Tuesday, June 06, 2006

June 6th. A glance back.

According to the fundie crowd this date may well spell the end of the World. Something about it being the "mark of the beast" which emerges from the Christian book of Revelations. Supposedly 666 is significant. If that's even right. Funny how monotheism generates a plethora of lesser or evil mythical beings. In any case, it looks like the World made it through and it will be interesting to read what the fundies have to say tomorrow.


This day has an even greater historical significance though. On this day 62 years ago a man whose permanent rank was Lt. Colonel made a decision which sent 156,000 people, most barely out of their teens, ashore on the beaches of Normandy, France. It was a gamble of the highest order and the cost was high. Canadian, British, American, Australian, New Zealand, Greek, Dutch, French, Belgian and Czechoslovak troops stormed two sectors divided into five assault areas and established a lodgement amid horrendous enemy fire.

The cost was high and, to this day, casualty figures are still only an estimate. Over 10,000 Allied troops became casualties with over 2,500 killed, most of them in the bloody "first wave". If one needs an example, on Juno beach odds of becoming a casualty in the first hour of fighting were one-in-two. The Royal Winnipeg Rifles lost half their strength during the initial assault and B company, with a strength of over 140, was reduced to 26 riflemen.

German casualty figures are even less accurate although the estimate is between 4000 and 9000 men.

D-Day was a success in that it provided a starting point from which western Allied forces could begin the job of dismantling Hitler's Fortress Europe. Objectives, however, were set too high and the opposition put up by the German forces was unexpected. The only unit to actually reach their objective on D-Day was a tank troop of the 1st Canadian Hussars, having fought their way inland from Juno Beach.


On this day 24 years ago in another war, on a frozen and desolate island populated primarily by sheep, a young Royal Marine, acutely aware that the tactical situation had deteriorated and his patrol was amidst a strong enemy force, made an unthinkable decision. Realizing that he would likely sacrifice his own unit, he called for heavy artillery fire - on his own position.


Reality versus myth. Hard decisions versus an insane belief in an imaginary creature.

Of course, something else happened today. Maybe this is what the fundies were talking about.

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