Today is the 75th anniversary of the Allied landing on the beaches of Normandy, that pivotal and devastating day in World War II history. Any time there are moments of military commemoration, I always think of my veteran ancestors, and so today, my thoughts naturally turn to my grandfather, Dick Raynor, and his brother, Bob, who both served in World War II.
Clifford “Dick” Raynor and Monroe “Bob” Raynor both enlisted in the military in 1943 - my grandfather in the Navy and my great-uncle in the Army. They ended up on opposite sides of the Allied front - my grandfather in the Pacific Theater and Uncle Bob in Europe. Today, I think of where they both were when they got word that the Allied troops had successfully landed in France - according to the obituary for my great-great grandfather, Joseph Raynor, in January 1944 Uncle Bob was with the tank corps in Camp Polk, Louisiana and Grandpa was in Newport, Rhode Island. By May 1944, Grandpa was learning how to be a radio technician at the U.S. Navy Electronics Training Program at Wilbur Wright College in Chicago. I wonder what they thought as they heard about what their fellow soldiers were doing. Uncle Bob was, I think, with a tank company in the 9th Armored Division, which landed in Normandy in September of 1944. So while he was not there on this fateful day, I can only imagine what the landscape looked like only three months later, or what it was like to stand on the ground that had so recently soaked up so much blood.
Like so many young men of that generation, like the men who fought on D-Day, who were wounded, killed, or survived, my grandfather and great-uncle made the sacrifice to defend American freedom and world freedom. My great-uncle was on the battlefields of Germany - my grandfather was lucky enough to never see battle but provided important support to soldiers who did. He was also lucky to never have had to be a part of the invasion of Japan, as had been part of the plan.
In retrospect, they couldn’t have known that D-Day was the beginning of the end, but they might have felt the tide of war shifting in the Allies’ favor and they certainly knew the meaning of the sacrifice made by all who fought on this day. 75 years on, almost all those veterans are gone, leaving it to us to remember and pass on these stories of bravery and sacrifice to future generations.