Happy June 6th, or in the eyes of the History Channel, the day they make all of their money. Yes it’s the anniversary of Operation Overlord, which remains the largest amphibious assault like, ever. In the history of the world. But also this week is the anniversary of one of the most emotional-scar-producing failures of World War 2, or really, like ever for the British. And thank God for it, because without it, I argue, there would have been no Normandy landing, no triumphant D-Day.
You don’t learn from victory, you learn from defeat, and you learn a lot from utter failure. At least, if you’re paying attention you do. Dunkirk was, by all reckonings, an utter failure, you would at least think. The British army, surrounded by much larger German numbers at the French port of Dunkirk, did the one thing they really did not want to have to do – they retreated. And damn was that a retreat.
Quickly planned and executed it took a mere 8 days to move 338,226 men across the English Channel. (Keep in mind planning for Operation Overlord took nearly a year)
Winston Churchill said of Dunkirk, “We must be very careful not to assign to this deliverance the attributes of a victory. Wars are not won by evacuations.” It wasn’t considered a victory – it was considered a miracle. A miracle that so many men could be evacuated so quickly. Yes it was a crushing defeat, but, eh, it actually could have been worse.
And ultimately I like to think that someone sat back and thought that if so many men could be moved so quickly with next to no planning…what if…you could move them in the other direction?
Think on that the next time you fail. Conversely, at your next victory look back at what failure made it possible, and be grateful.