D-Day's legacy for New Zealand

Dr Oliver Hartwich
Insights Newsletter
7 June, 2024

Yesterday, 6 June, was the 80th anniversary of D-Day, the Allied landings in Normandy. This day marked the beginning of the liberation of Western Europe from Nazism. It was also the birth of the modern West as a community of nations upholding the principles of liberty.

Many New Zealanders may not know that our nation played a crucial role on this day. An estimated 10,000 New Zealanders supported the landings as pilots, crew members, and sailors in the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy. They flew bombers, fired from warships, and steered landing craft onto the beaches of Normandy – all under heavy enemy fire.

Although no New Zealand ground troops landed on 6 June, individual New Zealanders were involved from the start. In the following weeks and months, thousands of our soldiers fought for the liberation of France and the defeat of Nazi tyranny.

The heroic efforts of New Zealanders and their Allied comrades-in-arms in Normandy laid the foundation for the West as we understand it today: a community of values and defence, standing up for the principles of liberty and human rights.

Eighty years later, the West faces new challenges. Authoritarian regimes like Russia and China are challenging the rules-based world order, striving for dominance, and suppressing aspirations for freedom – sometimes by brute force, as Putin’s war of aggression against Ukraine shows.

At the same time, internal crises and self-doubt are shaking the pillars of a liberal democratic order.

Now, even as Western values seem more contested than ever, New Zealanders should reflect on our nation’s role in defending the freedom and democracy.

In today’s complex geopolitical landscape, standing with like-minded nations is essential for safeguarding the rules-based international order.

New Zealand must be prepared to contribute to this effort, both diplomatically and, if necessary, militarily. Such preparedness requires strategic investments in our defence capabilities and strengthening partnerships with allies who share our commitment to the principles of liberty.

While the world has undergone significant changes since 1944, the fundamental ideals that our soldiers fought for on D-Day remain the bedrock of our society. The principles of liberty and the rule of law are not merely abstract concepts; they are the foundation upon which our prosperity and security are built.

This day should not just be about honouring the memory of D-Day veterans. It must also be about reaffirming our dedication to the values they upheld in the face of the threats to the pillars of a liberal democratic order in our time.

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