As our particular "D-Day nears", it is interesting to reflect on the anniversary media news fest that is going on now. No matter how much they try to look sincere, the coverage always comes across (to me at least) as contrived. Maybe it's the lack of depth.
Bearing in mind that we are talking about British broadcasters, one might be surprised that only two commanders have been mentioned in all the coverage I have seen. Eisenhower's name has come up several times and even Patton (in connection with 'Fortitude' of course). I'm sure there was another guy who had a small role on the sidelines - Commander-in-Chief of the invasion forces; something like that.
The air and naval forces have been (predictably) overlooked completely, except curiously for how useful was the Douglas DC3!
I'm going to Normandy myself, when the fuss has died down and everyone can go back to forgetting.
The media coverage unfortunately appears to play down to the lowest common denominator. I am particularly annoyed by two things I hear repeatedly. First is calling Overlord a "Turning Point". I suppose there is no formal definition for such, but to me the term implies a change in initiative and to a lesser extent, a major change in momentum. Here I suppose the Normandy invasion qualifies on the second point, but I scarcely think it represented a change in initiative. That had passed to the Soviets at Stalingrad and Kursk, and the Western Allies at Alamein and the Torch landings.
Second is perhaps mainly a US issue, but I don't think I've ever heard the name of any landing beach except "Omaha" and "Utah". The role played by the Commonwealth army and Royal Navy is entirely absent. One would think the Americans did the job virtually by themselves, with a few British soldiers along for the ride. Completely neglected is the Soviet Bagration offensive at the same time, mangling the German Army Group Center.
Very few people really care anymore, as the last living veterans are dying off. World War II holds barely any more relevance to most of my countrymen than the history of Rome.
Good points Mike. The turning point issue is the result of lazy reporting and thinking. As you say, everything is down to the lowest common denominator now. I remember one of those dreadful history Channel documentaries about Waterloo, constantly referring to his grace as “the future Duke of Wellington”. Future indeed…
It irks me when people are trying to educate me with facts, which they themselves have completely wrong. A well-known film reviewer in the UK writing about the film Zulu provide the information for the benefit of the uninformed that most of the defenders were Welsh, which they were. In the film. Not so in reality.
There’s a perception that only the Omaha saw any serious fighting and all the other beaches were a pushover.
It’s fair of you to mention the national reporting bias. To some extent, that’s to be expected and applies to reporting within each country, be it politics, history or whatever. When it is overdone, it’s dangerous.
Most of the film shot during World War II was by American cruise, so the visual record naturally tends to be biased for purely practical reasons. We just had to get used to films like saving Private Ryan (hardly an historically accurate source) simply ignoring the contribution of other countries.
I’ve tried asking a few people in this country who they think words the commander-in-chief of land forces and the principal architect of the D-Day plan. Everyone answers “Eisenhower”. I think Montgomery is known for his insensitivity but at the end of the war he was quite gracious, evidenced by one particular speech. He knew his business of soldiering at least and listed all the shortcomings (as he saw it) of the American command system. After that however, paraphrasing, he went on to say that to balance all this it is only necessary to say one thing: without the Americans, we should not have won the war at all…
I don’t think anyone would argue with that, although one could probably also substitute “Russians”!
Please do Google “Stan Hollis”, the only VC winner on D-Day - the guy we were chatting about. Although he is from my home town, no one here knows seems to have ever heard of him. There have been a few news reports lately however. It was said that it was the fate of such people not to survive the war but incredibly, he did and went on to run a Yorkshire pub. One of the few people who treated winning the war as their own personal responsibility. Incredible.
Post by Michael Miller on Jun 8, 2014 13:38:51 GMT
I just read the article you linked. The term often used over here for such people is "bad-ass". We see just how mortal he was, what with bleeding feet, shrapnel in his body etc. I had a sliver of wood get under my thumbnail and couldn't get it out for three weeks. It was driving me crazy. Unimaginable what it must be like to endure what he did.