In the summer calendar of commemorations, Memorial Day and June 6 stand out as twin testimonials to the sacrifices of combat. Memorial Day, the unofficial start of summer, is the day set aside for Americans to remember their war dead, and June 6, of course, is the anniversary of D-Day, the bloody Allied invasion that began the liberation of Europe.
But we’re now past those summer mileposts, and the rituals of historical observance — the laying of wreaths and the playing of taps — have been tucked away again for the rest of the season.
But this summer, a book on the best-seller list is offering a useful reminder that wars last longer than a day or two, which means that the memories they leave behind can resonate far beyond the occasional holidays and anniversaries we set aside to remember sacrifices.
“The Guns At Last Light,” the final volume of Rick Atkinson’s historical trilogy about World War II’s European theater, is gaining thousands of readers across America thus summer. The book begins at D-Day, but that’s only a sliver of a story that carries us all the way to the war’s conclusion in 1945. The soldiers who knew the war firsthand are dying off quickly these days, which is why history books such as “The Guns At Last Light” are growing even more important. The presence of Atkinson’s book on the best-seller list is a healthy sign that younger Americans are still grateful.