Author Douglas Kennedy ’76 Reflects on Legacy of the D-Day Landings

By Tom Porter

Douglas Kennedy ’76 admitted to stifling a sob as he watched the last remaining “wizened American veterans of the Normandy landings being brought out onstage in wheelchairs,”* the youngest of whom must have been at least ninety-eight years old.

Normandy landings file photo
US troops going ashore at Omaha beach, June 6, 1944

The best-selling author was among the invited guests at Omaha Beach in northern France last week, where world leaders, including the US and French presidents, joined in celebrations to mark the eightieth anniversary of the D-Day landings.

Writing for the French newspaper La Tribune Dimanche, Kennedy reflected on his own father’s war. “If I found myself so moved, it is undoubtedly because, at the time of the landing at Omaha Beach, my father was in the Marine Corps. At age seventeen,” explained Kennedy, “he falsified his ID to enlist, and the following year he was deployed to the Pacific island of Okinawa, where an eighty-two-day battle took place against the Japanese Imperial Army, which caused more than 200,000 deaths.” He recalled how his father suffered from “various post-traumatic stress disorders” as well as survivor’s guilt for the rest of his life.

At the time of the Normandy landings, he continued, “the United States could rightfully call itself a beacon of light in a world made dark by totalitarian extremes.” Eighty years later, said Kennedy, “the specter of totalitarian darkness is an increasingly omnipresent one throughout Europe and elsewhere,” reflecting on the imperial ambitions of Vladimir Putin’s, and America’s own “unapologetic dictator-in-waiting,” Donald Trump, who “stands as a frightening authoritarian counterweight to all that Normandy represents.”

*Kennedy’s comments are translated from French, the language in which the article was written.

Read an English translation of Kennedy's entire piece.