Earlier this summer, former teacher, businessman, Ewing councilman and NJ State Senate candidate Don Cox shared some reflections on the anniversary of the D-Day Invasion. Knowing him as a passionate student of history, I asked him if I could share his musings here. He agreed, and so this month I offer his thoughts as the country celebrated the 75th Anniversary:
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On June 1, 2009, I flew to Paris, rented a car and drove to Deauville, France. My plan was to visit all of the beachheads of the British, Canadian and American troops during the 65th D-Day Celebration, and to be at Omaha Beach on June 6.
Along the way, I spent time assessing what remained of each of them, and the various associated cemeteries. I stayed several nights in Caen, France, and visited different sights each day. It was quite an emotional experience seeing the sites, and the realization of the massive movement by sea and by air.
I arrived at the Omaha Beach on June 6, and visited the Omaha Beach Memorial Museum, which displays a collection of vehicles, uniforms, weapons, and personal items from American and German service.
I also visited some of the remaining German fortifications and equipment. I happened upon a cocktail reception being hosted for the GI’s and their families. The French had placed tables on the beach in a long string about 600 feet long, dressed with white tablecloths.
At dinner time, the tables were filled with the guests from America and some of their French hosts. All were served a chicken dinner that lasted almost two hours. I managed to get a very quick dinner at a nearby restaurant.
As the guests cleared the beach and the tables were removed, they began to set up for fireworks. So, I waited until it got dark at 11 p.m., and the fireworks went off at 11:15 p.m. It was a truly wonderful experience.
As I watch the current 75th anniversary celebrations, all of the memories of WWII cause me to shed tears. I was only 8 years old when the war began, and yet so much is so clear in my mind.
I think of all of the sacrifices we went through during that period. I remember the air raid sirens; black shades on the windows; taking old sheets to school where we cut them up and made bandages for military hospitals; bringing in newspapers to fold papers into disposal bags to hang on hospital beds; and ration cards for meat, sugar, butter, gas, etc.
We had meat once a week. Gas was rationed according to letters A, B or C assigned to ever y car. If you had an A sticker you were privileged with important work. Many B and C car owners took the rubber tires off their cars and kept them on cinder blocks until the war was over.
During the war, my father left and my mother and I were on our own. My mother, who was a stay at home mother, had to find work, and either walk to work or take a bus.
My father was asked by the chairman of the physics department at Princeton University to work with him at John Hopkins Physics Lab in Silver Spring, Maryland, where they were developing the radio-controlled nose cones for rockets to shoot down the German buzz bombs that were devastating London. They also worked periodically on the Manhattan project in Arizona to develop the atomic bomb.
When the War in Europe was over we had a very mild celebration; but, when Japan surrendered, grand parades were held everywhere. The war was over!
My family was lucky. All of my cousins came home; I did not lose any relatives. I had one that was a bomber pilot flying bomber missions from Bari, Italy to Germany.
Two others were Army captains in England, preparing for the invasion. Another served as a Marine in the South Pacific in several island conflicts, and another was captured by the Japanese and was imprisoned for two years before his release.
I pray to God that such catastrophes never happen again. We all share that prayer.