07 June 2012

The Hell of D-Day

Yesterday was June 6, 2012, the 68-year anniversary of D-Day, the day during the Second World War where Allied troops landed along a 50-mile stretch of heavily-fortified French coastline to fight Nazi Germany on the beaches of Normandy, France. General Dwight D. Eisenhower called the operation a crusade in which "we will accept nothing less than full victory." More than 5,000 ships and 13,000 aircraft supported the invasion. While casualties were high (and the number is still disputed), more than 100,000 soldiers began the march across Europe to defeat Hitler.

You are about to embark upon the great crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. -General Dwight D. Eisenhower
The Normandy landings, nicknamed Operation Neptune, commenced on Tuesday, June 6, 1944. The landings took place along a 50-mile stretch of the Normandy coast divided into five sectors: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword. Operation Neptune ended on June 30, 1944, and by that time, the Allies established a firm foothold in Normandy.

Overall, the 2nd Army contingent (which invaded Sword Beach, Gold Beach, and Juno Beach) consisted of 83,115 troops (61,715 British). The First Army contingent (which invaded Omaha and Utah Beaches) totalled approximately 73,000 men, including 15,600 from the airborne divisions.

The German defenses used an interlocking firing style, had large bunkers, including intricate concrete ones containing machine guns and large-caliber weapons. Their defense integrated the cliffs and hills overlooking the beaches, and these defenses were all built and refined over a four year period.

The most commonly known aspect of the attack was the invasion of Omaha Beach, but the entire attack by the Allies was "a never surpassed masterpiece of planning." There was an invasion fleet drawn from eight different navies (out of the 2,468 major landing vessels in the two task forces, only 346 were American) and there were 195,700 naval personnel involved. Operation Neptune addressed German naval threats, air surveillance, and provided supporting fire for the land forces (to suppress shore defenses and to break up enemy concentrations). There were airborne operations which were used to seize key objectives, to ease the egress of amphibious forces off the beaches, and to neutralize German coastal defense batteries and more quickly expand the area of the beachhead.

Juno Beach
The Canadian forces that landed on Juno Beach faced two heavy batteries of 155mm guns and 9 medium batteries of 75mm guns, as well as machine gun nests, pillboxes, other concrete fortifications, and a seawall twice the height of the one at Omaha Beach.

The first wave suffered 50% casualties, the second highest of the five D-Day beachheads.

By the end of D-Day, 30,000 Canadians had been successfully landed, and the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division had penetrated further into France than any other Allied force.

Gold Beach
25,000 men landed and the casualties were quite heavy, but the 50th Northumbrian Infantry Division overcame these difficulties and advanced almost to the outskirts of Bayeux by the end of the day. With the exception of the above Canadians, no division came closer to its objectives than the 50th.

Omaha Beach
Omaha Beach was the most heavily fortified beach, with high bluffs defended by funneled mortars, machine guns, and artillery, and the pre-landing aerial and naval bombardment of the bunkers proved to be ineffective. They had difficulties in navigation, causing heavy casualties in tanks, infantry, and engineers. Of the 16 tanks that landed, only two survived the landing. 
Within ten minutes of the ramps being lowered, [the leading] company had become inert, leaderless and almost incapable action. Every officer and sergeant had been killed or wounded... It had become a struggle for survival and rescue.
American casualties at Omaha on D-Day numbered around 5,000 out of 50,000, most in the first few hours, while the Germans suffered 1,200 killed, wounded, or missing.

Pointe du Hoc
The massive concrete cliff-top gun emplacement was the target of the 2nd Ranger Battalion, and their task was to scale the 30 meter cliffs under the cover of night in order to attack and destroy the German coastal defense guns, which were thought to command the Omaha and Utah landing areas. The Rangers were eventually successful and captured the fortifications, but then had to fight for two days to hold the location, losing more than 60% of their men.

Utah Beach
Casualties on this beach (the westernmost landing zone) were the lightest of any beach, with 197 lost out of 23,000 troops that landed. This was due primarily to a current that pushed their landing craft to the southeast, to Victor sector, a light defended German location. By early afternoon, the 4th Infantry Division had succeeded in linking up with elements of the 101st.

Revised estimates of deaths are 4,414 Allied dead (2,499 American and 1,915 other Allied dead). But these numbers do not tell the story of the hell these soldiers went through in order to defeat Hitler and Nazi Germany.
What I thought were piles of cordwood I later learned were the bodies of 2500 men, killed by withering fire from the Nazi gun emplacements built into the cliff. -Tracy Sugarman
And I heard this shell coming in. And I knew, although I had never heard one before, I knew what it was. And I rolled over on my side and it exploded, and I jumped up to run for a fox hole. And I didn't know that Germans shot more than one shell at a time, and there was another one right behind it that was covered up from the sound of the first one going off. And when that one exploded, it jarred me real, real bad, and I was completely numb all over. I could not feel anything. And I jumped into the fox hole and I looked down, and the back of my hand was all covered with blood. And I couldn't -- since I couldn't feel anything, I had to feel my hand to see where I had been hit, but I couldn't feel any place where it was torn or anything. And I tried to realize that maybe I brushed my hand against my leg, and I felt that leg and I was all right. And then I saw that the blood was running off my nose, then that really scared me because I didn't know how much of my face was gone. But I got out of it pretty good. Very, very lucky. -William Jennings Arnett
Even the soldiers who escaped physical harm came home with mental and emotional scars. Their families and loved ones suffered with them. For being the greatest generation and saving the world from Nazi Germany and Adolf Hitler, please take the time to thank a vet (or their family for making the sacrifice). As the days march on, fewer of our WWII vets remain. Take the time to learn about our heroes and what they went through. It's the least we can do.

For more information on this historic WWII Operation, please check out the following sites:

05 June 2012

What's wrong with having children?

This article is written at the risk of insulting some of my closest friends, but since they know me well, they know that it is not meant as an insult or as a passed judgment. It is a curiosity on my part, something I do not understand but want to. Despite my lack of understanding, I have and will always accept an individual's personal choices (as I would hope people accept mine). Please understand... Having kids is a heavy choice, and if you don't want them, I respect your choice and perhaps it's better that you not have them if you don't want them... I'm just trying to understand.

I know of three amazing (married) couples who are fantastic people, individually and as a couple. They are strong, intelligent, patient, talented people who would put their lives on the line for me (and some do, in the military) if it were necessary. I consider them some of my closest friends, people who make the world a better and safer place. We are better off because they are in our generation, and yet, these are people who have decided to not have children. It makes me wonder what kind of awesomeness I/we are missing out on. I don't understand this logic.

There are so many individuals in this world who should not be procreating, and yet, not only have kids, but have a plethora of them. Seriously. You probably know some of them. Why then do the smart, industrious citizens choose to deprive the world of their next generation of goodness?

It reminds me of the movie Idiocracy, an admittedly stupid movie, but one that makes a good point. If the dumb people keep having children and the intelligent, well-educated people have one (or fewer), we will quickly be outnumbered by the idiots. Where will the world be? Where is the world now?

Perhaps it is a regional issue. At first thought, I feel that midwesterners tend to have more children than New Yorkers or Californians. My voluntarily childless friends, however, are from Michigan. This US News article found that more women in the Western United States are having children (Utah, California, and Nevada being the highest). There goes that theory.

Perhaps it is the cost of children. The same article mentions that the birth rate declined with the economic downturn. Granted, kids are expensive. Diapers, food, and schooling are just some of the costs associated with having children. But they provide so many positives in life that I feel those outweigh the negatives or difficulties of having them. Additionally, there are so many other things in life on which we throw money away, why shouldn't we use the money as an investment in the next generation and in the planet? Speaking of the planet...

Perhaps it is a matter of being too scared of the world to bring children into it. True enough, the planet, the economics, and the politics strike fear into our hearts. Countries getting the nuclear bomb, clashes between nations, drug and alcohol issues, bullies... from the local to the international, there is plenty to keep us on our toes. But if you do a good job raising your kids, making sure you keep them aware of the good, the bad, and the ugly about society, they can make a difference. They can shine a light and a beacon in this otherwise dark world, a light that we all desperately need.

Religion does play a role in families having children (think Catholics, Orthodox Jews, Muslims, and Mormons), as does ethnicity. Hispanics and African-Americans are having the most children. Perhaps they (as well as the religious) understand the value of children more than the rest of us?

The scariest (inverse) correlation is the one that involves education and fertility. The more education, the fewer children. Period.

The US News article explains.
Likewise, education and fertility are inversely related; more educated populations tend to delay childbearing in favor of school. For example, for many highly educated people, the ages of 18 to 22 are devoted to college, not starting a family. "Highly educated people, they get out of college, they have jobs, and then they have families. So the timing is being pushed. ... They're likely to have children at later ages," says Qian, meaning a smaller window for having children and therefore potentially smaller families. The Northeast tends to have more college- and advanced-degree holders than the rest of the country, which may also account for lower fertility rates in many northeastern cities.
Think about that. What that means is that our horror flick, Idiocracy, isn't that far off the mark.

I admit that I am somewhat guilty of this phenomenon. I am 34 years old, I have my B.A. in English, my J.D., and I have been practicing business and bankruptcy law for almost six years. The difference is that I never intended to delay getting married and having children. I have been looking for the right guy for me; it just took me a little longer to find him. With him, I want at least four kids (we'll see what nature and G-d have in mind for me). I figure that since I'm going to have cute, smart, and well-behaved children, I want to have as many as possible. My family, my neighborhood, my country, and the world will benefit.

Perhaps, above all else, that's the issue, at least for women. Education is so highly valued and demanded nowadays (and it is readily available to us) that we believe we have a smaller selection of qualified males from which to choose (I believe the "pussification of America" is also an issue, though I'll save that for another article). We don't want to settle and our careers are important to us. We want to make a mark in this world. Sadly, many women (and men) don't realize how children make us immortal, that we only have a certain amount of years with which to make our true mark.

Men and women alike want to make sure their progeny, should they have any, have a proper education, a proper upbringing, and think that they can only do this with one or two children. But again, this brings up the same question.... Why let your name die? Why deprive the world of your genes entirely?

Why have none?