69 years ago today was the day before D-day in Europe. While the history books and the veterans of that battle focus on June 6th, my mind turns towards the Day before that battle. It was on this day 69 years ago that for thousands of young men, the boredom would end and the horror would begin. How many men stood at the rails of ships as they crossed the English channel and wondered if that nights sunset would be their last. How many bargained with God about going to church or being a better person if only he would spare them from harm? What was it like to be crammed aboard a troop ship playing cards or dice in an effort to distract yourself from your appointment with the Reaper the next day? Would you be a hero or a coward? Dead, wounded, or would you make it through the battle to live another day? As the last hours passed how many of those guys wrote their last letters home as they tried to remember the smell of their sweethearts perfume? Were they dreaming of returning home or were they trying to bury themselves in the sports page to keep up with news of the Yankees and Red Sox?
In the skies over Normandy thousands of Army airborne troops were going over their final equipment checks. In a matter of minutes their time of peace would end as they hurtled themselves out of cargo planes and into the fray of battle. Would their parachutes open? would they make it onto the drop zones? how heavy would the German resistance be?
Meanwhile in France German soldiers by the thousands settled into another night of the mundane. They too played cards, argued about who had to stand guard that night. When would the allies come, and would they invade as predicted to the south at the port city of Calais? Would it rain again tonight? would they receive any mail from home? Did they still have a home? Allied aircraft were flying overhead, was this an invasion, or was it a formation of bombers? if so, what was the final destination of those bombs? would the terror of total war be visited upon their hometown tonight? Did any of the German soldiers have any idea that the largest naval armada in history was headed straight for them?
Boredom and fear generate a lot of questions, they would all be answered in a matter of hours as time passed and June 5th became June 6th.