The Daily Demarche
Monday, June 06, 2005
D-day plus 61.
Sixty-one years ago today the allied forces landed on the beaches of France, the first real steps on the ground to defeat Hitler and Natioanl Socialists. As any school child can tell you the French have been graciously grateful ever since.

They are so grateful in fact, that they created a special medal for the survivors of the D-day landing to commemerate the 60th anniversary. One small caveat, though- in order to receive the medal the veterans would have to go to France- again. Those who were infirm, or without the means to travel to France were simply out of luck. The thanks of a grateful nation apperently does know some bounds:

That's because the French government sent Massirio a letter dated April 2, 2004, denying him the badge. The letter stated: "I regret to inform you that the badge created by the Lower Normandy Regional Council will be bestowed only to the veterans who will go back to France for the 60th Anniversary of the D-Day."

This year, however at least one more deserving vet- John Massirio- will have received the award, no thanks to the French:

The man responsible for making sure Massirio received the medal is Vito Rao. Rao, of Boca Raton, is the national service director for Italian-American War Veterans of the United States. He's responsible for representing the rights and entitlements of qualified veterans to the government.

"I wasn't going to rest until I got this done," Rao said. "To require John to go to France with his health and financial burden may not have been the best judgment of the French government, but I think they were well motivated and wanted to make it a spectacular 60th anniversary."

Here now recollections of D-day in the words of the men and women who lived it:

'Dawn on D-Day'
Well, the sky ... it was a windy, overcast day. At 7 o'clock, I don't remember the sun rising, but it was getting light. And you knew the direction of the beach, you knew where it was ...
And then suddenly ... bang, just like that, at the given moment of time, everything opened up. And you had these great monitors, these big ships with 15-inch guns, you had the cruisers, everything that could fire was firing. And then you had the chaps, and you knew what was happening, of course, the landing craft were coming in to the beaches.
Of course the Germans thought, 'This is a good idea, we'll fire too'. So you've got both sides firing away, and the light ... you were silhouetted against the dawn, really, a late dawn. I mean, the thing was getting light, the twilight. And it was very encouraging.
You thought, 'Well, you'll never ... never hear one of these things, barrages again in my life' - and I didn't. And it was tremendous. It was awe inspiring. I think that's the best thing you can say. And it was cheerful, because you knew then that you weren't alone. You weren't the only people.

'The battle'
[It] goes just through you. You just carry on. You're shouting, swearing, cursing. You're oblivious, only oblivious so ... to it. You're just carrying on. You got a job to do, and you're glad to get down near their gun.
You're glad to get down to their gun. Oblivious to anything, you know. You gotta run and get there. Zig-zag and run and get there.
You're oblivious to what's happened to number three and four gun, but you hear momentarily about number two gun, the shouts of mines and explosions. And you're zig-zagging.
You shut it out. You shut everything out. You shut it out, just shut it out. Until you get there. Then you say, 'aahh, that's it'. You get to the rear of the gun, and it's successful. At a price.

'Growing up under fire'
As as the days went on, we thought to ourselves, or I thought to myself, 'It's a funny thing to say, but a few days ago you ... were just lads, you hadn't been out of school very long, and now ... you're just boys, and riding along on your push-bikes, and playing about with other lads and then you come up against this, and you feel ... that you've become a man all of a sudden, when you've gone through all this nightmare.'
It is a nightmare, of course, absolute nightmare. And I suppose that the German soldiers, the ordinary German soldier probably thinks the same.

'Survival' (German soldiers's acount)
On D-Day we were shocked, and I, as well as the others, we were defending ourselves, we wanted to survive. They were not our enemy ... we did not know them, and we had no chance to say yes or no to what was happening.
The opponent wanted to 'defeat' us, as it was called in those days, and we did our best in order to repel this opponent, and we did not think about the individual human being. When the landing troops arrived, we said that on every single boat there were more soldiers then in our entire bay of six kilometres.
Each ship had a few hundred, and we had about three to four hundred. Each resistance post had 20 to 25, and each boat was spitting out 30, 50, 100. In the beginning our artillery, which was already trained at the beach, was showing us the aim. And the artillery did manage to bring the attack to a stop in the first two to three hours

Some of our European friends may have lost sight of what that war meant, and what the sacrifices made by the forces who liberated their homelands cost countless families. Some of us in America may have as well, but not all of us by any means. God bless you, gentleman, everyone of you. Your memories live on, you will not be forgotten.

(end of post)

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dé·marche 1) A course of action; a maneuver. 2) A diplomatic representation or protest 3) A statement or protest addressed by citizens to public authorities.

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