Saturday, June 06, 2009


I was going to do something splashy for my three hundredth post but nothing seems more appropriate than the sixty-fifth anniversary of D-Day and Memorial Day in South Korea.

The invasion of Normandy was- and is to this day- the largest amphibious landing in military history. Operation Overlord included troops from the US, Great Britain, Canada, Poland, Norway and France. Fifteen thousand Canadians took part in the D-Day invasions. Three hundred and forty were killed. Nevertheless, the infantry, parachute and armoured divisions made further inroads than any other D-Day participant (no doubt the memories of Dieppe stirring them on). Germany's back was broken that day. In less than eleven months, the war would be over.

We can look back on those times and wonder at the ordinary men called to do extraordinary things. We feel somber about the men who died never knowing a world without war. Still, for most of us, this isn't even a memory but some obligatory remembrance every year. I can't help but think that my generation and generations after me will never be anything like the Greatest Generation. We fear hardship, eschew inconvenience and enjoy the ability to find fault from a distance. We cannot give thanks or live up to everything that came before yet we feel no shame. It is as though we have betrayed a trust someone died to protect.

Where did we go wrong?


Memorial Day (Hyeonchung-il) in South Korea also falls on June 6th. The timing seems appropriate. While Western nations mark the beginning of the end of the Second World War, South Koreans remember their war dead.

The War Memorial in Seoul has a plaque listing the five hundred and sixteen Canadians killed during the Korean War (which has not officially ended). The number of American war dead is so great that the men are listed by state. In an adjoining hall, the South Korean war dead are solemnly listed on granite slabs (the North Koreans lost men in the millions). While the West walked away after the Second World War (after we handed Poland to Stalin), the Koreans have had to rebuild with only half of their country. Some of the men who survived had no home to return to.

South Korea now is a prosperous nation of well-fed, well-educated people. Western Korean War veterans wouldn't even recognise the place now. The Korean soldiers saw everything enfold before their eyes.

They might even live to see the war actually finish.

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