“I was able to go there and vicariously contemplate what I doubt I would have had the courage to do — cross that beach under fire, and then return to the attack at the sea wall. I marvel at the men who did.”
“It is one thing to ask for sacrifice with an end in sight. But how much can you ask from your people when all there is for them is war and death, and there is no end?”
“It was not the generals and staff members who turned the tide on Omaha. It was captains and sergeants who made the difference.”
[above quotes are excerpts from George Friedman’s article, “Thoughts on Omaha Beach”. Full article is included following my message below]
Today is the 69th anniversary of D-Day, the northern invasion of occupied France during World War II. A somber day for the Allied forces. But it is also widely referenced as the turning point in that war. Had this invasion failed, the landscape of Europe, and perhaps much of the world, might be dramatically different than it is today. Nearly 150,000 troops from both the US and several European nations participated in this massive assault on the beaches of northern France to secure a foothold back in to mainland Europe.
The battle these troops faced was immense. The German army had been expecting an invasion from the north for some time, and had fortified the area with numerous defenses. Those defenses included machine gun bunkers on the tops of each cliff. Land mines set on nearly every inch of that beach. Huge beams of steel spread out like jacks on the sidewalk – used to block the advance of tanks and other armored equipment. And more barbed wire on those beaches than in all of the ranches in the US Midwest combined.
As the soldiers came ashore, they faced an almost certain fate. The odds were heavily against them, and they knew it. And yet, somehow, they reached deep within their soles and mustered the strength and courage to march forward. They ran straight in to the enemy fire, one by one and in waves. It must have been a sight to see. It must have been the most horrifying experience for those soldiers. To think of it sends chills down my spine.
But they pushed on. They fought for their lives, and for the lives of their friends. But they also fought for something more. For something greater. For the liberation of Europe. For future generations. And for the ideals of freedom and liberty. How those brave young soldiers did it I will never know.
What’s interesting is to consider the role leadership also played in this battle (and victory). Not the leadership of the country leaders, or the generals, or the strategists who helped set the plan in motion. It was the front line leadership. Those who fought with and beside the soldiers who stormed the beaches. Those who made the split second decisions while under gunfire. Those who asked their troops to do something impossible. To face that certain fate. And to push forward through the fog of war in hopes of achieving victory on that day.
So why would I offer a message that references such a painful day in history? Well, for three reasons:
- To honor the men and women who served our country (as well as others) both on this day and in other times. Because they believed in a higher purpose. A sense of honor. An ideal that still rings true today.
- Because our daily challenges, struggles, and sacrifices pale in comparison to what those brave soldiers faced on that history day.
- And because when your team members are out there, in the trenches, trying to do what’s right when all else seems to be falling apart, they are looking to us for leadership. To show them the way. To have the strength and courage to move through adversity and overcome.
If you have time, the full article from George Friedman (Stratfor – URL as follows: http://www.stratfor.com/sample/weekly/geopolitical-journey-thoughts-omaha-beach). Worth the read.