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FSU WWII Scholar Discusses 70th Anniversary of D-Day

Released: 2-Jun-2014 4:00 PM EDT
Source Newsroom: Florida State University
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Friday marks the 70th anniversary of D-Day, when more than 130,000 Allied troops landed on the shores of Normandy.

The June 6, 1944 invasion began overnight with air attacks and naval bombardments. In the morning, troops deployed from the south coast of England and stormed five beaches codenamed Juno, Gold, Omaha, Utah and Sword.

The invasion is remembered as a major turning point in the war because it opened up a second front against Nazi Germany.

One of Florida State University’s internationally recognized experts is available to comment on the 70th anniversary of the invasion.

G. Kurt Piehler, director, Institute on World War II: (850) 644-9541 or (850) 329-7137; kpiehler@fsu.edu

Piehler became director of the Institute of World War II and the Human Experience in 2011 and is the author of two books on the war. As founding director of the Rutgers Oral History Archives, he conducted more than 200 interviews with veterans of World War II. His televised lecture, “The War That Transformed a Generation” which drew on the Rutgers Oral History Archives, appeared on the History Channel in 1997.

On the significance of this anniversary:
“It’s the 70th and increasingly, I think ever since the 40th anniversary, these anniversaries have taken on a great significance. The first few decades, the anniversary celebrations were quite understated. I wouldn’t say it was a low point, but for example, in 1974 there was very little interest from any of the Allied powers in having a celebration.

The 40th was a big one though, with all of the heads of state attending — Ronald Reagan, Queen Elizabeth, Francois Mitterand from France and Pierre Trudeau from Canada.

The 40th was also where Reagan gave what’s considered one of his best speeches as president, praising the heroism of American soldiers in WWII.
And since then, every five years there has been a major celebration involving heads of state.”

On what people forget about D-Day:
“What I think Americans tend to forget is that it was an Allied invasion. Forty percent of those landing in Normandy were from other nations — the United Kingdom, France and Canada.

The Canadian role is completely unappreciated by Americans. The Canadians raised a huge army given the size of the country. The Canadians took their own beach.

Canada is not even one-third of the size of the population of the United States in that era and they raised a huge volunteer army.”

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