War is unreservedly ugly, dealing death and misery to all it touches, and it will continue to do so for as long as civilization exists to give us something to fight over while the Neros of the world pull their strings and fiddle from the shadows. We do not care to romanticize war; yet we acknowledge its place as a most important driver of history, and bear no shame in our fascination for the paraphernalia of war. In the latter, momentous events and times are remembered with a physical intimacy that words on a printed page can scarcely replicate – holding an authentic war artefact in one’s hand is the equivalent of kicking sand at the base of the Great Pyramid of Giza, as opposed to reading about it or watching something from the History Channel.
Besides, the implements of war – weapons, accessories, clothing, timepieces – usually have a special quality that sets them apart from their ‘civilian’ counterparts: in place of say, refinement and attractiveness to compete for the consumer dollar in the marketplace, matériel manufactured for the military have their elegance in being resolutely engineered for their purpose, to perform ably and reliably in the ultimate contest of life and death, within a defined budget!
Today, we take a moment to remember D-Day, the invasion of Normandy by Allied Forces on 6 June 1944, and the timepieces worn on the battlefield. It’s been 75 years and while there have been many milestones in history before and since, its significance is undiminished as one of the most momentous days in the 20th century, of a war that has no equal in the annals of military history. The world is a better place for it, to say the least.
World War II was:
• A total, global shooting war of an unprecedented scale, before or since.
• Fought by modern powers at the peak of their technological development, utilizing modern technologies from machine guns, combustion engine, communications, to air power, and nuclear arms.
• Some 60 to 65 million died; some 27 thousand killed every day, for six years.
• This carnage is unmatched by wars in the last 300 years prior, combined.
• Some 80 percent of those killed were civilians, non-combatants.
On D-Day 6 June 1944:
• Allied troops targeted a 50-mile stretch of Normandy beach divided into five sectors codenamed Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword.
• German casualties numbered 4,000 to 9,000. Allied casualties numbered at least 10,000 men, with more than 4,400 confirmed dead.
• Equipment specially developed for the operation were deployed for the first time, including portable habors and amphibious (within limits) armored vehicles.
• The Allies committed 39 divisions to battle at Normandy, comprising 1 million troops. The initial plan called for three divisions with two additional divisions in support.
• The Luftwaffe had 815 aircraft; the Allies had more than 9,500.
Timepieces: “Dirty Dozen”
During the Second World War, the British Ministry of Defence commissioned 12 watchmaking companies to manufacture the WWW (“Wrist Watch Waterproof”) issued to its troops.