June 6, 2019 10:42 am

Roy Green: Many of Canada’s D-Day warriors would not witness the dawn of June 7, 1944

The solemn sound of bagpipes filled Juno Beach on Thursday commemorated the 75th anniversary of D-Day where 14,000 Canadian Allied volunteer troops landed on its shores in the Battle of Normandy in the Second World War.

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As they poured from their landing craft, then struggled on onto a beach named Juno in Normandy, France, the young Canadians clutched their rifles equipped with bayonets and confronted a cacophony of war assaulting their every sense.

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Even as the LCAs (Landing Craft, Assault) approached the moment and their ramps would drop, the men inside had already heard, perhaps rather than seen (“Keep your heads down boys!”) RCAF bombers assaulting and attempting to destroy or disable as much of the German defences as possible. The explosions were joined by the booming of naval guns hurling massive shells toward those same German defences and hopefully clearing a path for the men packed into each LCA.

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My friend Ed Mahoney of Hamilton was 83 years of age back when he described to me the experience of Juno Beach on June 6, 1944. Ed spoke of not being sure whether the bombs and shells were going to “fall on us.” Yet he and his mates, in a scene repeated over and over no doubt, pushed away from the landing craft and struggled toward the still effective and dispensing heavy fire, German guns.

Mahoney spoke of men being wounded or dying beside, in front and behind him. He told of the unworldly sound of other men screaming — and yet, how Canadian soldiers continued to work their way toward the enemy, firing and hoping as they moved forward.

On Thursday, we recognize the sacrifices made by our young men 75 years ago. As we go about our business, they went about theirs. We may engage in a moment of road frustration today; back then, they were fighting for their lives.

Some 359 Canadians awoke on the morning of June 6, 1944, entered the battle, and would no longer be alive at dawn on June 7.

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Veterans Affairs Canada says some 5,000 Canadians would die during the two-and-a-half-months of fighting in Normandy, with 13,000 more wounded. Canada’s contribution to the destruction of the genocidal Nazi regime of Adolf Hitler is well recorded and in blood.

We owe the men and women who served this nation and whose sacrifice led to D-Day quite literally everything.

Mahoney closed out sharing personal memories of June 6, 1944, by speaking of the great personal fear he experienced, yet added: “I’d do it all again.”

Thursday, across this nation, we honour our heroic warriors of the Greatest Generation.

Roy Green is the host of the Roy Green Show on the Global News Radio network.

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