Tuesday, May 17, 2022 |
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Half a world away from the beaches of Normandy, and from the war-torn streets and deserts of Iraq, Kaua‘i is known as a haven of aloha and peace for visitors from around the world. The terrorism fears found today on the Mainland, in Europe and Asia are pretty much filtered out by the time one reaches our faraway island.
Even so, today we need to look beyond our peaceful paradise and mark with the rest of the nation the 60th anniversary of the D-Day assault in France. It is time to remember the thousands of fallen heroes that died that day as they began the 11-month effort to recapture Europe from Nazi terror. Veterans of the assault are gathered today in France where 100 will receive honors from that government, and a week-long build up is culminating with ceremonies and media coverage of this event, which some consider a last hurrah for our World War II vets.
It is interesting to read the war accounts of those days as published in The Garden Island’s special war editions of the 1940s and in other newspapers of that time, and to read contemporary stories of D-Day veterans who made it and are still alive today. The news accounts were sketchy, while the veterans’ memories are specific as they recall from a first-person perspective what it was like to have your buddies blown to bits right next to you while running for cover across a mine-ridden beach.
Along with D-Day vets, who are mostly from the Mainland, Japanese-American Kaua‘i veterans who fought in Italy, as well as France and Belgium, are being remembered this week too. Many attended the opening of the World War II Memorial in Washington D.C., and today an article appears in The Garden Island that tells the story of a Kapa‘a man who left to fight in World War II and found a new life in the Washington D.C. area surviving the saving of the “Lost Battalion,” and effort that is considered one of the 10 hardest fought battles of World War II.
This is also a poignent time for our World War II vets as only about a quarter of the hundreds of thousands of servicepeople who served in World War II are still alive, with as many as a thousand vets dying in old age each day this year. By 2014, when the 70th anniversary of D-Day is to be marked, it’s expected only a small fraction of the vets will still be alive.
These memories of World War II also bring to mind the sons and daughters of Kaua‘i who are fighitng today in Iraq. There also parallels to World War II and the effort being made there to return Iraq to the Iraqis and get out. Clippings from 1946 from The New York Times shows the press had grave doubts about successfully bringing about a post-war recovery of Germany. German citizens, it was reported, were wishing for a return to Nazism, wishing for what they called the good old days. American soldiers were criticized at times for what the press saw as looting and roughing up German citizens. We need to stand by those in the Armed Forces who are still in Iraq and Afghanistan, or perhaps on the way there, and hope that the situation these is resolved just as the post-war problems in Europe led to a new prosperous era for Europe.
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