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70th anniversary of operation overlord


Operation Overlord

Something amazing happened 70 years ago this morning while you were sleeping.  Allied Armies led by future President, General Dwight D. Eisenhower (including hundreds of thousands of Americans) breached Hitler’s supposedly “impregnable” Atlantic seawall in Normandy, France in an operation known as Overlord (today, most people today recognize this event by the name “D-Day”).  To get a better grasp of what this day really entailed and the gut-wrenching sacrifices that were made by virtually everyone involved, go rent Saving Private Ryan or read The Longest Day.  There are also 2-3 episodes about it on the Band of Brothers video series.

I used to treat hundreds of WWII Vets.  Now I treat just a handful (HERE & HERE).  There is good reason that these men are known as our “Greatest Generation“.  Not only did America’s sons and fathers save Europe from Hitler and his totalitarian regime, they saved a huge portion of it from Communist Russia as well (unfortunately, part of Europe did become Eastern Bloc and ended up behind the Iron Curtain).   Even though a post-Stalingrad Red Army would have eventually defeated the Germans without us, the fact that we opened up a second front in the West prevented the Russians from overrunning the entirety of the European continent (with the possible exception of the British Isles).  
Earlier this week, I was asking a patient (I will call her “S”) about her husband’s seemingly strange first name — a name that I have never heard before.  It turns out that he was named after a war buddy of his father — a man who had saved his life in 1945.  This person — a local farmer who was a patient of mine before he passed away a few years ago — was shot in the ankle and captured by the Germans.  As the Allies pushed northeast into Germany from France, Belgium, and Holland, allied POWs were taken further north toward Berlin.  The word “taken” would not be exactly accurate here, as these men were frequently force-marched because there were no spare trucks for the Nazis to haul them in.   In fact, the person telling me this story described it as a “Death March”. 

When we hear the term “Death March,” most of us think of the infamous Bataan Death March on Corregidor (Philippines) that occurred shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.  This “Death March” of the European Theater was aptly named because for those involved, it was either keep up or get a bullet in the back of the head.  Because of the severe wound to this man’s ankle, he could barely hobble along.  His buddy practically carried him for several days.  Both survived the war and stayed lifetime friends.  The reason that “S’s” husband’s  name (he is also a patient) seems strange is because it is the last name of the buddy who helped save the man who would become his father a decade and a half later.  In fact, his son and grandson bear that name as well.  Amazing story!  Thank you for sharing it with me “S”.  anniversary

If you have not thanked a WWII Vet lately for the fact that you are free, do it today.  Time is running out, as there are not many left.  HERE is a tribute to one who was there.


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