Publisher’s Perspective

By Tim Douglass, Publisher of the Pope County Tribune

A few numbers caught my eye as I was reading a report about the D-Day anniversary event in France.  The first was that there are fewer than 100,000 WWII vets still living, as most approach the late 90s and the century mark.

As the world commemorated  the 80th anniversary of D-Day, we remember the contributions of the more than 16 million Americans who served in the armed forces during the war. Their bravery and fortitude were instrumental in securing victory for the United States and its allies. Over 400,000 of these heroes paid the ultimate price for that triumph.

According to the report I was reading: “As young soldiers, they waded ashore in Normandy through gunfire to fight the Nazis. On Thursday, that dwindling number of World War II veterans were joined by a new generation of leaders to honor the dead and living in moving commemorations on and around those same beaches where they landed exactly 80 years ago on D-Day.”

I grew up in a time when WWII veterans were plentiful.  My small hometown had many of them and they were always front and center during Memorial Day programs.  Many of them in Korea or during the Korean conflict as well.  It is important that we always remember their service and sacrifice, as we do for all our veterans.

      *  *  *  *

The war in Ukraine shadowed the ceremonies this year, a grim modern-day example of lives and cities that are again suffering through war in Europe on the anniversary of D-Day.

The break of dawn eight decades after Allied troops landed on five code-named beaches — Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword — started the day of remembrance by Allied nations now standing together again behind Ukraine. World War II ally Russia, which launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, was not invited.

With the dead and wounded on both sides in Ukraine estimated in the hundreds of thousands, commemorations for the more than 4,400 Allied dead on D-Day and many tens of thousands more, including French civilians, killed in the ensuing Battle of Normandy are tinged with concerns that World War II lessons are being lost.

According to the report:

‘There are things worth fighting for,” said Walter Stitt, who fought in tanks and turns 100 in July, as he visited Omaha Beach this week. ”Although I wish there was another way to do it than to try to kill each other.”

”We’ll learn one of these days, but I won’t be around for that,” he said.

    *  *  *  *

The World War II Memorial, which stands in Washington, DC, honors the 16 million Americans who served in the military as well as all who supported the war effort on the home front. May 29, 2024, marks the 20th anniversary of the dedication of the memorial. The monument’s 56 granite pillars represent the U.S. states, territories, and Philippines, and a wall of 4,048 gold stars represents the 405,399 Americans who lost their lives in the war (4). Over 290,000 Americans died in combat, 114,000 died while in service from other causes, and 671,000 were wounded during the war.