THE NEWSDESK: Lest we forget the reasons D-Day veterans fought on the beaches
HERE'S what this newspaper's leader column said about D-Day 70 years ago: "The decisive stage of the World War has been reached. Today, the forces of the United Nations started an invasion of the Nazi fortress of Europe.
"This is the day for which millions of servicemen and women have been training - and waiting; this is the day for which millions of men and women have worked on the production of armaments....
"The goal is freedom - freedom from slavery for millions of people. Our aim is to release the oppressed and to save others (ourselves included) from the horrors of oppression."
Prime Minister Winston Churchill warned: "The battle will brow in scale and intensity for many weeks to come."
General Eisenhower said: "Good luck: and let us all beseech the blessing of the Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking."
D-Day is ingrained in the memories of those who were there, in the landing craft and on the beaches.
The emotion on the faces of those who went to last Friday's ceremonies was palpable.
There was little sign that any of these veterans did not believe the battle had to be fought, that they had to risk their lives.
One Newport D-Day hero Frank James, who went back to Gold Beach for the first time for the 70th anniversary of the landings and will ne honoured by the mayor of the Normandy town Creully, which his unit liberated, summed it up for me when told the Argus last week: "I didn't do it for the bloody medals."
They did it because it had to be done.
Mr James, 95, was then transporting tank ammunition and his unit came under shellfire before they hit the sand at Ver-sur-Mer. His return was partly to honour his sergeant who was killed during the landings.
Veteran Eddie Linton was also at the commemorations, remembering his shipmates on HMS Mourne who died when the ship was torpedoed by a U-boat.
And the diary of one Newport man's D-Day RAF service still makes harrowing reading. William Gillard Bidder wrote of the invasion: "With this constant shelling and the din of our own guns, nerves get strung up and tempers frayed. One battery nearby had a bad time. Jerry simply plastered it - many casualties and cases of shell shock..."
On D-Day, this newspaper said: "The tide has turned to a mighty torrent to sweep Nazism from the face of the Earth."
With the benefit of our hindsight, we know how large the battle was, how huge the sacrifice, and how precious the victory which the D-Day veterans won truly was.
Then, this newspaper's words were more of a prayer.
Because without that victory, our way of life, our freedoms, especially the freedom of speech, would have been destroyed.
Destroyed by fascists who murdered their political opponents, exterminated their scapegoats, who oppressed millions.
No one should ever forget the heroes of D-Day, of Sicily, North Africa, Burma, Norway. No one should forget that so many were teenagers. That at the height of the Normandy battle, there were 6,000 casualties a day.
Our freedom was dearly bought with blood.
And no one should forget what they fought against.
Because that threat, that far-right extremism, scapegoating communities, seeking to undermine our tolerant society with their hate, is on our streets, in our social media feeds.
And they have been duping the naïve into sharing their posts seeking to hijack that D-Day sacrifice for their abhorrent ends.
To normalise their neo-Nazi views. Because if Joe I went to school with shares their posts, surely they must be OK really?
No. No they are not.
Each share besmirches the memory of those who died fighting fascism, defiles their sacrifice.
Each time one of us cannot be bothered to vote to keep out those extremist views, because we have become flabby and smug in our lack of having to defend our freedoms, we betray those who stood on those beaches at 19 years old facing bullets and mortars.
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