A coincidence almost surely, but within it a profoundly appropriate symbol of united resolve today to protect a Europe whole and free. Some of the aircraft transporting U.S. forces to reinforce NATO’s eastern flank – not to start a war, but to protect free peoples – bore the black and white identification stripes of D-Day and national insignia backdated to 1944. Not of the current crisis in Ukraine, these retro markings, found also on a few aircraft of other NATO nations, remain from commemorating the 75th anniversary of D-Day which began Operation OVERLORD. The stated goal of OVERLORD was liberating Europe from the west by destroying Hitler’s Third Reich.
Understanding of OVERLORD’s relevance today requires its consideration within a much broader context. As allies came together to plan in secret and then execute OVERLORD, separately European exiles also were meeting in London, sometimes under bombs, to plan an association of European free market democracies. OVERLORD’s implementing organization, SHAEF, became a precursor to NATO which, equally with deterrence, provided security assurance for the exiles’ bold idea to become in stages over the decades following World War II, today’s European Union.
In 1943-44, the United States stepped forward to accept as a core security value and has acted ever since on this: the broad oceans are not defensive barriers but commons for communities of free nations – Atlantic and Pacific – of which the United States is and must be a permanent part and the rise of an authoritarian aggressor is a threat to all in the community including the United States.
Recalled by those black and white stripes, the heroic vision and sacrifice of those efforts, military and civil, separate but complementary, was about winning a future of secure freedoms to replace the bloody, tyrannical history of the past. Today’s generations, European and North American, live their lives with eyes firmly fixed on the future as do the people of Ukraine. So too, I believe, do the people of Russia. In his thuggery, Vladimir Putin offers nothing but the rejected past. As the Nazis and Stalinists before him did, ultimately Putin will lose.
Philip Padgett examines history by applying skills developed during 40 years of national security and preparedness research and analysis in the military, government, and the private sector. As Deputy Intelligence Adviser at the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, he supported from Washington teams negotiating five international treaties and agreements. Read more >>
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