Friday, June 6, 2014

Follow Along: #DDay70

9,000 bodies etched into the Normandy sand; each a man killed on June 6, 1944
(via @davesleny)

My love of history is almost entirely academic when confronted with events that occurred before the Renaissance but, for some reason, I'm much more sentimental when inspired to learn about dates and people from the 600 or so years since.  I suppose it's easy to compartmentalize tragedy and victory from a millennium ago; that distance, both chronologically and emotionally, makes it feel like the past happened to the people who would become us but not the people who were us.  More recent history, though, especially that of the last few centuries, happened to the people who were us, and it moves me to the core.

Maybe that's why I could never study it.  There was no way for me to be objective.  I read about atrocities caused by or exacerbated by humanity - the death of more than a million Africans crammed onto slave ships bound for the Americas, the Irish potato famine in the mid-19th century, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in 1911, the slaughter of an entire generation of young men on the fields of western Europe during WWI - and I find myself completely unable to place the events within a broader political, social, or cultural context.  Nonetheless, I can't look away.

As part of that, I've always been fascinated by World War II.  My ancestors had all been processed through Ellis Island well before Germany invaded Poland, but the years after Hitler came to power and those during which the total tyranny of the Nazi party dominated much of Europe feel personal.  In truth, I'm equally affected by the destruction of Dresden as by the Blitz, but the subjective part of me mourns the Axis victories that prolonged the war and celebrates the dates of Allied successes.

Unsurprisingly, I'm soaking up the coverage of this 70th anniversary of D Day.  I don't know as much about the political or military background of the invasion as I'd like, but it's all unfolding spectcularly on Twitter.  If you want to follow along too, here are a few of the accounts in which I'm engrossed:

The Library of Congress will be be tweeting links to first-hand accounts from their Veterans History Project all day.

BBCHomeService is tweeting the events leading up to D Day 1944 as they were reported on BBC Radio.

TimelineWWII is retweeting the names of all those who served in the D Day invasion.

Greg Jenner, a Horrible Historian, is actively tweeting and retweeting D Day facts and memories.

In addition, Benedict Cumberbatch has recorded the original bulletin from BBC's 8am news on June 6, 1944 and the BBC is livestreaming the commemoration ceremony.

It's not always productive to let the academic take a backseat to the emotional when remembering historical events, but this is one of the most appropriate days to do so.  In the words of Winston Churchill, "Never in the field of conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."

 photo 866de425-8336-4c63-9efd-1c4dd8bf0e62_zpsafe0d56b.jpg


  1. that photo is crazy. so sad. i visited the beaches of normandy and i defiantly got choked up. my mom was always watching WWI and WWII documentaries on the history channel when we were growing up so i feel like i know quite a bit about it but its still so important to reflect on history and the people it impacted.

  2. My ability to form an articulate comment has been totally wiped by that picture and the silhouettes project. I mean, it's one thing to know that WWII killed a huge part of a whole generation, but seeing it...

  3. That picture is unreal. It is just so hard to now imagine. A beautiful post x

  4. I find it especially interesting and sad how many WWII veterans don't share their stories or do not talk about their experience because it's too painful for them. When we would honor our local veterans at a school assembly at the school I taught at, we always had local guests and of the 8-10 men who would come, only one man spoke about his experience. He had written a short book on it even. So while it's uncomfortable and heartbreaking for us to hear the stories, there are so many we don't even hear because it's even more heartbreaking for those who were there.

  5. Jordan and his friends celebrate DDay each year by getting together and playing a WW2 game. They all love history stuff. It is very sad, though.


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