9-11 Boat Lift Greater than Dunkirk
Few people know that the all-volunteer boat lifts, that happened on 9-11 in Manhattan, NY, were greater lifts than the boats of Dunkirk during World War II. 339,000 soldiers were rescued over 9 days at Dunkirk. An amazing operation. The boat lifts of civilians on 9-11 in the NY harbor were over 500,000 in just 9 hours.
For those who were not born or do not know the history of Dunkirk, this is a short synopsis from a historian:
“May 1940, during the battle of France, the British Expeditionary Force in France aiding the French, were cut off from the rest of the French Army by the German advance. Encircled by the Germans they retreated to the area around the port of Dunkirk. The German land forces could have easily destroyed the British expeditionary force, especially when many of the British troops, in their haste to withdraw, had left their heavy equipment.
For some unexplained and still unknown reason, Adolf Hitler ordered the German army to stop the attack, favoring bombardment by the Luftwaffe…This lull in the action gave the British a few days to evacuate by sea. Winston Churchill ordered any ship or boat available, large or small, to pick up the stranded soldiers, and 338,226 men (including 120,000 French soldiers) were evacuated – the miracle of Dunkirk, as Churchill called it. It took over 900 vessels to evacuate the Allied forces…The British evacuation of Dunkirk through the English Channel was codenamed Operation Dynamo. Churchill’s skill in turning a defeat into a political victory is now remembered in the phrase ‘Dunkirk’ spirit, to describe making the best of a bad situation.”
The US Coast Guard and the private boats available on 9-11 were definitely “Making the best of a bad situation”! They were resolute and fast. In fact, one boat was even named “Resolute”
As did Winston Churchill at Dunkirk, the US Coast Guard made the call for all boats to Manhattan Island. Hundreds of boats answered that call. They did not know if their boat would be blown out of the water with more attacks to come. They just went. They answered with bravery and action.
This is what Americans are made of. It is deep at the core of who we are. One boatman said, ” They looked like zombies“, pouring out of the buildings covered in ash. There were children; people in wheelchairs, executives and more. “Just help me” was all they wanted. ” Take me anywhere off this island.”
We have just passed our 10th anniversary of 9-11. To those who ran to the docks, it will be forever etched in their memories. For the boat captain, who dropped everything and came, a simple “Thank You” moved him to tears. The history and determination of the great boat rescues of Dunkirk and Manhattan Island are forever linked.
( A thank you to Gayle Olson who shared this video with me.)