This Thursday, June 6, will be the 69th anniversary of D-Day, the invasion of France on the beaches at Normandy. It was the greatest amphibious assault in the history of the world. The year was 1944.
The Allied warriors who participated in D-Day are leaving us as rapidly as the firing of a .50 caliber machine gun. The scope of D-Day still is difficult to comprehend.
There were more than 5,000 naval ships, and more than 150,000 Allied troops who stormed five beaches at Normandy, while overhead there were 14,000 sorties flown by Allied aircrafts. The beaches were named Omaha, Utah, Sword, Gold and Juno. It was the beginning of the end of Nazi Germany, its leader Adolf Hitler and his “the thousand-year Reich.”
Time magazine in 2004 published an excellent book on “D-Day, 24 Hours That Saved the World.” D-Day also has been referred to as “The Longest Day.” Those 24 hours determined whether the invasion would be successful. Like most military operations, large or small, things don’t go as planned. Human mistakes are made, there can be faulty data, and failure looms. The outcomes of battles can be in doubt for days, even weeks. For D-Day, the first 24 hours did tell the story of success, but the cost was high.
“You will enter the continent of Europe and . . . undertake operations aimed at the heart of Germany and the destruction of her armed forces,” words from Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of Allied Forces, said to troops before departing for the Normandy Coast.
Americans must never forget the price paid in those 24 hours. The beaches were taken by brave men, well trained, many who were killed or drowned before hitting the sand, and others were wounded. Many were pinned down by enemy fire for hours, but somehow overcame the enemy, established beachheads and moved inland. President Franklin D. Roosevelt said this in a radio address June 6, 1944:
“Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor . . . some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them.”
At the conclusion of Operation Overlord, the Allies had suffered 122,000 casualties. The German defenders lost an estimated 114,000 men.
It is a day to remember in our history. We must not forget the sacrifices made by those who have gone before us. The cost of freedom has been high for America. That’s why it’s important to remember what brought us to this point in our history.