Alan Chartock: Courage, sacrifice, freedom
GREAT BARRINGTON -- Friday -- D-Day -- during the WAMC fund drive, I thought a great deal about all the sacrifices that have been made by so many Americans of every stripe.
Hitler, with all his hatred and vituperation and wholesale slaughter, had declared war on the world and incredibly, he almost won. The fact that this paranoid, pathological monster could have captured all of Europe with no one doing anything about his aggression is almost too difficult to comprehend. Nevertheless, he did it and was nearly successful in his efforts at world domination.
People will always argue about whether Germany and her allies could have won the war and I have always believed they might have. If the Germans had won the Battle of the Bulge, if the development of the jet plane by the Germans had come just a few years earlier and if the German efforts to develop an atomic weapon had succeeded, it could have gone south for the Allies.
It took everything that Franklin Roosevelt had to position the United States in a place where civilization could be defended. He got there with Fireside Chats, and with Lend-Lease, and with his masterful timing that enabled him to change the minds of both the politicians and a population that had no desire to replicate the carnage of the first World War. Nevertheless, and thank God, he did it.
When we got into the war, there was massive economic and military mobilization. Americans gave everything they could. The bought war bonds to support the war and they worked in defense plants.
Millions of Americans were conscripted into the Army and the Navy. They fought around the world, first as underdogs and then slowly but surely, they began to get the upper hand. And then, 70 years ago Friday, the most massive naval invasion ever before undertaken took place on the beaches of Normandy.
We are told by the historians that we fooled the Germans by having Gen. George Patton set up a false army to convince the Germans that we were going ashore in Calais. I’ve always wondered how fooled they actually were, since so many of our invaders lost their lives to a fierce "underprepared" German army. We know that Erwin Rommel had set up an Atlantic Wall that he considered to be impenetrable. We also know that Gen. Dwight Eisenhower and President Roosevelt had their own doubts as to whether the invasion would work.
But work it did, at tremendous cost. There were dead soldiers who would never have children. There were wives who remained widows for the rest of their lives. There were children born who would never see their fathers. But the sacrifice was made and the world was saved. This was truly the greatest generation. All of us who live on in our world owe everything to the men and women who served the common interest so that democracy could be preserved.
And that brings me to the final point, which is how much we owe those who gave their all. They fought for democracy and we owe them that. They gave their lives and their limbs so that everyone would have a chance to vote and decide how we would run this country.
As it turns out, all of that is slipping away from us as we realize that government is for sale to the highest bidder. A cabal of greedy politicians of both parties has sold out the democracy. People give money to politicians because they want something and believe me, they get it. So, because our people gave their all, we owe it to them to be courageous and stand up to the bullies and the cheap tin-horn politicians. We certainly owe our pledge to keep the American dream alive to the men who went ashore that June 6th and sacrificed everything.
We have to show some courage, too.
Alan Chartock, a Great Barrington resident, is president and CEO of WAMC Northeast Public Radio and a professor emeritus of communications at SUNY-Albany.
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