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The Lessons of D-Day

"The veterans who fought the crucial battles of World War II are real heroes. We should thank them every day of our lives."
Lansing, Ill.

Mind & Body Happiness
Jan. 17, 2004

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Nancy gibbs' article "The Greatest Day," on the 60th anniversary of the Normandy invasion [May 31], was one of the most moving pieces I have ever read on the topic of war. As the daughter of a soldier who served in World War II at the Battle of the Bulge, the wife of a sailor who served on river patrols in Vietnam and the friend of a young man who died in Iraq last October, I thank Gibbs for her insights and for putting the lessons of those conflicts in perspective.
Wakefield, Mass.

Like many children of World War II veterans, I was raised with a sense of patriotism. My father saw action in that war as a medic, but we never discussed his combat experience. It wasn't until I received orders to go to Vietnam in 1971 that I finally realized what he must have endured. His goodbye to me contained little commentary about what to expect, but his eyes spoke volumes. While the nature of our wars was different, the willingness to sacrifice for others was identical. Like him, I didn't want to talk about what had happened after I returned from Vietnam. Sadly, my father passed away in 1991 without our ever having discussed those wartime experiences. After reading TIME's D-day stories, I feel as though my father and I have finally shared what we went through.
Dublin, Ohio

The memories of my childhood in Europe are filled with the horrors of World War II — death, hunger, cold and fear. I cannot look at it as the "Good War," as some people call it. There is no such thing. War at any time is a total collapse of civilization and is ultimately a terribly dehumanizing event.
La Jolla, Calif.

I am a U.S. army veteran, wounded in combat in Vietnam in the 1968 Tet offensive. The firsthand accounts you published of the D-day veterans brought back an unsettling, queasy sense of fear and inevitability, emotions I hadn't felt in decades. The Normandy invaders' day in hell humbles me.
Sherman Oaks, Calif.

To suggest that D-DAY turned the tide of World War II exaggerates the significance of the landing. A widely acknowledged turning point was the 1942-43 Battle of Stalingrad, which ended in a dramatic reversal for the German army. Unfortunately, the Soviet Union's critical contribution to Germany's defeat is often downplayed by the West.
Manno-Lugano, Switzerland

There is the belief, apparent in commemorative issues like TIME's Dday anniversary special, that decisive events, such as the landing on Normandy beaches, were almost entirely American. Only brief mention is made of other countries' contributions. But look at the facts. Of the first waves of invading army divisions landing on five beaches in Normandy, two were American, two were British and one was Canadian. Because all they hear is the U.S. version of events, most Americans would be surprised to realize that in the early hours of D-day, the invasion was only 40% American. Could Hitler have been defeated without the U.S.? Not likely. Could America alone have defeated Hitler? Also not likely, but it is very possible the U.S. would not even have tried. Americans must learn to curb their tendency to self-congratulation and silly boasting, about current and historic events.
London, Ont.

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