Tuesday, 8 September 2015

June 6, 1944: The Longest Day

There was a time when most of Europe was devastated by the tyranny of the fuhrer Adolf Hitler and a large scale attack was pretty much impending on the most supreme kingdom of England. Such an attack would've meant the secession of the whole of British umpire under Germany's suzerainty, and would have vested in Hitler the kind of power and hegemony no other fascist would've wielded ever. The world was on a brink of a total collapse and free world's purveyors were facing the biggest trauma ever. The world's most supreme reigning powers had all witnessed the wrath with Russia fighting a battle on the east, with Britain all set to be the next incursion battlefield, and France being in absolute tatters with the German possession having decimated all the glory and the glitter which the royal arcade was concomitant with. However, as free world waged a war and a massive fight back, Italy was freed from the despotism of Axis powers, and the Allied powers now had one major challenge before they could even dream of vanquishing Adolf Hitler's lofty quest to let pure Aryan supremacy reign over the whole world. And that was capturing Normandy.

Off the coast of Normandy in France, laid the beaches Juno, Omaha, Utah, Sword and Gold. Erstwhile, Normandy was adorned with the serenity and the mellow tranquility of a seashore adorned with mottled beach houses and swirling hedgerows. But post Nazi conquest of France, Normandy, one of the most strategic defenses for the Nazi empire, was now lined and mired with obstacles across sea line which included wires and poles and fences all topped up with deadly mines. And on the inland lay Hitler's most histrionic and queer of all dreams - The Atlantic Wall. The wall was purported to run across the entire coastline of France to secure it from the incumbent Allied attack. All across the coastline, there were machine gun pillboxes, panzer armory divisions, artillery batteries and antiaircraft guns. One of the most phlegmatic and unwavering of defenses to be ever piled up, the Nazi coastal defenses seemed almost impregnable and indomitable. And yet, if the free world had to prevail, it had to be breached because without Normandy, there was no other viable way to France and without the extrication of France, there was no chance the Fuhrer could wither.

On 6th of June 1944, at 0000 hours in British daylight saving time, the world was to witness the biggest attack to have ever been mounted. 2 years of meticulous planning and astute stewardship of multiple Allied generals, including Dwight D Eisenhower, who would later become the US President, alongwith a strong network of French underground intelligence agents who piled perusal, finally had to culminate in this day, everyone designated which as D-Day. It really was the day that would either extirpate the Nazi supremacy, or would strengthen the same. The world never found itself on such substantial and profound crossroads. The lives of almost every being on the planet was at stake. It was either the Allied forces which were to reclaim the free world from the jaws of Machiavellian hypocrisy, or the world was going to recede further into the abyss of filth and scum and dereliction and doom. It all depended on how the Allied forces were going to invade Normandy and seize control of the 5 beach sectors that were to set the pathway for the Allied forces to match into France and take a big blunt jibe at Hitler's crown. Hence it all came down to the actions and valor of men on that one day, that one long day which really was the longest day of their lives.  

 Precisely with the dawn of the day, D-Day, operation overlord went into action in a rather berserk and bizarre fashion. This was pretty much expected. The invasion of Normandy was largely divided into three phases. Around 6 hours of paratroop landings from British and American airborne divisions were to place more than 10k Allied soldiers on the ground in the dead of the night. This phase included planes, towing massive gliders into the then German airspace and then gliders sending down men through parachutes or some glider divisions crashing onto the ground and on strategic locations like connecting bridges seized by enemies. With a windy night, parachutes careened away and paratroopers fell miles away from their targets. Many of them came under heavy German fire and died, and many still made their ways to meet other reconnoiters. These men had to knock out some gun batteries, destroy or capture bridges and set radio beacons for more men to land or for Allied bombings to take place. Many men got killed but those who survived accomplished most of their objectives and that too in a startlingly time-bound fashion with minute by minute precision. Such was their valor and might that their mere landing instilled many of those French natives to already start celebrating liberation. 

Shortly after these Allied men deployments was the turn of Allied bombers. The Germans had a stupefying network of anti aircraft gun, panzer divisions and their own formidable air force Luftwaffe. However, as luck would have it, this indomitable German airborne supremacy proved rudderless as most of their aircraft were sent to other zones despite their being ostensible apprehensions about Normandy being the coast where invasion would take place from. But as is the case with various totalitarian dictatorships, complacency reeks unnerving desolation and wreaks havoc when something Brobdingnagian transpires. Hitler's OKW, OB West, and various other battalion and regimental headquarters got so muddled in a never ending labyrinth of information that regarding the ineludible invasion, some remained overconfident, some too mawkish and others completely apathetic and Hitler was an absolute mess because he seemed to believe in all points of view. And as luck would have it, the army general who was to lead the frontier from Normandy, and who was a veteran and could have literally annihilated the Allied offense, went home for a leave precisely a day before. It seemed as if fate in itself gnarled out of its agony and gave it away. And the Allied bombings all over German posts and establishments produced such a concoction of colors in the night sky that no fireworks could ever match upto it. 

In the morning at 6'o Clock, designated as the H-hour, the seaborne assault of the Allied armada had to begin. Massive larger than live destroyer boats, controlling vessels, destroyer vessels, submarines, troop loading floatillas and even amphibious tanks were present. Around 5000 odd ships made their way and at a far off distance from the peephole of a periscope a German commander saw the biggest and grandest sight of his life and could utter only one word 'Beautiful'. First there were small fleets that carried demolition engineer brigades which had to dive underwater with cutters to rip off the obstacles that the Germans had set up. Then, one after the other, like a staccato of progressive tune beats, playing towards the coast of Normandy. 

As the final frontier arrived, men on both sides witnessed the kind of morbid demolition they'd never witnessed before. Mines exploding and eviscerating the landing troops, Allied artillery bombing German defenses, and fusillade of grenades and handgranates topped amid a slew and slurry of projectiles from rattling and shriveling turrets, all over the place. It seemed as the Normandy esplanade lit early in the morning, and bereaving so many on both sides, with the light of the departed's spirits merging full throttle in the light of the day, making it seem much more veritable. While Utah and Sworf beaches were conquered and captured with not that titanic a struggle, the Germans at Omaha were so savage and such ogres that they unleashed hell on earth with their counter fire on Allied invasion fleet. Ships were blown off, adding more flotsam to the never ending sea of wreckage, tanks blown apart, gnawing men reeling under tremendous pain, and a handful of men, furtively and surreptitiously progressing towards the final German beeline defense on the coast, defiling everything that came their way, in a gamble with life to have a little more of it before they'd be vanquished themselves. 

If Normandy was to be lost or if any of the initial progress was to be squandered or if any of the captured coastal boundaries had to be abjured, it would have marked the defeat of the biggest show of strength the free world could mount. For about 2 years ports of England, and more specifically that of Plymouth, was flocked with ships of all sizes and descriptions. Gigantic forces of the free world came together and were able to pile up their most impressive attack to ruthlessly quash the temerity and the egregious German supremacy. However, if the valiant attempt was to be obliterated, that meant further accentuation of German hegemony, which would've meant a much more repugnant tyranny. Hence on that one fine day, against the backdrop of a tranquil Normandy coast, these men came together with the grit and determination that simply couldn't have faltered. The very fate and future of the whole world had come down to be tightly clinched in the palms of these handful of men. And it was their actions which would turn the tables in history, the failure of which would've meant eventual purging of almost everyone who didn't seem fit in Hitler's eyes. 

Amid clashes after clashes, clamor and din, explosions and gunfire marked the 23 hours during which countless men had to die, with melancholy and gloom of the moribund surrounding the coast, which no one but only the leprechaun Fuhrer would've enjoyed. But with time, out of these men, including both veterans and hirelings, top notch commanders and to be presidents to greenhorns, some men soared and surged beyond the cacophony and the discombobulating ravaging fire and demolition. These men seemed to have surrendered to fate with a rather perplexing alacrity and an aplomb of a pyromaniac. Many of them knew they'd not live to see the light that was to follow, many of them were adduced the odds in front of, but yet these men marched and those 23 hours at Normandy and its contours, witnessed the petrichor of these men's blood, perfectly blended with the timeless sands, like etching their own place in history, their own coveted place in the human timeline and in those 23 hours that marked the reversal of fortunes for all of you who are still alive. for if those handful of men didn't succeed that day, you might be sitting over a mine today that was just about to explode.