June 11, 2014 Edition

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Thoughts on D-Day:
70 years later

John Bland
Publisher

As most of us know, Friday, June 6, marked the 70th anniversary of D-Day, June 6, 1944. Although it is considered a day of celebration or commemoration, it is also a day that evokes deep sadness by many due to the thousands of lost lives.

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It was an honor for The TD staff to speak with two World War II veterans, both who are in their 90s, on Friday. O.M Burnham of Swifton was a visitor in our office on Friday and was wearing a cap signifying his status as a World War II veteran.

William R. "Bill" Ellis of Walnut Ridge talked with our editor, Gretchen Hunt, by phone. Mr. Ellis is a WWII U.S. Army veteran. (On April 9, 1944, at the age of 23, Mr. Ellis married his wife, the former Carolyn Stone, and a month later was shipped overseas to Europe.)

Ellis' division was responsible for hauling supplies and people throughout Europe. He recalled that 70 years ago, on D-Day, he was on a battleship. After D-Day, Ellis and his division would spend a week hauling the dead off boats and to the cemetery.

"War is hell - War is terrible. It is useless too. Useless!" said Ellis.

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Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Five-Star General and Supreme Commander of Allied Forces during WWII, is the one president who would not participate in public celebrations of the Normandy invasion, wrote Michael Beschloss for the New York Times in May. Eisenhower had painful memories of soldiers dying as a direct result of his command decisions, a fact that caused him to break down in public at least once.

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Renee and I were privileged to make friends with Jackie and the late E.C. "Pat" Murphy Jr. of Little Rock through the Arkansas Press Association. On one occasion, Pat shared with us his experience of surviving the Normandy invasion. A fun-loving and lighthearted gentleman, he could not tell that story without shedding some tears. We learned then that the clasp that he always wore with a western-style bolo (cord) tie was a WWII emblem. The Normandy invasion would always remain a big part of his life.

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Local attorney Clay Sloan is a serious World War II buff. To commemorate the D-Day anniversary, he shared a historical post on Facebook. It reads, in part: "Seventy years ago, British and American paratroopers were climbing into hundreds of transport planes all over England, preparing to fly across the channel and landing in occupied France. Seventy years ago, the greatest armada ever assembled was steaming across the channel loaded with troops and combat vehicles preparing to invade the Normandy beach. The next 24 hours would determine the outcome of the war. It was far from certain. ... But the allies prevailed and the war ended one year later. It was the beginning of the end for Nazi Germany."

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The official home page of the United States Army has this to say about D-Day: "On June 6, 1944, more than 160,000 Allied troops landed along a 50-mile stretch of heavily-fortified French coastline, to fight Nazi Germany on the beaches of Normandy, France. ... More than 5,000 Ships and 13,000 aircraft supported the D-Day invasion, and by day's end, the Allies gained a foothold in Continental Europe. The cost in lives on D-Day was high. More than 9,000 Allied Soldiers were killed or wounded ..."

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