D-Day, 80 Years Later

We often read of the great events of history and consider that their outcomes were inevitable. There is something natural about this tendency. We live in the world that emerged from the outcomes of great contests and wars, and we cannot quite imagine what the world would have looked like had those events turned out differently.

When we think about the greatest amphibious operation in history, Operation Overlord, commonly known as D-Day, it is easy to think that Allied success on June 6, 1944 was a foregone conclusion. We cannot imagine what an Allied failure would have meant in the aftermath. Our tendency to think about history in terms of inevitability leads to another human tendency—to take the outcome for granted, to neglect its continuing significance today, and ultimately to forget the event altogether.

Most of us have seen Saving Private Ryan. The film has become so iconic that it is probably not an overstatement to say that when most people think of D-Day, the images from that film come to mind. It’s a powerful film, but what is lost in the film is the utter uncertainty of the outcome of the operation to those who were witnesses to it. We forget that the planners of Overlord were painfully aware that amphibious landings were notoriously difficult to achieve, and furthermore, that an amphibious landing against fortified beachheads was even more daunting.

Click Here To Read More (Originally Published at World Magazine

John D. Wilsey is associate professor of church history and philosophy at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a research fellow at the Center for Religion, Culture, & Democracy, an initiative of First Liberty Institute.