Since I published my book, “Voices of Michigan Stadium,” less than a year ago, an interesting dynamic has arisen. I have found myself as a kind of “accidental historian.” I never went into that project with the idea of becoming a keeper, or one of the keepers of Michigan football history, but because of the nature of the book, and the fact that I had the material in actual audio clips of some of Michigan’s great legends, it kind of came with the territory.
That being said, I have found myself becoming more aware of history. That is why today, June 6th, 2023, I am moved to follow my renewed attention to history and remind as many as I can, about the significance of today’s date.
On June 6th 1944, the allied forces in World War II stormed the beaches at Normandy, France, and began the end of one of history’s most epic conflicts. The significance of remembering this date, and the sacrifices made by a generation of young men and women from the allied forces cannot be understated.
Several years ago, I was very fortunate to travel to France, and we made a point of visiting the United States Military Cemetery at Normandy. It is a moving and solemn experience. I can’t imagine anyone who visits that hallowed ground not being moved emotionally about the sacrifice that so many made so that we could be free. When I set foot on the property, I thought I was entering St. Peters Basilica in Rome, during a High Mass being celebrated by the Pope. It was that solemn. I was moved emotionally.
To be there and walk that ground where so many gave their lives moved me in a way that I was not expecting. Over four thousand four hundred allied troops were killed in the D-Day invasion, and an estimated 5 thousand were wounded. In the ensuing Battle of Normandy that followed D-Day, 73-thousand more allied troops were killed, and 150-thousand were wounded. The numbers are staggering. Walking through the area where so many made the ultimate sacrifice changed my understanding of World War II, which I had only studied in school from books, or seen in movies.
In 2001, former NBC news Anchor Tom Brokaw wrote a book called “The Greatest Generation.” It was all about the generation that mobilized against Hitler, Germany and the Axis forces to preserve peace and security among nations. It was a generation that gave so much, and asked for very little in return. From those on the front lines who put their lives on the line, to those behind the lines who sacrificed careers, to those who stayed at home and supported the effort at great personal and professional cost, I am fully on board at calling them THE GREATEST GENERATION. I doubt we will ever see another generation like it.
That’s why, on what is an ordinary early summer day, June 6th, we should all say “thank you” to a group of people who molded the environment in which we live today. 79 years ago today, our lives changed. A great many of us weren’t even born yet, but make no mistake, our lives were changed on this day back in 1944.
As an accidental historian, forgive me, but I think it’s important to remember this date. In a review of Brokaw’s book, “The Greatest Generation,” the Washington Times reviewer wrote, “We who follow this generation have lived in the midst of greatness.”
It can’t be said any better. When you get the chance on this June 6th, or in a day or two when it comes to your mind, say “Thanks” to those who came before us. We owe them so much. We must never forget.