D-Day, homefront casualties honored
by David Mendez
Hundreds of residents and retired armed forces service members joined the City of Redondo Beach for its annual Memorial Day Service at the city’s Veteran’s Memorial on May 27.
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Redondo Beach’s annual Memorial Day observance came little more than a week before the 75th anniversary of World War II’s D-Day landings, which was not lost on the afternoon’s speakers. The June 6, 1944 invasion of Normandy, France was the largest seaborne invasion in history, including more than 156,000 service members from the Allied Powers and more than 50,000 entrenched soldiers from Germany and the Axis Powers. The invasion resulted in at least 14,000 casualties across both sides, and 4,414 confirmed Allied dead.
“It was the largest assembly of bravery and courage in human history, and it was not clear that the Allies were going to succeed,” said Congressman Ted Lieu, a colonel in the United States Air Force Reserve. Lieu, in honoring the service members who invaded Normandy that day, chose to read from General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s letter drafted in case of the invasion’s failure.
In that letter, Eisenhower said — in part — that “the troops, the air, and the Navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.”
“I thought it was quite remarkable that Eisenhower wrote a speech in case D-Day went wrong,” Lieu said. “It’s important, I think, for people to understand how much courage and sacrifice happened on that day — a lot of people gave their lives to make sure that we won World War II.”
Memorial Day is a solemn day, said the afternoon’s keynote speaker, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge John Lonergan. Unlike Veteran’s Day and the Fourth of July, he said, Memorial Day is for remembrance — not just for the war-time fallen, but for those who have died after returning home.
“They may not be on the battlefields, but we have approximately 20 veteran suicides per day,” Lonergan, a retired U.S. Army colonel, said. “It’s a huge problem with military servicemen and -women committing suicide, and I wanted to keep those people in our thoughts and prayers.”
The afternoon continued many of its longtime traditions, including retirement of the memorial’s flag and the raising of new colors, as well as performances by the Redondo Union High School Wind Ensemble.
But the 75th Anniversary of D-Day carried particular significance during the memorial’s closing tradition. Six military veterans — one from each armed service branch, plus one memorializing prisoners of war and missing in action — are chosen to place wreaths upon the memorial, and this year included World War II Navy veteran Bill King, accompanied by his son Bill, an Army veteran of the Vietnam War. Both Kings were recipients of Purple Hearts, earning their honors during the D-Day invasion and the Tet Offensive, respectively.
“I was aboard the [landing craft] — they shelled us, and a shell hit just below, knocked me down,” the elder King said. According to his son, he joined the military in 1943 at 17 years old, with his parents’ permission. The father now lives with his son in Torrance, after previously retiring to western Arizona.
“Here he is, 93 years old,” the younger King said.
“I did all right,” the elder King said.