OPINION: Honouring the nation born in the fires of Juno Beach – by Tim Cook (Globe and Mail – June 1, 2024)


D-Day was the moment that Canada became a country that mattered. How can we do justice to that story 80 years later?

Tim Cook is chief historian at the Canadian War Museum and the author or editor of 18 books of military history.

Eighty years ago this month, an American, British and Canadian armed force set off from Britain to launch a fraught assault on Northwest Europe to liberate the oppressed people from their Nazi overlords. And the Allied generals were worried.

They had been sweating for months over multiple drafts of the operation, gathering military assets and formulating complex deceptions to trick Adolf Hitler’s forces about the location of the real attack. Even then, the generals felt that the amphibious landing force had only about a 50-per-cent chance of surviving the coming battle on the beaches at Normandy in France.

World history would have looked very different if they failed. The German defenders had spent years building up the “Atlantic Wall” along the French coast, with thousands of kilometres of concrete fortifications that were protected by garrison forces and armed to the teeth. If the forward defence could cordon off the Allies, trapping them on the landing sites in the Normandy area, counterattacking armoured regiments would unleash a killing blow.

In the aftermath of this Allied defeat, German forces would have likely pivoted, moving armoured and infantry formations to their collapsing eastern front where the Red Army was steamrolling forward. Perhaps the Germans might have held off the Soviets; likely they would have died in a slaughter of unimaginable fury. At the end of the campaign, the Soviets would have occupied Germany and then all of Western Europe as the wounded Western Allied forces stared on impotently from Britain.

For the rest of this column: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-d-day-was-the-moment-that-canada-became-a-country-that-mattered/