#Dunkirk, Heroism Fades into #History
My father, a veteran of two wars, loved a parade. He taught me to love the flag and honor the men and women of the armed services. Memorial Day doesn’t arrive without my recalling the many parades that Dad and I shared together in Arlington Heights, Illinois. Those are cherished memories.
As a tot in the nineteen sixties, I regularly saw veterans of WWI, WWII and Korea march in parades to honor the memories of fallen comrades. Later, vets from wars in Vietnam, Desert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan joined the ranks of marchers. In the 1960’s, WWI vets were only in their sixties and seventies. Today, they are all gone and vets of WWII and Korea are in their late eighties, nineties or older. Soon, they too will pass into history.
Living in Europe this Memorial Day, 2015, I found another venue to quench my thirst for a parade. I’d honor the treasured tradition that my late father and I shared. I read in Friday’s Times of London about a commemoration of the 75th anniversary of #OperationDynamo, the flotilla of Little Ships that evacuated over 338,000 English, Belgian and French soldiers from the clutches of the Nazis.
In the first year of WWII, from May 26, 1940 through June 4, nine hundred civilian and naval vessels shuttled soldiers from #Dunkirk to England.
The mission was no easy feat; the small boats, today known as #LittleShips had to traverse forty miles of open sea. They were under risk of constant bombardment by the Luftwaffe. The brave souls who undertook the mission saved the cornered soldiers from death or capture by the advancing Germans who were weeks away from securing the surrender of France.
While the sailors of Operation Dynamo rescued over one third of a million men, another ninety thousand didn’t make it. They were either killed or captured. In war-time Britain, with the London blitz raging and the nation facing a continent lost to the Nazi menace, the rescue of their boys was a boost to morale. The Dunkirk spirit became a rallying cry.
My earliest knowledge of the heroics of Dunkirk came from Hollywood. I loved black and white movies, still do. One of my favorites is #Mrs._Miniver. The 1942 movie starring Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon won six academy awards including Best Picture, Best Actress for Garson and Best Director for William Wyler. The movie tells the story of the impact of the early months of WWII on one, rural English family. In a memorable scene, Pidgeon, Mr. Miniver, is called to captain his small pleasure craft to the Thames estuary. There he finds out his mission–Dunkirk.
Released six months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Mrs. Miniver is credited for rallying America’s support for the war. It is an inspirational film and catapulted Garson’s success as a top seller of war bonds.
Fast forward decades later. A chance not only to see some of the Little Ships that took part in the mission, but to bear witness to some of the last living souls who took part in the evacuation. Survivors are well into their nineties. A few made the journey by sea from England to Dunkirk. The Grand Marshall of the parade was a 95-year-old veteran. He didn’t ride in a vintage automobile, that spry young man of nine and a half decades walked the parade route. Soon, #Dunkirk will live only in history books.
Below is a snippet I shot of the parade held on Saturday for #Dunkirk75
Jim and I enjoyed our time rubbing shoulders with living history in Dunkirk. As we did so, I couldn’t help but recall my Dad. Flag waving and tears welling in his eyes, he would have loved that parade too.
To all of those who served including my dad, and especially to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice. We remember.
Happy Memorial Day!