The VETS of WW II – Now those were real Heros


June 6, 1944 – D Day – Over 67 years ago!

Can you imagine being put on ships, crammed into floating tin cans, knowing you were going to wade through the surf, only to find yourself the target of incredible firepower from well fortified enemy positions on the high ground?

As a Vietnam Veteran and Combat Infantryman I’ve been fired on, had mortars land around me, even ran unknowingly into a row of punji stakes once but that seems like child’s play compared to what these men went through. Even more incredibly in my mind is that they knew what they were headed into. Just unbelievably HEROIC!

Each June 6th we pause and remember them. I read that 29,000 American troops died in the D Day Invasion and another 106,000 were wounded. What a sacrifice! And if you were fortunate enough to live through it your reward was to move inland and fight the enemy for the duration of the War. Once again I compare my “limited” time in RVN to what they were asked to do. In 1968 draftees like myself were only required to serve one year “in country.” When I arrived in RVN on 7/20/69 in Pleiku I started marking off the days on my calendar. What must it have been like for the men and women who served in WW II whose service had no horizon or “expiration date” – other than expiration itself. Heroes all – just to defeat the mental anguish of the unknown.

Thinking about D Day and its cost in human life caused me to ask myself how many other troops, American and otherwise, died in World War II?

I was quite surprised by what I read on Wikipedia. Here’s what Wiki listed for the troops who died in WW II by country and as a percent of that country’s population:

1. USSR                 9,750,000    6%
2. Germany            5,530,000     8%
3. China                 3,500,000    < 1%
4. Japan                 2,120,000    3%
5. Yugoslavia        446,000        3%
6. USA                  416,000        0.0032 or 1/3 of 1%
7. UK                    383,000        <1%
8. Italy                  301,400        <1%
9. Hungary           300,000        3%
10. Romania        300,000        1.5%
11. Poland           240,000        <1%
12. France           217,600        <1%

These may be “just numbers” to some but to those who loved them each one is a life snuffed out and a lasting memory. Respecting those memories I really hesitate to say more but a couple of things jumped out at me.

First, I was shocked at how many Russians died, almost ten million.

Thankfully I was surprised but glad that the USA losses were smaller proportionately. I always think of “us” as the main players in the big victories of WW II but maybe that’s just because I’m in the “us” of the USA and it distorts my historical view.

Finally, though most of the European Theatre was fought in France and Italy I was surprised at the relatively low death count considering it was fought on their home field. Best to be lovers and pasta makers than fighters I suppose.

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