Our view: Memorial Day is a time to look back on D-Day
Memorial Day 2019 falls just 10 days shy of the 75th anniversary of D-Day, June 6, 1944, the allied invasion of Nazi-occupied France during World War II.
This is a landmark anniversary of a significant event in world history. Had the invasion failed, it’s possible Adolf Hitler’s Germany could have fought on for years, terrorizing and killing millions more innocent people.
By 1944, Europe had been embroiled in war for nearly five years. The Russians were steadily advancing against Germany on the Eastern Front, while in the West, an allied bombing campaign had done serious damage to Germany’s industrial capacity. England, Canada, the United States and their allies waited for the opportune time to strike the European mainland.
That strike came in the early morning of June 6, when 156,000 troops landed on five invasion beaches on the Normandy coast.
Across America, people had been waiting for the news they knew had to come any day. American troops and materiel had been building up in Great Britain in preparation for the invasion for nearly two years.
For the most part, though, life in Rochester continued as normal as possible. On June 5, the Bud Anderson Circus, with 25 acts performing under the big top, was set up at North Broadway and 12th Street. There were two performances that day to help distract those on the home front from the war.
Unbeknownst to the circus-goers, the invasion was supposed to have taken place on June 5, but poor weather over the English Channel forced a delay of one day.
Registration was also underway June 5 for summer swimming lessons at the Soldiers Field pool, despite an overnight frost warning and high temperatures only in the 50s.
In the chilly, early morning hours of June 6, Rochester awoke to the news of the invasion. A special edition of the Post-Bulletin was soon on the streets. One thousand free papers were delivered to hospital rooms and Mayo Clinic.
On the streets, in shops and offices, people asked each other “Have you heard the news?” For the most part, the Post-Bulletin reported, the news was received calmly, and perhaps with a sense of relief that the invasion had finally taken place.
Churches were open and in the evening of June 6, several local churches held special prayer services.
A long way from the horror of the war, where their sons, brothers and husbands were fighting, the citizens of Rochester gathered to pray that peace come quickly, that God watch over “our boys” and to give thanks.
On this Memorial Day 2019, we wish to emulate their practice of 1944.
As they did 75 years ago, we give thanks for the sacrifices of those who have made our peaceful lives possible.