In 1917, General George S. Patton said, “I feel sure that tanks in some form will play a part in all future wars.” With that statement, the history of modern cavalry of the 20th and 21st century was ushered in. For me, tank warfare is an incredibly fascinating subject. I don’t pretend to know a single thing about their technicalities, but tank combats such as the Battle of Cambrai (1917) and Operation Goodwood (1944) do not fail to captivate me.
These monsters are so huge and so full of power that one cannot but be overwhelmed by their tremendous strength. The sheer magnitude of how the beast of the machine moves is behemoth-like. Standing next to these mighty giants, I was really able to understand the strength they wielded. You could hear them releasing noises that could be termed purring, but would be more accurately described as growling.
The treads are enormous and would crush you if you even thought about coming near it; and that is not even getting into their firing powers. Let me just say, standing next to a tank with its engine running, ready to move, is nothing like looking at a tank that is on display. There can be no comparison.
For almost any little boy out there, or little girl who enjoys little boy things like tanks and jeeps too, the moment a tank enters the scene, the affect is similar to that which Mr. Toad of Wind in the Willows experiences when he sees a red motor car. The eyes go round in circles, the heart starts pumping, and the phrase ‘It was big, it was red, it was be-autiful..." comes to mind. Only these tanks were far more massive and an ominous olive green.
I'm sure there were many little boys who felt the same on June 6, 1944, as tank after tank rolled into the town square following the liberation of St. Marie du Mont by the 101st Airborne that morning. After years of hard oppression under the Nazi regime, when at any moment, father, brother, mother or sister might be taken out and brutally murdered, rescue had finally come! Not just rescue, but liberation by the "angels" of the air, and the "behemoths" of the ground!
On June 6, 2014, 70 years later to the day, the tanks came rolling in again. With the grandchildren of those who had been liberated, with the veterans who had come to liberate, and with those who had come to honor, hundreds and thousands of people stood cheering, laughing, waving, and clapping. The behemoths were back!
They kept coming and coming and coming. I lost count there were so many. They would each in turn slowly roll up, pause for a few moments, and then move ahead, making room for the next. They were massive, they were loud, and like all the others, I couldn't take my eyes off them.
It was the closest thing I think I could ever get to being there on liberation day.