Would this Generation storm the beaches at Normandy?

Posted: August 3, 2013 in General
Tags: , , , , , , ,

A good friend of mine posed a great question to day on Facebook: Would this Generation storm the beach at Normandy?  This is a great question because most of what this generation has to base military success on is the last 12 years that we have been at war in Afghanistan and the five years we spent in Iraq.  A significant portion of today’s military has only been in uniform in the days after 9/11.

Those of us who are approaching the old age in our careers are beginning to dwindle in number.  We started our careers in a much different military.  Our enemy was different and as such our training was different.  We were also much slower to adapt to the environment as an institution.  As the 90’s moved on after the collapse of the Soviet Union it became more apparent that war was less about the “force on force” battles we had prepared for and more about the asymmetric nature of terrorism and with the rapid increase in technologies and to a certain extent, excesses, our exploitable threat surfaces have grown at a rate that simple military action is not enough in war.

In today’s science of war, overwhelming force only gets you so far.  Service members of today are not simply Infantrymen (soon to be women, maybe).  The core philosophies and battle drills will allow you gain ground, but as we have found out over and over again, the war does not stop there.  You must also be politician, diplomat, peacemaker and occasionally, life taker.

Before going back to D-Day, let me clarify my stance a little.  WWII veterans are called the Greatest Generation.  They deserve that title, they earned it on battlefields throughout the world.  There has been a comparison made today given the nature of war that we veterans today have earned that right as well.  This measure of respect has been granted by many of the aforementioned veterans of our last world war.  As an individual, while I am honored and can understand many of the reasons that have been put forth, and would never dare to argue with my forebrothers in arms, I as an individual do not agree with that assessment.

There is no doubt that our military, especially my Army, is better equipped, better trained and have years more experience than our WWII veterans had.  We are able to achieve larger victories with less personnel.  We have greater resources at our disposal and we can be updated in near-real time as the battle rages around us.  Our tactics, techniques and procedures are proven and adaptable and our leadership philosophies allow us to act in the absence of senior leadership.

So given how impressed I am with our military resources do I think our generation could storm the beaches at Normandy?  If we were talking from a strictly military perspective it would be a resounding, Hell Yes!  Given the fact that the question was in regards to the current generation however, I would have to say no.

There are many reasons for my reluctance to give this generation this type of credit.  First, it is a somewhat unfair comparison to make.  A significant portion of the forces that stormed the beaches on D-Day were not volunteers like today’s forces are.  They were draftees, they were away from home for the duration of the war; while we may be an overall better force today for being all volunteer, I am not so sure that it has not come with a cost.  Despite the vast majority being levied into service and taken away from home, the greater portion of them did so with full support of the country behind them.  Not only did they leave everything they had on those bloody beaches, the folks back home were making sacrifices as well.  As a growing number of men were deploying overseas women for the first time were holding down the jobs that the men left behind.  Rosie the Riveter was as big a cultural icon as Uncle Sam.  The empowerment women gained by building our airplanes and battleships, working in the forges and filling all the other employment gaps left in the wake is still being felt today as the glass ceiling grows even more brittle.

Those left behind were subject to rationing.  Fuel, sugar, coffee, metals and other items were on limited distribution.  It became a way of life for people and it was a measure of their support for the war effort and was considered a duty and a responsibility.  Could you imagine this generation making those same types of sacrifice?  I cannot.

D-Day was planned and approved by the Army.  While there was political pressure to do something on mainland Europe, in the end it was Marshall and Eisenhower who gave the order to launch, not the politicians back home.  Today, we do not have the political will nor the fortitude to do something that would have the casualty count of D-Day.  This despite the fact that our personal protective equipment is much better than those who left the landing craft on that day.  In fact, they had none.  Many were so overburdened that they did not even have the chance to die in battle, they drowned in a panic as they went over the sides as countless machine gun rounds and artillery rained down upon them.

The term “the Greatest Generation” was built on the backs of the veterans who lived and died.  It also reflected the sacrifices made of those at home.  Those who rationed, waited fearfully, broke down gender boundaries and understood their efforts were to help topple the Axis of Evil who were bent on domination of the world.  Today, it is only the families of our service members who face those same issues at home.  The “Me” generation has more in hand than the Greatest one did and with that less of an appreciation.  Pound for pound, round for round, we may have a greater military, capable of taking those beaches but the support and understanding of a nation is not even in the same league.

Patriotism is as misunderstood of a word as heroism is.  Our rights are represented in memes on social media, politicians and media sensationalists dictate in 90 second sound bites their version of the truth in a manner that is divisive and meant to dictate the reach of their power rather than provide direction, motivation and purpose to the country they are sworn to represent. So, could this generation storm the beaches of Normandy? Fuck no.  Could our military, given the freedom to do what they do best?  Fuck yes!

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