Two anniversaries of immense significance were held this week. Both have had long-lasting and worldwide implications.
The most notable was the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings in France, June 6, 1944.
Almost forgotten, but no less significant, was the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the City of Rome, just two days before, June 4, 1944.
People living in Nevada, and all across the United States, were aware that an invasion of France, “Fortress Europa,” as the Nazis called it, was imminent. They just didn’t know when or where or if any of their friends and loved ones were to be involved.
Celebrations and observances took place in many places, particularly the towns in Normandy province. Many surviving veterans attended as did President Trump and other dignitaries of other nations.
Some veterans of both these actions still live in Nevada, maybe your read some of their stories or saw special reports on TV.
Whether some of those D-Day veterans, still living, might be in Lincoln, Eureka or White Pine counties is not real easy to determine unless you have direct knowledge, but it is possible some are here. You may know of a person this article was not able to locate. And it is possible that some of those veterans, now deceased, did live in one of our counties in years past.
It is not necessary to detail here all that occurred that week in June, 1944. That has been extensively done over the years. It was certainly carried in all the daily newspapers around the country, and weekly papers like the Pioche Record, Eureka Sentinel and Ely Times reported on the event when they could.
First was the liberation of the City of Rome on June 4, a Sunday.
Having fought their way up the western coastline of the Italian boot, starting after the conquest of Sicily in 1943, the U.S. Fifth Army under Gen. Mark Clark, and British forces under the command of Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery had been slowly pushing German forces northward.
In August 1943, after Mussolini was deposed, the Italian government declared Rome an open city.
In wartime, an open city is a settlement which has announced it has abandoned all defensive efforts, generally in the event of the imminent capture of the city. Once a city has declared itself open, the opposing military is expected to peacefully occupy the city rather than destroy it. The concept aims to protect civilians as well as cultural and historical landmarks from a battle that may be futile.
And so it was with Rome. American forces took control of the city on June 4. The German Army was allowed to escape en masse, with no resistance.
June 6, 1944 was a Tuesday. Preparations in southern England had been ongoing for some time with well over 200,000 troops assembled for the invasion forces aimed at five beachheads which extended approximately 60 miles. About 160,000 made the initial landings on D-Day, and by the end of the month nearly 875,000 troops had disembarked.
Allied Supreme Commander General Eisenhower made a later radio broadcast announcing the success of the landings. He also had prepared a statement telling of the failure of the mission, should that have happened. He never used it.
The Pioche Record, published on June 8, carried this story:
Invasion in full blast; Heavy fighting in France.
Thursday, June 8 — Allied troops are thrusting inland from cleared and consolidated beaches in generally heavy fighting in which they are doing “better than expected” against ferocious armored counter-attack by German reserves, supreme headquarters reported early today.
Later in the article, “German resistance is stiffening, and fighting is expected to increase in severity as more enemy troops come into action against the advancing Americans, British and Canadians.
The Americans, British and Canadians – reinforced by troops pouring down from a 50-mile long train of gliders – firmly consolidated their hold along a curving 100-mile stretch of France between Cherbourg and Le Havre. Berlin radio said Field Marshal Erwin Rommel had rushed reserves of the German Seventh and 15th armies into the mounting struggle.
Late Thursday, it was reported that air troops on the Cherbourg peninsula were engaged in heavy action.
The Germans are reported to have thrown in 10 divisions up to the present time and in some sectors fighting was fierce and bloody, with the Allies having some trouble. Reports of action from other sections of the beachhead is being withheld.”
Today, there is no doubt that D-Day was indeed most historic. What sort of day was it? A day like all days, filled with those events that alter and illuminate our time.