We’ve given space in this column before about D-Day, June 6, 1944, when the greatest land invasion in the history of the world occurred when Allied troops hit the beaches of Normandy, France — 74 years ago.
To the young, even middle-agers, they know little or nothing about D-Day. To them it’s ancient history. Most of them may have heard about D-Day in history classes but they probably have forgotten the overall significance of that day. For those seniors who were living 74 years ago, it’s a day that is implanted in their minds, never to leave. The world knew about the troop and equipment buildup in England for the invasion but no one, including the Germans, knew when and exactly where it would occur. Preparations had been going on for more than two years.
The Missourian of June 8, 1944, had these editorial comments from Editor James L. Miller, Sr.: “The invasion is on! The chips are down! And our soldiers, many of them from Washington (and Franklin County) are making history in Western Europe at this very moment!
“The invasion was an all-out affair. There were no halfway measures. Everything was planned, checked and rechecked to the last detail. Nothing was left to chance. Everything was done that possibly could be done to equip the fighting men with everything they needed to survive the greatest battle of all time.
“It’s up to us on the home front now to do our part. There must be no halfway measures here either. We haven’t been called on to shoulder a gun and meet the enemy in his front yard, but we are called on to raise 16 billion dollars to help our fighting men be supplied with the things they need. That’s our job.”
Washington’s quota in the fifth war loan bond drive was $315,000. The county’s quota was $900,000. The Missouri quota was $315,000,000.
There was a front page headline in The Missourian in regard to D-Day that said: “First Reaction to D-Day Is Prayer.” All the churches planned special services.
It was much the same in other parts of the country. There was unity in America.
There were five invasion beaches, which were named Sword, Juno, Gold, Omaha and Utah. The last two were where American troops landed. The other beaches were a responsibility of the British and Canadians. Poland also was a partner in the invasion force.
It was a bloody battle. More than 160,000 Allied troops stormed the Normandy beaches. About half were American troops. The invasion was called Operation Overlord. There were about 5,303 ships that were involved, along with 11,000 airplanes. Troops, especially paratroopers, had to improvise as in even the best planning, factors occur that upset planned tactics. Omaha Beach was the bloodiest. An AP report said the Allies suffered 36,976 deaths at Normandy.
From Normandy to the end of the war with Germany in May 1945, the number of Americans killed, wounded and captured reached high numbers, including many casualties from this area. The Missourian in those years contained the names of casualties from this area.
The Americans who are still with us from 1944 and 1945 remember D-Day well and what it meant to this country and to the world. D-Day was the beginning of the end for Hitler and the Nazi regime.