d-day memorial sacrifice Normandy, France

"“Are You Going To Help?” the headline asked."

It was the Sunday after D-Day 75 years ago and the Allied troops were hard at it across Europe.

In Italy, the U.S. Fifth Army ran into a wall of Nazi 88-millimeter and anti-tank guns about 40 miles outside of Rome.

In France, Isigny-sur-Mer and Trévières were on the verge of liberation.

At home, a Congressional committee passed the elements of the GI Bill, which would be signed into law by President Franklin Roosevelt two weeks later.

Every page of every newspaper nationwide teemed with stories of the Second World War.

“29th Division Battling Nazis In Normandy,” The Baltimore Sun told readers.

“Yanks Sealing Off Cherbourg,” declared the Los Angeles Times.

“Americans Engulf 3rd of Peninsula As Allies Attack 50-Mile Front,” the Atlanta Constitution reported.

You spent days reading old newspaper headlines this week and nights thinking about the ways of the world then, amid the Greatest Generation, and the ways of the world now.

You wondered how such a conflict would have been covered by today’s reporters, pale imitations of Ernie Pyle, Walter Cronkite and the war correspondents of the Writing 69th.

And you wondered what your fellow Arizonans would have made of the editorial atop the front page of the Arizona Daily Star.

“Are You Going To Help?” the headline asked.

Then the writer spoke of a concept so dead in 2019 America as to be almost laughable.

Sacrifice.

You may recall the word from the dictionary, a baseball broadcast or years gone by.

“These soldiers, our brothers, fathers, sons and friends, are making enormous sacrifices,” the writer explained. “Many of them will pay the supreme sacrifice today. And those who do not, will be fighting when they are exhausted and going hungry. Many of them will lie wounded by the roadsides waiting to be picked up. The big push is on at last.

“What can we do? We can help. We can give indispensable help. Every one of us can.”

Buy Series E war bonds, the editorial asked readers. Take part in the Fifth War Loan Drive, in which the American public opened its wallets to finance fighting to keep the world free.

The drive would last 27 days, beginning with an Orson Welles radio broadcast and a message from FDR. The ask was for our country’s citizens to invest $16 billion in World War II.

They responded to the tune of $20 billion.

There were eight war drives in all. They raised $185 billion from 85 million Americans — at a time when the U.S. population was 140 million.

Most of those dollars hurt, exactly as the editorial writer suggested.

“Do without something,” the story concluded. “Spend what you save for an additional bond even if it is a $25 bond that can be bought for $18.75. Then you will be answering that question about what you can do … What sacrifice will you make?”

The Nazis would surrender less than a year after that editorial; days after Adolf Hitler put a gun to his head. The world would stay free. Time marched forward.

Now it’s 75 years later and you read the old stories and wonder how the Americans of today would fare under the pressures exerted by war back then.

Would we post bond pictures on Facebook? Start a GoFundMe for the troops? Take military advice from Barbra Streisand and the Kardashians?

Or would we rise to the occasion in the face of a truly existential threat?

It is a question for a Sunday amid paying our respects to all those who sacrificed on our behalf. And a question we best pray America never again faces in what remains of our pillow-soft lifetimes.  

David Leibowitz has called the Valley home since 1995. Contact david@leibowitzsolo.com