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Monday, July 15, 2024
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Thoughts from America on D-Day – is this what our heroes died for?

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LIKE many people around the world, I spent much of June 6 glued to a television screen watching the ceremonies in Normandy to mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day. I was profoundly moved by what I saw. Most moving of all was seeing the very elderly men, mostly in wheelchairs – Americans, Britons, Canadians – who took part in what Eisenhower called the ‘Great Crusade’ to liberate Western Europe from Nazi tyranny and thereby save what Churchill and FDR unashamedly referred to as Christian civilisation.

The dignity and grace, their extreme age and frailty notwithstanding, with which these nonagenarians and centenarians conducted themselves brought tears to my eyes. As did the recitation of the famous stanza from Laurence Binyon’s magnificent poem For the Fallen, recited by an elderly veteran entirely from memory.

And then there was the wonderful and hardworking Princess Anne, who brought her usual combination of gravitas and social ease to the unveiling of a memorial honouring the Royal Regina Rifles, a Canadian regiment whose Colonel-in-Chief she is and whose dogged defence of Bretteville l’Orgueilleuse against repeated German counter-attacks following the landings of June 6 has assumed legendary status among aficionados of military history, of which I am one. If there exists a category called ‘national treasures’, then this only daughter of Elizabeth II surely belongs at the top of the list.

I thought about the sacrifices and extraordinary courage of the men who took part in these titanic conflicts and offered that greatest of gifts – their young lives. As the West continues its accelerating downward slide into decadence, depravity, self-hatred and barbarism, I sometimes wonder if their sacrifices were worth it.

Such a thought, I confess, borders on the blasphemous, especially given the fact that their sacrifice allowed oppressed people throughout Europe to breathe the pure of air of liberty once again, not to mention the countless Jewish lives saved with the liberation of the concentration camps. Let us not forget, Nazi Germany was committed to eradicating every Jew in Europe. But if those who sacrificed so much – a few hundred of whom are still with us – were to see the current state of the civilisation for which they offered everything, I cannot help thinking they would be horrified.

One American 97-year-old veteran of the war in the Pacific attending the D-Day commemorations was interviewed by Fox News and was perhaps more candid than the interviewer expected. Asked how he felt about the nation he had risked his young life serving, he answered he felt a foreigner in his own country. No doubt he is not alone, and one could find other veterans who feel the same.

Surely, young soldiers died not to preserve the continuation of a civilisation that tolerates middle-aged men in thongs pretending to be women, twerking and gyrating in front of innocent little children. That encourages the mutilation of prepubescent boys and girls and calls it ‘gender affirming care’. Or that teaches its young people to detest their nation’s culture and history and turns a blind eye when they desecrate the monuments to the men and women who populate their collective historical memory. (Winston Churchill, who did more to save Western civilisation than any other individual, is now derided as a racist and a bigot – not to mention an agent of genocide – his statue in Parliament Square defaced.) Nor did they fight and die for a world without borders, in which citizenship, that bulwark of freedom and democratic government, is rendered irrelevant and social welfare programmes are compromised to the point of bankruptcy. Instead, the men who risked everything on June 6 1944 and thereafter did so, in part, to restore the integrity of national borders, such as those between France and Germany, and between the latter and Poland.

I could go on, of course, describing the appalling state of the Anglosphere countries that were the principal participants on D-Day, but those reading this article are already well aware of the degradation into which their nations, whether it be the US, Britain, or Canada – and let us not forget our friends in the Antipodes – have sunk.

As I write this, crime-ridden London streets are festooned with so-called Pride Flags, many of them replacing Union Jacks, and Londoners are being compelled to celebrate a minority sexual orientation that many of the world’s great religions frown upon. For these celebrations an entire month has been set aside. Even fetishes are now to be honoured. I still can’t dispel the image of grown men at last year’s Minneapolis Pride March crawling on all fours dressed as dogs, the implication of which I try not to think about too closely.

London, epicentre of the great campaigns that destroyed the evils of National Socialism and Fascism, is also now the go-to-place for anti-Semites who hate Israel and support Hamas, crowding its streets on a weekly basis. As an expatriate Englishman who lived and worked in Finchley as a young man and formed lasting friendships with members of the Jewish community there, I am disgusted and ashamed that British Jews are no longer able to walk the streets safely.

Hardly a day passes that I do not think or dream about my late parents. Both were born well before the beginning of World War I, the Great War or 14-18 War as they were wont to call it. In other words, they were Edwardians whose moral and aesthetic outlooks were shaped by a moral worldview that owed more to Queen Victoria than anything they experienced thereafter.

In 1940 they were living in Ruislip, West London, near RAF Northolt, an aerodrome that became one of the hubs during the Battle of Britain, father missing Dunkirk due to an appendectomy, working as an air raid warden, before joining the Home Guard; mother struggling to raise three young children, including my newborn sister, Rita, a German bomb exploding just yards above mother and children as they rushed to the relative safety of a nearby Anderson shelter.

My parents belonged to what Americans call ‘the greatest generation’, those born between 1901 and 1927 who came of age during the Great Depression (what my parents called ‘the Slump’) and World War II, although they would have rejected the compliment, as have many of their contemporaries. Rather than seeing themselves as exceptional or especially heroic, they would have said they were simply doing what was expected of them. In short, they acted in accordance with what they saw as their patriotic duty. But it was their patriotism, work ethic, self-discipline and simple decency, along with millions of others on both sides of the Atlantic, that saved Judeo-Christian civilisation, at least for the time being.

As much as I miss my beloved mother and father, I take solace in fact that they are no longer around to witness the barbarism that is befouling both the nation they loved and sacrificed for, as well as their youngest son’s adopted country.

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Bernard Carpenter
Bernard Carpenter
Bernard Carpenter is a semi-retired history teacher.

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