young man my mother knew lost his life. Almost every boy she dated, almost every boy who pulled a prank on her, went to church picnics with her, flirted with her: gone.
Her sister’s boyfriend, heading toward shore, in the face of enemy fire, jumped overboard. The boat’s motor blades took his life. (Read more and see a photo at Your Family and D-Day.)
What are your family’s stories? Where did they live during World War II? London? Canada? Germany? The US?
Today I have a treat for you. Take a couple of minutes to read this account of a French girl who was age six when the war started and twelve when the war ended. During those years, she and her family suffered severe hardships, food shortages, air raids, and bombings.
They also experienced D-Day. It was no dry material in a history book for them!
Recently, more than sixty years later, she wrote to her grandson, Alec, “Ah, unparalleled joy when, on June 6, 1944, we heard that the Americans and Allied forces had landed in Normandy.… What an incredible feat they accomplished that day. Thank you, thank you, thank you to all of them!” (Be sure to read Lest We Forget: D-Day, June 6, 1944 at the blog, French Girl in Seattle. Her collection of photos is superb.)
If you include D-Day accounts in your memoir, keep in mind that this genre includes digging for deeper lessons.
You’ll need to ponder, examine, and unravel. How did D-Day impact your family, both positively and negatively? Why? What benefits do you enjoy today because of the sacrifices of so many on D-Day?
If you lost a loved one or friend, what did God do to comfort and provide for those left behind?
For those whose family members returned home after the war: In what specific ways did God protect them and give them courage and stamina?
How did the experience change their lives? Strengthen their faith? Change their lives’ directions?
What was God doing in the midst of D-Day—for your family, your parents and grandparents? Your nation? This world?
Those involved in D-Day and World War II experienced events that shaped them, and they in turn shaped their children and grandchildren, and they still shape who we are today. God uses such events to form important family values and attitudes that run through the generations.
What stories can you pass on to your children and grandchildren? They are important!
Here are excellent resources for you:
Melissa Marsh has her MA in History with a special interest in World War II. Her blog, The Best of World War II, has photos and a wealth of information.
The World War II Data Base includes photos and information about numerous countries.
For inspirational reading, “The Hardest Decision I Ever Had to Make,” by Erwin A. Thompson, World War II Hero.