D-Day+80: National Celebrations, Eighty Years On

D-Day+80: National Celebrations, Eighty Years On

Andrew Roberts on D-Day +80

“What men they were. How can we not, read­ing of their actions that extra­or­di­nary day, hold our man­hoods cheap when we con­tem­plate what they attempt­ed and achieved? It makes us won­der how we would have fared had it been our gen­er­a­tion that had to lib­er­ate Europe….”  Of the many nation­al remem­brances of D-Day, we found this the most com­pelling. Read it here.

One, two, many National Churchill Days

Why did the Unit­ed States des­ig­nate April 9th as Nation­al Churchill Day? Why not, for exam­ple, June 6th? That day marked, as Andrew Roberts writes, “the great­est sin­gle ser­vice that the Eng­lish-Speak­ing Peo­ples ren­dered civ­i­liza­tion.” WSC had a lot to do with it.

April 9th has a cer­tain nation­al sig­nif­i­cance for Amer­i­cans. That was the day, in 1963, when Pres­i­dent Kennedy pro­claimed Sir Win­ston an hon­orary cit­i­zen of the Unit­ed States.

He was too infirm to attend in per­son. But it is always worth recall­ing what he thought about it all. Here is his let­ter to the Pres­i­dent, read by his son Ran­dolph:

In this cen­tu­ry of storm and tragedy, I con­tem­plate with high sat­is­fac­tion the con­stant fac­tor of the inter­wo­ven and upward progress of our peo­ples. Our com­rade­ship and our broth­er­hood in war were unex­am­pled. We stood togeth­er, and because of that fact the free world now stands.

Nor has our part­ner­ship any exclu­sive nature: the Atlantic com­mu­ni­ty is a dream that can well be ful­filled to the detri­ment of none and to the endur­ing ben­e­fit and hon­our of the great democracies.


Of course, 10 May, the date he became Prime Min­is­ter, was anoth­er Churchill Day. He him­self believed that “noth­ing sur­pass­es 1940…

By the end of that year this small and ancient Island, with its devot­ed Com­mon­wealth, Domin­ions, and attach­ments under every sky, had proved itself capa­ble of bear­ing the whole impact and weight of world des­tiny. We had not flinched or wavered. We had not failed. The soul of the British peo­ple and race had proved invin­ci­ble. The citadel of the Com­mon­wealth and Empire could not be stormed. Alone, but upborne by every gen­er­ous heart-beat of mankind, we had defied the tyrant in the height of his triumph.

Few would gain­say him. In 1940 Churchill gave a coun­try, out­num­bered and out­gunned, alone except for the Empire-Com­mon­wealth, the courage to stand the “faith­ful guardians of truth and justice”—until “those who were hith­er­to half blind were half ready.”

That year proved that one per­son can make a dif­fer­ence. Just one—as Charles Krautham­mer observed: “Only Churchill car­ries that absolute­ly required cri­te­ri­on: indis­pens­abil­i­ty. With­out Churchill the world today would be unrecognizable—dark, impov­er­ished, tortured.”


And so four years lat­er we launched the “Great Cru­sade,” as Eisen­how­er put it (today per­haps polit­i­cal­ly incor­rect­ly). West­ern civ­i­liza­tion was saved. Yet it was not, William F. Buck­ley Jr. argued, “the sig­nif­i­cance of that vic­to­ry, mighty and glo­ri­ous though it was, that caus­es the name of Churchill to make the blood run a lit­tle faster….It is the roar that we hear, when we pro­nounce his name….

It is sim­ply mis­tak­en that bat­tles are nec­es­sar­i­ly more impor­tant than the words that sum­mon men to arms, or who remem­ber the call to arms. The bat­tle of Agin­court was long for­got­ten as a geopo­lit­i­cal event, but the words of Hen­ry V, with Shake­speare to recall them, are imper­ish­able in the mind, even as which side won the bat­tle of Get­tys­burg will dim from the mem­o­ry of those who will nev­er for­get the words spo­ken about that bat­tle by Abra­ham Lin­coln…. The genius of Churchill was his union of affini­ties of the heart and of the mind, the total fusion of ani­mal and spir­i­tu­al energy.

A Churchillian resource

Hills­dale Col­lege seeks to refract that ener­gy with two unique teach­ing tools: Win­ston S. Churchill and The Churchill Doc­u­ments, com­pris­ing the offi­cial biog­ra­phy and the Churchill Papers of Sir Mar­tin Gilbert, his biog­ra­ph­er for forty years.

In each of the twen­ty-three vol­umes of The Churchill Doc­u­ments, we are struck by the sheer vol­ume and vari­ety of the sub­jects Churchill grap­pled with. There were ene­mies and allies, allo­ca­tion of nation­al resources, urgent plead­ing from states­men and gen­er­als. Often they demand­ed the impos­si­ble. Often cab­i­net dia­logue was intense.

Nowhere is there so thor­ough a record of one statesman’s deci­sion­mak­ing; nowhere were the deci­sions so con­se­quen­tial. Even now, in the dig­i­tal age, Churchill’s work­load would tax sev­er­al capa­ble peo­ple. His out­put was extra­or­di­nary, his rea­son­ing under­stand­able, com­mu­ni­ca­tions thought­ful, his scope glob­al. And there was this rare qual­i­ty: It was sim­ply impos­si­ble for Win­ston Churchill to write a bor­ing sentence.

Today, as in 1963, we study Churchill because he stood for something—the prin­ci­ple that “the peo­ple own the gov­ern­ment, and not the gov­ern­ment the peo­ple.” He exem­pli­fied cer­tain crit­i­cal human pos­si­bil­i­ties that are always worth bring­ing to the atten­tion of thought­ful per­sons. In 1943 he spoke at Har­vard of our heritage:

Law, lan­guage, literature—these are con­sid­er­able fac­tors. Com­mon con­cep­tions of what is right and decent, a marked regard for fair play, espe­cial­ly to the weak and poor, a stern sen­ti­ment of impar­tial jus­tice, and above all the love of per­son­al free­dom, or as Kipling put it: “Leave to live by no man’s leave under­neath the law”—these are com­mon con­cep­tions on both sides of the ocean among the Eng­lish-speak­ing peoples.


This post is updat­ed  from my arti­cle for the Hills­dale Col­lege Churchill Project on Nation­al Win­ston Churchill Day, 9 April 2016 

Related reading

Empire First: The War on Churchill’s D-Day,” 2023.

“D-Day +79: ‘Rough Men Stand Ready,'” 2023.

“Churchill Today: A Life Worth Con­tem­plt­ing in the Dig­i­tal Age,” 2022.

“How Churchill Saw the Future,” 2018.


2 thoughts on “D-Day+80: National Celebrations, Eighty Years On

  1. Con­grat­u­la­tions on anoth­er splen­did piece. Still keep­ing the record accu­rate and the mem­o­ry green. I salute you on this D-Day anniversary.

    “These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc…. In Stephen Spender’s poem, who ‘fought for life and left the vivid air signed with your hon­or’…. Every­one was brave that day. Do you remem­ber Bill Millin of the 51st High­landers? British troops were pinned down [when] sud­den­ly, they heard the sound of bagpipes….Lord Lovat emerged from Sword Beach: ‘Sor­ry, I’m a few min­utes late.’ There was the impos­si­ble val­or of the Poles…the unsur­passed courage of the Cana­di­ans who would not be deterred. And once they hit Juno Beach, they nev­er looked back.” -Ronald Reagan

  2. Cana­da was indeed a “devot­ed Com­mon­wealth, Domin­ion. Four­teen thou­sand of its sons stormed Juno Beach eighty years ago today.
    A pop­u­la­tion of only 11 mil­liom saw more than one mil­lion Cana­di­ans and New­found­lan­ders serv­ing in uni­form. Over 45,000 of our brave men and women in uni­form gave their lives, and anoth­er 55,000 were wound­ed. We will remem­ber them!

    Indeed so. Canada’s exam­ple is unex­celled. RML

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