Wednesday, June 14, 2006

D-Day Tale

Yah, it's a little late--but blame Clayton Cramer, from whom this is lifted:

And in the midst of all the grinding hardship, a million Britons kept a secret. Since the summer of 1943, things had been happening on the island of Great Britain, from military encampments suddenly appearing in the Scottish north to huge and inexplicable movements of ships and soldiers all over southwest England. Canadians, Americans, and even their own men began appearing, without unit identification patches, all over the place. No one asked why, and no one ever told. Everyone knew, and yet, no one knew or talked about these activities. While the greatest air and naval armada in human history was being assembled and trained at sites across Britain, the citizens pretended they saw nothing, heard nothing, and they discussed nothing, even among themselves. But they all knew. They knew that one day, as Winston Churchill put it, “The tide will turn.” So I can just imagine the moment that my mother, then a girl of twenty, can never forget and to this day, she cannot talk about without crying.

On the night of June 5th, well after midnight, she and a girlfriend were walking home after working a second shift and catching a music show at a small theater. She had been a university student, but the university had closed, as all male students and professors were in the services and the women were assigned to work for the war department or homeland industries. As they walked, a wave of bombers and cargo planes swept overhead. This elicited no reaction from anybody on the street, as the RAF always launched at night. But then came another wave of heavy transports, which everyone who had been hearing planes for the past five years could tell from the engine sound. Then came another wave. And another. Then the higher, more reedy sound of night fighters. Then more transports. Then more bombers. People came up out of their basements and culverts, and stood staring at the sky and at each other.

Hundreds, and then thousands of people, still standing in complete black-out darkness, started cheering. They struck up the national anthem – ‘God save the King’ – and everyone hugged one another. Then, a thousand voices strong, they sang ‘Rule, Britannia!' As the planes still came overhead in waves, they all knew that, whatever happened, they did not have to pretend anymore – the invasion of Europe had begun. It was D-Day.

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