6th of June 1944 – D Day

6 06 2020

In 1944, the 6th of June marked the beginning of Operation Overlord, the invasion of Normandy by the allies to push back the fascist occupation of Europe. According to Wikipedia, Fascism took inspiration from sources as ancient as the Spartans for their focus on racial purity. The countries allied against fascism in that one operation alone numbered upwards of 15 – ironically including Greece.

By May 1944, around 1.5 million American troops had arrived in Britain in preparation for the invasion – to fight, and in many cases give their lives, for freedom and equality on foreign soil. Some of those American soldiers were black.

They fought in a segregated army.

Let that sink in.

Again, from Wikipedia:

“At the onset of World War II, the [US] Army remained segregated, and with the notable exceptions of units like the 92nd Infantry Division, very few African American soldiers were permitted to serve in Frontline Combat units. … However, many of these soldiers did see combat in Europe and the Pacific, particularly those in artillery batteries. Among the units going ashore at Normandy in 1944, was the 320th Anti-Aircraft Barrage Balloon Battalion which did see action on D-Day. Another unit that saw considerable action in Europe was the 761st Tank Battalion, which fought with George S. Patton‘s Third Army in 1944 and 1945.”

The war was won. Fascism failed. (That time.) Having played their role in defeating a system that dehumanised and routed out “the other”, those men returned to a country that itself considered them second class citizens, despite having sent them to war to fight against that very concept.

D Day was 76 years ago.

America subsequently revoked the laws that embodied segregation, but only after prolonged campaigning and protest – some of it violent. But there’s much more to a society than what’s written in its statute book. People need to embody the change and call out those that don’t. Especially those in positions of power and influence.

And don’t think for one second that racism and many other -isms are not alive and well in even the most liberal of countries. This is not solely an American problem.

“I am only one,
But still I am one.
I cannot do everything,
But still I can do something;
And because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”

– Edward Everett Hale

“In our age there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics.’ All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia.”

– George Orwell