Scoot: America 75 years ago on D-Day

June 06, 2019 - 12:51 pm

Thursday, June 6, 2019 is the 75th anniversary of the invasion of the beaches at Normandy, France. The United States joined Allied forces on a mission to liberate France, and ultimately Western Europe, from the control of Nazi Germany.

Amphibious landings were supported by an aerial assault from allied planes; but the soldiers, many of them in their teens and early twenties, moved into a full attack from German forces waiting for their arrival. Imagine the mindset of the young men who knew they may not live through the initial campaign onto the beaches and then the reality of watching fellow soldiers die next to them as they continued into the onslaught of the German arsenal on their mission to protect the freedom of America and Western Europe.

For every generation following what NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw labeled “The Greatest Generation,” it is difficult to even image America involved in the invasion to liberate an ally from an enemy that had the great potential of reaching American soil and threatening basic American freedoms.

What was America like in 1944?

  • Average annual wages: $2,400
  • Average cost of a new house: $3,450
  • Average cost of gallon of gas: 15 cents
  • Average monthly cost of renting a house: $50

In the summer of 1944, baseball great Jackie Robinson was ordered to move to the back of a bus while wearing his uniform.

The original logo of Coppertone suntan lotion was the profile of an Indian chief with the slogan: “Don’t be a paleface.”

In 1944, the growing concern that Japanese submarines would attack Southern California inspired the U.S. Forestry Service to create the slogan for Smokey Bear – “Only you can prevent forest fires.”

America was a very different place; and the mood in the country is best reflected in the section of the WWII Museum in New Orleans, LA that features signs and posters asking Americans to save food for the soldiers, to help low-income families get food, and a campaign to plant a Victory Garden to encourage Americans to help produce food.

Segregation was part of America in 1944, and so was a subservient position for women in society. But after America was attacked by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on December 7, 1941, America pulled together in an extraordinary way.

Blacks and woman entered the work force and worked side-by-side with white men. That was a time when everyone was an American first and race and gender no longer mattered. The goal was to build a powerful military that could defeat the Japanese in the Pacific theater and the Germans in Western Europe.

At the beginning of the war, America’s military ranked 19th in the world – behind the military of Romania. But the effort to build a powerful military was successful because Americans were one.

As we honor the important mission to liberate Western Europe 75 years ago today, let us look back and think about the qualities we had as a nation.

In 1944, there were Republicans and Democrats and whites and blacks and Christians and Jews, but there was not the hateful division against each other like there is today.

Of all the great exhibits at the WWII Museum, the one exhibit that touched me the most was the exhibit of signs and posters that reflected an America that was willing to put differences aside and unite for the goal of protecting our freedoms. There were also signs and posters that illustrated that Americans were willing to sacrifice for each other.

It is 75 years later – and it is fair to ask if Americans would be willing to put differences and ideologies aside and work together and make personal sacrifices in an all-out effort to protect our freedoms?

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