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First official flag of the United States.
June 14, 2012, marks a signal, but little noticed anniversary in the history of our Republic: In Philadelphia, on 14 June, 1777, the Continental Congress passed a resolution that the official flag of the new nation that, in time, would come to be known as the United States of America should display thirteen stars and thirteen stripes; in addition, the same resolution also declared that the colors of the new flag should be red (for strength and courage), white (for purity), and blue (for steadfastness, vigilance and justice). While the look of the American flag has changed as additional states joined the Union, our flag's instantly recognizeable design (along with its core symbolism) has remained largely unchanged over the wide span of years that now separate the struggling nation of 1777 from the continent-wide world power that the United States is today.
The survival and expansion of the United States, and the system of government that it continues to represent, has come at a sometimes fearful price in blood and treasure. And for this reason, the flag of the United States, nicknamed "Old Glory", has come to occupy a special place in the hearts of many of America's citizenry. As evidence of the flag's special place in American life, it is only necessary to look back on the nation's near and distant past.
In the decades following the American Revolution, a small but gradually increasing number of communities began to commemorate the date of the resolution with locally-mounted ‘Flag Day’ ceremonies. On 30 May, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson declared June 14th officially to be ‘Flag Day’ throughout the United States. Finally, in 1949, 172 years after the Continental Congress first debated and approved its flag resolution, Congress passed and President Harry S. Truman signed the Act of Congress that legally designated June 14th as ‘Flag Day’.
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Originally, I had intended to post only a few brief comments about a pair of my relatives who, although they did not go in against the German-held beaches with the first waves of the "Overlord" invasion troops, nonetheless both came ashore at Normandy in the days following the initial landings. However, in surfing the internet this morning (I no longer watch television), it struck me that there seemed to be almost no mention of the anniversary of the D-Day Invasion. For that reason, I have decided to repost last year's essay on what I considered then (and still do) to be the real long-term historical significance of the Allied victory on the Normandy beaches on 6 June, 1944.
Thoughts on the 68th Anniversary of the Allied Landings in Normandy
LOOKING BACK AT D-DAY
Subsequent events, of course, showed that this confidence was not misplaced. The expansion of Allied air and ground offensive operations in the west, along with the constant hammer blows from the Red Army in the east, furnished constant and irrefutable proof that the brutal edifice of the German Führer’s “thousand year” Nazi empire was already teetering and ready to come crashing down. Nonetheless, in the spring of 1944, the defeat of the Third Reich and the end of the war still seemed a long way off; this was why, in the eyes of the Allied strategic planners, opening a new front against German forces in France was viewed as being essential. And, in June of 1944, the Allies were finally able to launch a massive, combined air-ground-naval assault against the forces that manned the formidable defenses of Hitler’s Festung Europa.
Seen with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, the victory at Normandy was not — like previous amphibious operations such as Torch, Husky, or Avalanche — simply one more Allied success on the long, bloody road to Berlin, but a crucial, even essential, turning point in the war in the west. By the spring of 1944, it had become clear to almost everyone on both sides of the conflict — except, perhaps, Adolph Hitler — that, barring something bordering on a military miracle, Germany’s defeat was inevitable. The new German “wonder weapons”, terrible and destructive as they were, had come too late, and Allied bombing missions — while they may have been largely unsuccessful in destroying Germany’s war production — were, nonetheless, quite effective in devastating Germany’s cities, and the civilians who lived in them. Thus, the only real question that remained to be resolved, and the one that was decisively answered on 6 June 1944, was the actual timing of that defeat. Because the D-Day invasion was an Allied success, albeit an imperfect one, World War II would end in 1945 rather than in 1946, and Western Europe would be liberated by the citizen-soldiers of the western democracies and not by the Red Army. Hundreds of thousands of combatants and civilians would, because the conflict ended when it did, survive to begin the laborious process of rebuilding in a post-war world; moreover, the western Allies, as a result of their bloody but victorious campaigns in 1944-45, would demonstrate to Stalin and his advisors in the Kremlin that Russia’s western allies both controlled and were willing to use a powerful military force that was clearly a formidable match for the Red Army. The uneasy partnership between the Soviet Union and the west would not long survive the end of World War II, but the “Cold War” that soon followed it would, because of the events set in motion on D-Day, never escalate into an apocalyptic nuclear clash between east and west. And, in the end, that fact, more than any other, demonstrates the historical significance of the Allied success at Normandy sixty-eight years ago.
Blog Posts about Related WargamesSPI, ATLANTIC WALL (1978)
TAHGC, BREAKOUT: NORMANDY (1993)
SPI, BREAKOUT & PURSUIT (1972)
SPI, COBRA (1977)
TAHGC, FORTRESS EUROPA (1980)
SPI, NORMANDY, 2nd Ed. (1971)
RGA, OMAHA BEACH 1974)
CGC, OVERLORD, 2nd Ed. (1977)
TAHGC, PANZER LEADER (1974)
Recommended ReferenceThis book is a handy guide of maps for the Normandy landing beaches.
Recommended ReadingTHE WEST POINT ATLAS OF AMERICAN WARS (Complete 2-Volume Set); edited by Brigadier General Vincent J. Esposito; Frederick A. Praeger, Inc. (1959); ASIN: B000MTBTEU
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