Rankin, former president of the Military Historical Society of Massachusetts, paid tribute to the men and women of North Andover who left their factory jobs and families “with the intent of bringing freedom to people they’d never met.” About 990 of 7,500 residents served and 33 died in the war.
Rankin spoke of the precisely plotted D-Day Invasion on June 6, 1944, perhaps America’s most famous battle and the turning point for the Allied forces fighting Hitler in Europe.
“The hope for freedom rested in one man — General Dwight D. Eisenhower,” said Rankin. Eisenhower was a tactical genius, consulting with meteorologists on the best day to land on the beaches of Normandy, France, and using the now famous “Ghost Army” to mislead Nazi forces on the invasion’s location.
“The deception was a success,” Rankin concluded. “God bless the souls who fell on D-Day to make the world a better place.”
Merrimack College was founded in 1947 to meet the needs and aspirations of local soldiers returning from that war.
Rankin earned a bachelor of arts in history at Merrimack and a master of liberal arts in applied archival theory at Boston University, where he has spent 20 years as assistant director for acquisitions at the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center. He leads seminars on the politics of conflict, combat, journalism and military history.
The Merrimack alumnus had planned to become a high-school history teacher but changed course his first day on the job, after the thrill of handling his first historical acquisition. “The first box I opened … I was hooked,” he said.