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Last updated: Thursday 6 June 2019 (75th Anniversary of D-Day)

In the early hours of my morning hardly awake I noticed that it was the 6th of June which of course is the anniversary of D-Day, a significant part of the Second World War. Some would argue that this is the decisive change in the war but I would say that it's a bit more complicated than that; certainly Operation Barbarossa was a huge change: it completely changed the sides and the maps as well; it would have grave consequences for German citizens but also the Reich itself. I've written about this some before but that wasn't about Barbarossa itself nor was it about D-Day: but it is D-Day today. Now even if one cannot say that it's the decisive change in the war it is still a very significant thing, Operation Overlord. The trouble is what could I write specially about D-Day? Well there are a lot of things one could consider but I need to preface this with a couple things.

First of all is that I am extremely tired (thus any inconsistencies or out of place text is entirely possible) lately and some of this will be very simplified. This (simplified) is not something I like to do but I don't want to actually get into the war itself so much as making this more of a statement against the horrors of war and the tragic loss of lives.

Second is related to the first: there is much that could be elaborated on and although I will refer to certain things in the war I am not going to say the names of places either: at least not all places. Again this is not really about the war itself because at this time nothing comes to mind of what I could write about D-Day itself. There are books all about it and actually I have been reading a lot again about the Second World War but primarily about the Nazi Party from the time Hitler took over the DAP (German Workers' Party) renaming it National Socialists German Workers' Party (NSDAP), something that make many believe (erroneously) it was a form of socialism. I have also read about a little known battle on the American shores (the only battle unless we consider the German attack on the eastern shore of the US that the US covered up or otherwise consider the sabotage plot - that one of the conspirators backed out of and warned the US though they thought he was insane at first). Put another way I'm not really reading about the Allies so my head is not there at this time.

This will thus talk a bit about D-Day but mostly about the tragedy of war and how it can inspire the best and worst of people: sometimes even the same people! This document is not the best organised because I don't have the faculties or inclination to fully do it justice but I wanted to write something anyway since it was 75 years ago. I will talk briefly about the deception leading up to the operation but rather than talk about D-Day itself I am going to talk about the tragedies of war as well as talk about my view of what a war hero is and give a beautiful example where a German sacrificed himself in an attempt to save an American he had been in combat with not long before.

Operation Fortitude: Confusing and deceiving the Germans

The codename for D-Day itself is Operation Overlord but obviously there was preparation: Operation Fortitude, part of a deception strategy, was a rather ingenious way of making the Nazis believe that the attack might be as early as May (of the same year - 1944) and also that the attack might be elsewhere e.g. Norway (which was an important place for the Nazis) or Pas-de-Calais in France.

War requires strategy and this includes deceiving the enemy. How exactly did the Allies deceive the Nazis? They let false claims fall into the Nazis' hands (the Nazis did this themselves, of course, for example instigating the Stalin purge prior to the war, something that would be beneficial to them later on though ultimately end in failure and the loss of many many lives). But there was more to this - and this is the ingenious part: they used inflatable tanks and aeroplanes to make the Nazis believe the attack would be another place. If I recall correctly this was one of General Patton's ideas which it must be said was very clever; this is an example of how complicated people are: he was arrogant and had even physically hit those with shell shock (what we now know as PTSD), something he was punished for but also something that others did (as in others called the victims weak etc.). He also - and this was a very stupid thing that both the Brits and the Americans did - competed against the UK with Montgomery as far as who would 'get there first'. The latter made the disastrous attempt with Operation Market Garden but that's not for today. Anyway this ploy worked rather well and as we all know on 6 June 1944 the Allies landed at Normandy. Still there's this: no matter what a person does there is more to them. People aren't 'just something' (the prosecutor of Adolf Eichmann actually said this about Eichmann himself).

D-Day had a significant number of lives lost but in the end the Germans were pushed back. This definitely changed the pace of the war for now the Allies were on the European front on the ground and could start pushing their way through the Reich. It must be said that the Nazis did prepare some but they were caught off guard and it wasn't until later on that the Germans could react properly. I believe that Rommel was with his girlfriend (or wife?) and had to leave. He would later be implicated in the 20 July 1944 plot on Hitler's life but again that's not for here.


But why did this have to happen? Why do humans have to engage in war? The truth of the matter is that humans thrive on conflict and despite the fact many will deny that they want conflict or drama in their life many actually do. Of course drama and conflict can be loosely defined but people nonetheless tend to want to hear the negative. Some would object but something I say to those is something I read several years ago: a Russian media outlet (news possibly) decided to report for just 24 hours only positive things; viewing went way down. Why? Because humans want that conflict or negativity. It's not something I understand because I've had a difficult life and I would much prefer things go easier even if not easy. But then you have war...

Well for whatever reasons humans thrive on war too. I don't understand it and never have. Is it something like survival of the fittest? Is it a way to gain resources at the expense of others? Well certainly survival of the fittest is something that does go on but does it have to be done so in the way of destroying lives? I don't think it has to but the truth of the matter is humans are at the top of the food chain because humans are ruthless, murderous and this goes particularly for those who can engage in war. That goes without saying. But it's not exclusive to those people: people find it 'fun' or 'sport' to murder innocent animals simply to show - their what? Their courage? Yes, yes... Very brave shooting an animal from a distance. I will return to this as an amusing aside later on. Whatever the case Hitler did understand this and said something to the effect that every generation needs to participate in at least one war. Alas that it's true! Too many generations see not just one war but several.

War Heroes

I have a view on war heroes that differs from many. For instance some believe that Winston Churchill is a war hero. War hero, is it, who decided to fire bomb (creating fire storms) on German cities that had no strategic value, full of German civilians (including many women and children) simply to show his might to Stalin? There's a story of a civilian German mum that is so horrible I am not even going to include it because when I have told some people some of them were extremely disturbed.

But consider this: If the Nazis did that they would be vilified by it but only if they lost! Many will say victors' justice is false but it is not: the Nazis knew well that the victors never have to justify their crimes. I can name other atrocities committed by the Allies but this isn't about war crimes but rather war heroes. But whereas people do tend to think of the Allies as far as war heroes in the Second World War I want to give an example or two of war heroes who were German. Why? Because I think it's important to remember that we're all human and we're all precious in our own ways: with a story to tell, with likes, dislikes and something to offer someone regardless of what we might or might not have done! As a preface I am not talking about those who resisted the Nazis e.g. the White Rose movement. Nor am I talking about those who abused loopholes in order to get Jews out of the Reich before it was too late despite restrictions imposed by the other nations; remember that at first the Nazis just wanted the Jews out of Europe and in fact even the Gestapo worked with organisations that tried to get Jews to Palestine albeit illegally: the fate of the Jews was a consequence of a number of things and many more lives could have been saved if it had not been for other nations closing their borders, having blockades etc. But I am not trying to vilify anyone here. As I noted I rather want to talk about war heroes and in particular a German who sacrificed his life to try and save an American that he was just fighting.

German: Leutnant Friedrich Lengfeld at the Battle of Hürtgen Forest

Some time after D-Day invasion a battle took place near a minefield called the Wilde Sau (German for 'wild sow'); there was a structure near it that offered a sort of shelter. What follows is a beautiful example of a human being doing an amazing thing for another human being who happened to be an enemy in a terrible war (there is no such thing as a war that is not terrible but this war was of unprecedented proportions)!

The US 12th Infantry captured the building but the Germans led by Leutnant Friedrich Lengfeld lost more men; this however inspired them to make an effort to recapture it. This is where two lives were lost in a terrible way (even besides war) but the German is in my mind a war hero and is in fact honoured by Americans too (and good on them just as good on the German). What happened is that when the Americans fled from the assault one ran over a landmine. As we all know land mines are a terrible thing with tragic consequences to this day: including children. What followed is however beautiful albeit tragic.

The American was not initially killed and started crying for help. There was a path guarded by German gunners; however Lengfeld was no coward and ordered the runner to tell the machine gunner to not fire: this American was fleeing when this happened. If this is 'crazy' (and I don't think it is nor would I even if the Germans didn't attempt to rescue survivors of torpedo attacks for example - but they did) enough it gets even 'crazier'. Hours later the American had still not got help and Lengfeld could not take it any longer. So what could he do? He attempted to rescue the man since nobody else appeared to be willing to.

This area was protected against tanks by mines and the Germans also had Panzerfaust (Bazookas) like grenade launchers; I am not exactly certain on specifics however other than the mines. So he took some medics with him to try and rescue the American. Unfortunately there were also mines to kill people and so when he stepped off the path to get to the American he stepped on a landmine. He was killed later at a first aid station (the medics carried him back).

As for the American he is unnamed and we will probably never know who this poor soul was. I cannot imagine the pain of his friends and family. And what did the world lose besides a human being? We will never know. That is the tragedy of war: it ruins families, lives and these people might have ended up doing something wonderful. War inspires in some people on all sides terrible things but it also inspires in some people heroic things in others, also on all sides.

The Legacy of D-Day

What really can be said? The entire war was a terrible tragedy just as all wars are. In the end millions lost their lives; many did wonderful heroic things and many went to the basest of things humans can turn to. No group was innocent of this: even some Jews in the ghettos and also even in some prisoner doctors in the extermination centres did horrible things against their fellow inmates. Many also tried to save the lives of many lives were indeed saved. Some Nazi doctors were more ruthless than others but there is one even who was able to not do any selections at all. But even Josef Mengele was against the liquidation of the Gypsy sub-camp in Auschwitz though I cannot at this time recall why exactly (these facts are in the fascinating book 'The Nazi Doctors'). At the same time he was called uncle by the children there: making them smile/laugh and then shortly after driving them straight to the gas chamber. For humans are complicated. In the end we can only hope no war of such proportions will ever happen again but I think we've been rather close and I think ultimately something will happen again. Certainly genocide has happened many times since the Holocaust just as it happened many times prior. The Holocaust was perhaps the first systematic genocide but unfortunately history repeats itself. Will enough be able to stop the horrors? I think not, no. But let's never let that change who we are. Love. Always. That's the right way to go about living. Unfortunately people often do the easier things which are very often the wrong things. Be strong. Be loyal. Be loving. Improve the lives of others. That's what we all should strive for.