D-Day! Celebrating the Greatest Generation

Welcome to June 6th. The international events in Normandy, France, are  honoring and celebrating D-Day which occurred 80 years ago today. On this day the Allies mounted the largest military operation of its kind in human history and arguably made it the most significant day in modern times. It was the Greatest Generation’s finest hour which ultimately led to the defeat of the Nazis, the liberation of Europe, and bent the course of human history away from authoritarianism, tyranny and oppression toward democracy and freedom.

I deeply admire and honor the men and women that made D-Day possible and the sacrifices they made. However, the war did not end that day. It would require another year of blood and sacrifice to ultimately defeat the Nazis and to bring about VE Day, i.e.Victory in Europe, on May 8th, 1945.  As an infantry platoon commander my father lost over half his unit to a Nazi U-boat attack crossing the English Channel in the largest maritime disaster of WW II several months after D-Day. He earned a Bronze Star for valor fighting in France, returned home, witnessed the continuing war in the Pacific prior to VJ Day, then moved us to a recently fire bombed Tokyo to serve in the occupation of Japan in December of 1946. He fought in Korea, served with us in the Cold War in Germany, and finally retired during the Vietnam War. His was a life devoted to military service that spanned decades. Yet the wars continue and humankind struggles to find a through line that leads to an alternative to war.

In Journal of a War, my father -in-law, Donald Pearce, recalls what it was like to serve as an infantry platoon commander in the Canadian Army as his entire platoon was replaced over time due to casualties. His experience was another follow-on to D-Day, the campaign in Belgium and the Netherlands.  Although I wish I had an interview with my father to share, I nevertheless urge you to listen to Terry Gross from NPR as she interviews Dr. Donald Pearce as he recounts his experiences on the battlefield. This interview is particularly powerful because it describes not only the tragedy of war but the triumph of the human spirit in the face of it.

‘Grampy Don’ as he was affectionately known to all of us who loved him, not only survived his harrowing war experience, he transformed it into one of the most beautiful and inspirational lives I have ever known.  Optimism, resilience, passion, enjoyment of nature, love, FUN- that was Grampy Don. We miss him every day and I hope we can all learn from his example as we benefit from the profound sacrifices made by the Greatest Generation on our behalf.

Listen to the  interview at https://freshairarchive.org/guests/donald-pearce

Access the broadcast by copying and pasting the link into your internet browser.

Donald’s interview begins at 11 minutes and 10 seconds.

See you on the River,

Scott, Greg and the MaLode Crew

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Scott Underwood

Company owner Scott Underwood has enjoyed the privilege of helping Mother Lode share his love of rivers with over 300,000 people. He is proud to have helped facilitate the writing of over 30,000 letters which, in turn, have helped save 15 rivers along the Sierra.
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