On the 6 of June 1944 men were cramped into landing crafts and made their way towards the French coast. Despite extensive training, many knew that a hard, dangerous battle waited for them. While some landings occurred without heavy loss, fighting raged on, and the ultimate sacrificed was paid by many. Despite this, every beachhead was ultimately secured. D Day was a success. This was another step towards the defeat of the Nazi Regime.
Perhaps this is a decent summary of the landings. Yet as I read the excellent book by Stephen E Ambrose, I am struck to how much more complicated the landings and the push inland was. While I understood other elements like the Navy and Airforce played a massive part, I had no idea of the intense battle among the hedgerows that followed those landing. Innovation, courage was required as flawed operational planning and training hinder the troops. Despite learning about D Day and consuming popular culture, this part of the operation seems to be missing from most of it. It had given me a flawed idea of how a historical event happened.
Simplification is essential to limit the scope of discussions. However, we see inappropriate simplification by individuals who should know and touch on more details. As many nations grapple with their past and future paths, this limitation is not prudent. Too much is at stake for quick summaries that leave out essential information. At best, this is due to incompetence, and at worst, it is to mislead those who are being informed about a topic.
How Can The Past Be Changed?
It has been more than 100 years since World War 1. Lived memories no longer can be found, and for later conflicts, we are also seeing a decrease of people who lived through it. Once people who were around can no longer correct the record, it becomes easier to change facts. While this may be due to new information that is revealed, often this new perspective is built upon new ideas and ideals that view the past differently. Some of this is not wrong, such as the tragedy of World War 1 growing larger, as it was not the war to end all wars. Unfortunately, in our modern world, the sacrifices of the past are being viewed as less due to issues with the systems that they came from. If an individual thinks that America is tainted, then the 19year old who fell defending it, to these people did not do anything noble.
This has become easier as the people who experienced that sacrifice firsthand have also left us, making it possible to have a different opinion on the sacrifice. While education about World Wars has remained a bedrock for many nations, material supporting the nation has faded or been counterbalanced` with a large amount of information about current and past flaws. This means while the acts and individuals can still be remebered fondly the causes and country are not.
Road To Remembrance:
In Australia “Lest we forget” has become an enshrined in the national ceremonies on ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day. Not forgetting is not just about remembering the acts. It is also about the people who did those acts and the home they left behind. By remembering that home, we are better able to understand their actions and also our modern ones. Realising that we live in different times and a direct comparison may also not always prudent is also essential. Actions that may seem irrational now can be due to what came before.
An appreciation of the challenges that they faced in the past is essential for understanding their actions. Without crucial information, an honest conversation cannot occur. As much as the individual soldiers demonstrated utter courage, forgetting or hiding the cost of a lack of training for the brutal hedgerows for future operations is flawed and dangerous.. Acknowledging where critical mistakes where made does not remove the courage, especially among those who died in mistaken attacks. To see problems in the past, we are not required to burn or tear down every aspect of it.
Just because understanding the past in full is difficult does not mean it is not essential. If we need to hold conversations about our nations and their history, we need real information. Learning allowed us to defeat the challenges of the past, and we have inherited a lot of information we can freely access. Let us use this information to learn more of the picture and then have better conversations, for a better future.
Lest we forget.