What if France wasn't there anymore? A dispatch from Normandy

I am just back from a trip to France and full of what-ifs about what might have prevented or shortened the suffering there in World War II:

What if Hitler had been accepted into art school in Berlin? He turned his attention elsewhere after the second rejection.

What if there had not been an unexpected storm that affected the D-Day landing at Omaha Beach on June 6th, 1944, sickening the troops and preventing some vessels from reaching the shore, leaving some to drown before they could even set foot on land? It was originally planned, we learned, for a few days earlier, but previous storms postponed it. Gen. Eisenhower was quoted as saying he had to make his decision to go ahead or postpone again in 30 seconds. Postponing might have meant a one-month delay before the next full moon, we were told.

What if there had not been another storm on June 14th that destroyed one of two gigantic floating docks that were meant to feed and supply the troops who landed, who totaled one million by July 4th, creating a logistical nightmare?

What if German Field Marshall Rommell hadn’t taken some time away to celebrate his wife’s birthday?

What if the plot depicted in the film “Valkyrie” had succeeded? A group of German officers tried to assassinate Hitler in 1944 and just barely failed. But that was little late. What if others tried sooner and had succeeded?

What if the powers that be had not chopped up Europe after WWI, denying that leaving the Germans humiliated and economically devastated would create bigger trouble?

As our forces planned to weaken the Nazis’ strength in Normandy by bombing the cities there to pieces before D-Day, what if the leaflets meant to warn the inhabitants had not blown off course so that they had no warning? Weather again.

What if the rest of the world had not found the tales of what was really going on early in the Nazis’ rise to power outlandish and impossible to believe? Denial again.

What if the U.S. and other Allies had not intervened? Our European guides firmly believe that the Nazis would have taken and kept power, and the world, even as troubled as it seems right now, would be an entirely different and unrecognizable place.

Which leaves me wondering, despite my lifelong affection for pacifism, what if it sometimes just does not apply? Our trip went on to good French food, attempts to speak the language, chateaus, and the good life. But what if good old France wasn’t there anymore, I now wonder.


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