Does Anyone Remember the Great Allied Victory?
On May 7, as I began to prepare for bed, I looked at the calendar in my bathroom and realized it was the dawn of V-E Day. I am an insomniac and the birds were already singing when I put my trash outside the front door for Friday collection.
Because I did not have a yahrzeit candle to commemorate the anniversary of the loss of a loved one, I decided to light a large scented candle to commemorate those young British, American, Australian, and other Allied forces who in June 1944 would have been praying or smoking or quaking with insomnia and writing what they knew would be their last letter home. Indeed it would not be until May 1945, long after D-Day, that victory in Europe could be declared.
Going outside to put my trash bag on the pavement, I heard pop music playing softly in one of the flats in my block. In this street are many successful and happy people who I doubt, as they ventured out on May 8, 2009, would have the slightest idea it represented the sixty-fourth anniversary of the European victory over Hitler. I doubt they will realize that V-E Day forever marks the threshold of civilization rescued by Winston Churchill and -- love him or hate him -- Franklin Roosevelt, set against the very real possibility of descending into the Valhalla of the Thousand-Year Reich. Fifty million died so freedom from tyranny could prevail. Does anyone care anymore? Will there soon be a day established by the politically correct brigade to feel guilty about the dead of the SS and to apologize to the Axis for waging war at all?
On that eve of V-E Day, May 7, I went inside and stood for a moment with my hands clenched. I closed my eyes and prayed for the souls of the young men from my London street who may have been sent out to fight on D-Day. It sent a chill through me: someone from this very block of flats may have been sitting shaking with fear sixty-five years ago as he watched the dawn break in Portsmouth Harbor. This could have been his last Channel crossing, but if he had luck on his side he might have made it to France only to be killed alongside his Yank, Aussie, and Kiwi buddies in the horrendous push inland in Operation Market Garden and the Hurtgen Forest.
How deeply ingrained in my late mother's memory was the sight of thousands of young men leaving Camp Pickett, Virginia, where she was stationed as a WAC (Women's Army Corps), these lads only to die a few weeks later on Omaha Beach. She received parcels in the weeks after D-Day from GIs sending her tins of tuna and items for their parents in towns with names like Bassett, Nebraska, and Perkasie, Pennsylvania, and Hopatcong, New Jersey; they said they knew they would never come home and their folks needed these precious things more than they did.