The Memory of War

Essay by EmargoJunior High, 9th gradeA+, June 2002

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On a bright, windy day in March 2000, I stood on a cliff in France looking down at Omaha Beach, site of some of the bloodiest fighting on D-Day, through the firing slit of a preserved German bunker. My view of the beach was so clear and unimpeded that I could read the writing on the sweatshirt of a boy strolling on the sand a hundred feet below. There had been a storm the night before, and the English Channel heaved angrily, just as it did on June 6, 1944. That anyone burdened with weapons and equipment could jump off a ship into the roiling sea, make his way across the shelterless beach, and climb that cliff under the merciless machine gun fire that must have spewed from that bunker seemed impossible. Yet thousands of boys, many of them not much older that I am now, did exactly that.

The courage it required is unimaginable.

Why should we remember World War II? It was the greatest cataclysm the world has ever known, resulting in the loss of an estimated 60 million lives worldwide.1 Before it was over 292,000 Americans had been killed and 1.7 million returned with wounds severe enough to permanently affect their well-being.2 The writer and philosopher George Santayana said, "Those who do not remember history are condemned to repeat it." I believe the most important reason for remembering World War II is a converse of Santayana's famous statement. We should remember World War II because we may need to repeat some aspects of that portion of history. We need to understand and be prepared to emulate the courage and sacrifice of men like those who made the successful landing on Omaha beach, and the millions of other men and women, both on the battlefield and...