Today marks the 67th anniversary of D-Day, the event in which World War II Allied forces stormed Nazi-occupied France in the largest amphibious invasion in recorded history. Because we weren’t even close to being alive during this time, we might not be able to totally get the significance of this day. Just ask your grandparents—it was a really big deal in their young lives. To give D-Day some context for today’s young people, we compared the way the world looked for 18-year-olds then to 18-year-olds now.
D-Day days: In the years following the Great Depression, high school grads needed jobs. Thanks to Franklin Roosevelt’s ”first 100 days” New Deal program, young people found work writing, farming and building public parks.
These days: Most high school grads stress about college admissions more than job applications since it’s become harder and harder to find well-paying work without a college degree. President Obama had our backs in his first 100 days, too, granting young people healthcare coverage (via our parents’ coverage) until we’re 26.
D-Day days: Guys who were 18 years and older wondered if they’d be drafted to join the armed forces in World War II. Many volunteered to enlist, especially after seeing posters of staged action shots of soldiers dropping out of planes. By the end of the war, 16.1 million men and women had proudly served.
These days: Although the U.S. is fighting conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is currently no draft. Thearmed forces rely on volunteer enlistment only. 833,616 people are currently in the U.S. military reserves (that's just 5% of the people who served in WW2).
D-Day days:On June 6, 1944, 156,000 troops landed in Normandy, a coastal region of France. Over the next six days, 326,547 troops had landed on the beaches of Normandy. 2,499 American soldiers were killed on D-Day.
These days: This Spring, U.S. Navy Seals prepared to invade Osama Bin Ladin’s Pakistan estate with the clear mission of killing the head of Al Qaeda, the terrorist organization. Only 30 to 40 Navy Seals were present at Bin Laden’s assassination.
Just because these D-Day teens have gotten old, doesn't mean that we've forgetten them. People all across America are hosting activities to commemorate D-Day as a big moment in history. Some of our favorites include the follwing.
- Former presidential candidate Senator John Kerry is commemorating D-Day at the place of battle—in Normandy, France! He and a group of WWII veterans are visiting Pointe du Hoc, a cliff-lined area of the region that made for one of the more dangerous D-Day missions.
- In one of the nation’s biggest D-Day anniversary events, people are honoring history by reliving the battle—well, sort of. In Oklahoma, 3,000 people will gather today for the 14th annual D-Day themed paintball game, complete with Allied forces, German forces, and a French resistance.
How can you honor WWII veterans and the invasion of Normandy?
- Ask your grandparents or elderly neighbors what they remember from the event. Record the stories and submit them to the Library of Congress.
- If your school doesn’t already publcly recognize the D-Day anniversary, suggest some way of honoring the event to your teachers or principal.
- Build a memorial for D-Day veterans in your community.
- Plan your own paintball game for next year’s D-Day anniversary—learn about the battle and perfect your paintball dodging skills all at the same time.