I hope you spent some time reading the special section on the Vietnam War published by this newspaper Sunday.
It reminded me that in 2015, the Bulletin published a special section marking the 75th anniversary of the War Department’s authorization of Camp Bowie near Brownwood. Construction began immediately after authorization — eight days later — all during September 1940.
Camp Bowie was the first major defense project in the state.
I wrote in this column in 2015 that the United States and the world would be marking the 75th anniversaries of numerous World War II events in coming years.
Well, that’s not happening very often. Perhaps more will be done in two years when the 75th anniversary of events related to the end of the war roll around.
Meanwhile, Wednesday was the 74th anniversary of D-Day during World War II. To me, it’s sad that last month’s royal wedding generated more news coverage than the anniversary of perhaps the most pivotal battle in world history. Hopefully, things will be different next year, if only because 75 years somehow feels more “momentous” than 74 years.
Maybe I’m being too cynical. It’s only human nature for people to be indifferent about events that didn’t happen before their births. Those who were old enough to comprehend what was going on in Europe in 1943 would be in their late 80s and older now.
Still, that doesn’t minimize the fact that the Allies’ victory in World War II secured all the freedoms that generations since have enjoyed. Furthermore, it was the battle for Normandy that was the beginning of the end of that war. Eleven months later, in May 1945, the Allied powers accepted the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany.
My column runs on Friday, and with June 6 on Wednesday this year, it may seem like I’m a couple of days late writing about D-Day. That’s true, but it doesn’t change the point that even belatedly, the anniversary of D-Day is something we should be remembering.
That invasion was hardly a one-day event. It was a series of brutal battles spanning 10 weeks. Those of us who appreciate the bravery and sacrifice of the hundreds of thousands who fought and perhaps died should pause to appreciate what those brave warriors did for the cause of freedom. It didn’t come easily, and it came at a high price.
June 8 has a significant entry in the timeline of the Normandy invasion. On this day in 1944, Field Marshal (the British rank equivalent to general) Bernard Montgomery set up his headquarters at Château de Creully — just two days after the landings began.
Area history buffs may want to circle Sept. 9 on their 2018 calendars. That date will mark 75 years since soldiers of the 36th Texas National Guard Division splashed ashore on the beaches of Salerno, the first Allied soldiers to crack Hitler’s European fortress from the west. Official figures showed 19,466 casualties, including 3,717 killed in action, 12,685 wounded, and 3,064 missing in action.
The 36th Division had been at Camp Bowie from its start, after being mobilized in December 1940. Many of its members were residents of Brown County and surrounding areas.
While D-Day changed the course of World War II, Camp Bowie changed the course of Brownwood. These upcoming 75th anniversaries may be the last opportunity many will have to take a look back along with those who experienced them.
Gene Deason is editor emeritus of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Fridays. He may be contacted at email@example.com.