“Scott, can you return this book to the library for me?” dad asked, at age 89, as the Covid pandemic was keeping him and mom at home. As outlined here, my parents celebrated their 71st (!) wedding anniversary last week. Now in their 90s, they both have remarkable mental acuity and surely one reason for that is their curiosity and mental engagement. For decades, they have routinely called the library to put a hold on books they want to read, or else browsed the shelves and pick up volumes that strike their fancy.
As such, dad had picked up a copy of Stephen Ambrose’s The Victors: Eisenhower and His Boys: The Men of World War II. As it turned out, he’d gotten it at the library shortly before the lockdowns were declared. Seeking to stay healthy at that time, they followed instructions and stayed at home. But also seeking to be a good citizen, he wanted to return his library book, so he asked me to drop it off one day when I’d be out. So, as a history major and teacher, I did judge a book by its cover and read it, and highly recommend it to you.
As the late Chuck Colson used to say, “if you want to learn history, don’t watch a movie; read a book.” And this book is a fine one. It starts with Eisenhower being tapped as a key general shortly after the attack at Pearl Harbor, and then goes into a deep dive covering the American GI’s training in England to prepare for the liberation of Europe, D-Day itself, and then the long and bloody slog through France, Belgium and Germany until the Nazis surrendered in May 1945.
One scene burned into my mind from reading it told of a soldier from Connecticut who hit one of the Normandy beaches on D-Day, June 6, 1944. While running across the sand under heavy Nazi gunfire, he was hit and, while sent sprawling in his final moments screamed out “Mother! Mom!” What a blood-chilling scene. This young man, probably between ages 18-20, was dying on a beach in France and calling out for his mother who was across the ocean, in New England.
We need to remember the incredibly bravery and sacrifice of those involved in World War II, and the D-Day landings were a key part of that titanic struggle. To learn more about D-Day, read this blog. And if you’re in Southwest or Central Virginia, pay a visit to the remarkable National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia.