Brushing up on WWII

Let's go...South Africa!

To be honest, I think the artist has rendered this guy’s expression more crazed-looking than patriotic!

Yesterday was the anniversary of D-Day. I had to write a short blurb about it for an online mag, so I diligently Googled it, thinking I’d be in and out in a half-hour tops. Wrong! Reading up on D-Day was like nibbling on the corner of a large, very tasty slab of chocolate – no way did I have the strength to set that thing back down! I needed more.

Having taken history all the way through to Honours level – I even did my dissertation on South Africans fighting in North Africa – I felt fairly confident that I had a good (if somewhat rusty) handle on WWII. Turns out that that was some woefully misplaced confidence! I took some online quizzes to test my mettle, and oh how miserably I fared, failing many of them! Shocking and not good, Megan.

I was reminded of the obvious: World War II was complex, with A LOT going on.

someonetalked

One of many US posters in the ‘Careless Talk Costs Lives’ campaign.

Egged on by the need to fill this apparent void of knowledge, I was easily seduced by the delightful world of Wikipedia hyperlinks, and started checking out topics like the Yalta Conference, the Free French Forces, the Manhattan Project, and V1 and V2. As a self-respecting lover of history, I feel I should have knowledge of these things at my fingertips, not just the chagrining ability to say, “Oh yes, I’ve heard of that … remind me again what it’s all about?”

I decided somewhere in the midst of all that research that what I’ll do is blog about it as I go along, helping you remember or learn something along with me. I intend to publish a series of blog posts along lines something like this:

  • Day 1. Brief overview and some key terms.
  • Day 2. War in Europe.
  • Day 3. War in North Africa.
  • Day 4. War in Pacific, maritime war.
  • Day 5. Home front, propaganda, images.
  • Day 6. Conferences, concentration camps, POWS, miscellany.
  • Day 7. VE-Day, atomic bombs, post-war Europe.

I will keep the posts overview-ish so as not to overwhelm with too much information but rather help you retain some of the fundamentals. I’ll also create some quizzes so you’ll be able to test your memory as we go along (reinforcement being vital to learning, as you well know).

For today, let me just share what I wrote about D-Day, which I hope will whet your appetite for the series.

D-DAY

Landing craft and tanks at Omaha beach during ...

Landing craft and tanks at Omaha beach during the D-Day landings, many of which had departed from Penarth (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

D-Day – 6 June 1944 – was the first day of Operation Overlord, a month-long offensive strategic push by the Allies to reclaim a foothold in Nazi-occupied France.

Planning for D-day had begun as early as 1942. In the months leading up to the invasion, because of spies and leaks, deception campaigns were employed in an effort to throw the Germans off the scent as to when and where exactly the invasion would take place.

During Operation Overlord approximately 1 million men (mainly Americans, Brits, Free French Forces and Canadians, but also others) left the shores of Britain and were landed on the shores of Normandy. It was the largest amphibious offensive ever to have taken place to date.

On D-Day alone, roughly 350,000 men landed in Normandy. Operation Overlord was a turning point in the war, militaristically and mentally, and is often considered as the beginning of the end for the Nazis.

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