Talk about timing. My wife and I, just two nights ago, watched the final episode of BBC's excellent series "Foyle's War." The episode, "All Clear," took place in May 1945 as V-E Day approached. The secondary plot involved an American colonel and his attempts at seeking mental revenge against a member of the British signal corps. The first clue was a cover of Life magazine with a Tiger's face on it. As a historian, I wracked my brains trying to figure out what that might've alluded to. When the true subject of the photo was revealed, I had to admit I never knew about Exercise Tiger.
Turns out, a lot of other people didn't either. Exercise Tiger, conducted on the south coast of England, was a live-fire test run for the Utah Beach portion of the impending D-Day invasion. On 28 April 1944, German E-boats stumbled upon the American GIs and their practice. The Germans attacked and 749 soldiers died, the worst lost of Americans (at that time) in one event since Pearl Harbor. The US Army and government kept it secret and the survivors were also ordered never to speak of the events of Exercise Tiger. Most followed orders. It took nearly fifth year for the truth to trickle out.
It's ironic timing that I watched that episode of "Foyle's War" mere days before an article at MSNBC about Exercise Tiger. Take a few minutes and read it. Be sure also to watch the 1994 Today Show story (on page 1) that interviews some of the survivors and the British gentleman who ultimately discovered a Sherman tank on the sea floor. That tank now serves as a memorial to the men who fell that day.
In some ways, June 6 should be remembered by everyone. Coming so close after Memorial Day, it can sometimes get overshadowed by the larger holiday except in years that mark significate anniversaries. We just passed the 60-year mark in 2004 and tomorrow will be 65 years since democracy literally triumphed over totatalianism. If it weren't for the men and women of the Greatest Generation, our world would be quite different. That they did their duty is a testament to all of us and they always deserve our respect, honor, and, most of all, our thanks.
In the not-too-distant future, there will no longer be any World War II veterans or D-Day veterans living. If you know a veteran--of World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Afghanistan, or Iraq--be sure to thank them for their service. But especially thank those elder vets. We just can't thank them enough.