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Memorial Day

David is travelling in England, and I'm observing Memorial Day in Portland, Oregon. It's a day to commemorate American men and women who died while in military service. I'll remember them, and join friends for a picnic where I plan to lift my glass to six uncles who served in the Armed Forces.

One American memory for Memorial Day is the last offensive of World War One, when Germans bombarded the British and French lines with shells weighing up to one ton then sent half a million men in a furious assault at British and French lines. In the first two attacks, the Brits and French, outnumbered three to one, fell back, but they did not break. It seemed impossible that they could hold out, but they did, day after day.

According to Churchill's history of World War One, the Germans' third massive attack, a surprise assault to the south, broke through weak French defences and they raced toward Paris. The Germans looked unstoppable. It seemed unlikely that the first two American divisions, which had just arrived, could hold them.

The Americans are Marines. Professional soldiers, farm boys and university students, stubborn, brave and well-trained, they held off the overwhelming might of the Germans for five days, and broke the offensive. Churchill described them as "American manhood striding forward."

They were back again in World War II, to help put an end to the Nazis.

Looking at the quiet hills, I'm thankful for American soldiers and for peace.

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