Yes, I am watching “The Longest Day” on TMC. Have not seen it for decades, but this 75th anniversary of D-Day seems to be the time to do it. This will be a rambling post all over the place. I note that according to the film, it was German Field Marshall Rommel who is depicted calling it “the longest day,” the day before it happened, seeing it coming.
I have been there several times, first in Fall 1953 when I was young and it was cold and rainy. Three times in1994, 1997, and 2002 I and my wife, Marina, took students to visit the site, always impressive and moving, especially the famous cemetery. In 1994 my late mother was with us and went around thanking veterans, who were visiting in large numbers as that was the 50th anniversary.
Unsurprisingly President Trump has been trying to get lots of attention for the celebrations of the anniversary, keen to hang out with the queen, who was actually around for the real thing, telling her how much his late mother admired her, one of the rare times we have heard him say anything about his mother. Supposedly Macron got more applause at the Portsmouth gathering that had the queen and even Merkel apparently, although not Justin Trudeau, even though the Canadians were a major part of the invasion. Putin was also not there (more on that later). I am not going to waste time going on about the usual stupid things Trump has said and done other than to agree with the commentators who find it appalling that he is draping himself in this when so many things he is doing and supporting go against the ideals of those who landed there that fateful and bloody day.
A curious coincidence is that today was the last day my wife, Marina, was teaching. She is now retired. For her final lecture she argued that trade is an alternative to war. Needless to say, this is something that Trump seems to be unaware of.
Before she went to class in the morning we heard a commentator on local radio going on about how this was the decisive turning point of the war, which would be followed by “our guys going to Berlin.” I do not wish to minimize D-Day at all, and certainly not the sacrifices of those who died there, but this is quite aside from the outright inaccuracy of thinking it was Americans who “went to Berlin,” this reflects a longstanding ignorance by many Americans about what really happened in WW II. It was all about us and D-Day, but as most readers of this probably know, the Eastern Front was the most important action, with many times more dead, and the Battle of Stalingrad the real turning point of the war, not to mention that it was the Soviets who got to Berlin first, although the other allies would get their pieces of Berlin later. Indeed, while later many in the US would complain about our letting the Soviets get there first and taking over so much of Eastern Europe in the bargain, in fact Stalin had begged the Americans and British to invade much sooner. As it was, the Soviets ended up doing the worst of the heavy lifting.
Which brings us up to Putin not being at Portsmouth, much less on Omaha Beach this morning. This is understandable as we did not send anybody to their big memorial of the war, Victory Day, May 9. This has long been one of the biggest holidays of the year in Moscow, both under Soviet rule and since under Russian rule. As it was, after the end of the USSR there was a period when the military parades were cut back and even eliminated, although it remained a big celebration. But recently Putin has reinstated them. The war is being increasingly emphasized as a national inspiration, and Stalin is being rehabilitated big time. Nevertheless, at this year’s military parades on Red Square, there was only one foreign leader, with him in fact officially stepping down, although into a superior position still in ultimate control, Nursultan Nazarbaev of Kazakhstan, the last ruler of a former Soviet republic to have actually run his republic under Soviet rule as local Communist Party leader. So, no surprise Putin did not show up for the D-Day celebrations, having a meeting in Moscow with China’s Xi Jinping instead.
As for Trump, well, he is spending the night at his gold course in Ireland for a second evening before he heads back to Washington so he can declare a new national emergency to save us from all rhose illegal immigrants coming in from Mexico. Bring on the tariffs says our bone spur leader!