1944: The Landings begin in Normandy
I was going to add more things to the list but then I decided that this was all I wanted to add. I have long been a student of history and of WWII in particular. Who knows why we are drawn to one particular time in history over another but this just happens to be the period that I like to read about the most.
Just about this time, eight years ago, Dan and I stood on Omaha beach and looked out at the expanse of sand and ground that needed to be taken by our troops on that fateful day. The sand stretches out before you as far as the eye can see. On June 6, 1944 that expanse of beach wasn't the vacation spot that it is today. It was covered with barbed wire and massive pieces of steel meant to stop ships from landing. The Germans had calibrated all of their gun emplacements to be able to put up a whithering cross fire meant to cut down anyone audacious enough to actually attempt a landing. They didn't expect that anyone would get through.
We then went over at Point du Hoc where the army Rangers scaled cliffs in order to disable the big guns that were supposed to be there (but in reality had been moved). So many have never heard of this amazing feat of sheer determination. It is well worth exploring.
Finally, we spent time in the American Cemetery in Normandy. That, most of all, was a sobering experience. Contemplating the row upon row of simple crosses (with Stars of David sprinkled in) marking the graves of the brave men and women who gave their lives in the cause of freedom. Yes, there are women who are buried there for there were women, nurses and others in the military, who gave their lives during that conflict.
I don't think that you can visit these places, especially the American Cemetery, and not be changed. If you can visit and come away the same person then my heart breaks for you.
Take a moment to listen to FDR's prayer for D-Day. It is worth the time
Some excellent books to read about this particular issue. This is a VERY small list, I have read more but these are the ones that I most enjoy.
D-Day the Sixth of June by Stephen E. Ambrose
Band of Brothers by Stephen E. Ambrose
The Boys of Pointe du Hoc by Douglas Brinkley
Brave Men by Ernie Pyle
And If I Perish by Evelyn Monahan