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D-Day Plus 77 Years

June 6th, 2021 · No Comments · Uncategorized

On June 6, 1964, I was 9 years old and spending the night with my grandmother in Long Beach, California.

My sleep-over with Grandmother Laura came with control of what appeared on television, which I very much appreciated. My tastes back then ran to roller-derby and wrestling, and even a little basketball.

My grandmother, a lifelong St. Louis Cardinals fan, didn’t complain about the roller-skaters or the rasslers, but at least once every time I picked out the Lakers for her, she wondered aloud how basketball could hold anyone’s interest.

“They all run to one end,” she said, “Then they all run back!”

Luckily, I did not have a laser focus on the TV content that night because I recall being surprised — and then excited — when I saw that the CBS network was airing a long look back at one of the seminal events of World War II — D-Day, the day the Allies successfully returned to Europe, signalling the end of the Third Reich less than a year later.

I was already a kid with lots of interest in history and military history, and many of the adult males I knew in 1966, those in their 30s or 40s, had been in the military during WW2.

Looking back at a key moment in the war, which presaged the final months of combat, was something CBS was smart to do. The network rolled out its big hitter, news anchor Walter Cronkite, for interviews with the likes of Dwight Eisenhower, former president and supreme leader of all Allied forces on June 6, 1944.

Another good call they made?

Pairing their history with a piece of American music that made its debut in 1944 — the orchestral suite named Appalachian Spring, by Aaron Copland. I had never heard it, and the powerful final chords moved the 9-year-old me.

(From then on, whenever I heard that music, I thought of that CBS special report. “D-Day Plus 20 Years”. And vice versa.

I have done lots of reading pertaining to D-Day, and I have seen the movie based on it — The Longest Day — at least 10 times. OK, maybe 20 times.

I made a trek to the American Cemetery near the Normandy beaches, where thousands of American dead are buried.

I also took the tour, and saw Omaha Beach, where the Yanks suffered heavy casualties. And I remember that our guide said the biggest problem he had with “Longest Day” is that the movie stars were far too old, compared to the younger guys who actually did the leading on the ground, in 1944.

So, whenever I hear about June 6, I can spend hours thinking and reading about it. Which reminds me of my grandmother and her little home in Long Beach, where I was thinking “that music is really good”.


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