June 6, 1944

by Steve on June 5, 2006

Today is the anniversary of D-Day, the allied invasion of Normandy that marked the turning point of WWII on the European front. A full two years in planning, the sheer mass of manpower and equipment from the combined US, British, and Canadian forces pushed the Germans from their heavily fortified positions along “The Atlantic Wall.” From Stephen E. Ambrose’s D-Day:

Operation Overlord, the invasion of German-occupied France in June 1944, was staggering in its scope. In one night and one day, 175,000 fighting men and their equipment, including 50,000 vehicles of all types, ranging from motorcycles to tanks and armored bulldozers, were transported across sixty to a hundred miles of open water and landed on a hostile shore against intense opposition. They were either carried by or supported by 5,333 ships and craft of all types and almost 11,000 airplanes. 

The numbers are certainly impressive as the image above hints but equally staggering are the losses suffered by the allied invasion force, estimated at 4900 on that first day and of those over 2,000 were on Omaha beach alone. Almost five thousand men killed in the initial offensive. What is truly amazing, given the task of penetrating The Wall, an imposing combination of obstacles, wire, trenches, fortifications and guns which the Germans spent four years constructing, is that the number of casualties was not grossly higher. We’ve all seen the movies, up to and including Saving Private Ryan; the men storming those beaches were boys, eighteen to twenty years old, and most had never seen combat before. What they faced when the landing craft ramps dropped is unimaginable. Yet out they went. And they kept going, men dropping left and right, until they had penetrated Hitler’s wall. All along those beaches young men, mostly volunteer soldiers, fought their way across the bloody beach, up the cliffs, through the trenches, pill boxes, and gun mounts until their section was secure. They could have turned back or taken cover numerous times and any sane man could not have blamed them for doing so. But they pushed forward at great peril to their own lives so that democracy would not be overrun. Over the ensuing months they continued the push until the beast was back in pandora’s box.

We owe those young men more than most of us appreciate. Again, from D-Day:

But when the test came, when freedom had to be fought for or abandoned, they fought. They were soldiers of democracy. They were the men of D-Day, and to them we owe our freedom.

Think about what could have been had Hitler gone on unchecked. To the men who so bravely and selflessly gave their lives on this day so many years ago, and to their families, our eternal thanks. Without their sacrifice the world would be a much darker place today. Let’s do what we must within the context of our generation to ensure that their sacrifice was not in vain. May we have the same strength they had to stand up and press ever forward against the evil that threatens democracy.


M. Kelley June 6, 2006 at 10:45

Very well said, Steve. In the hustle and bustle we need to give thanks to those who sacrificed their lives for our freedom. It’s the ultimate sacrifce to lay down your life for another.

Brandy M. June 6, 2006 at 10:59

That was great. This is a great reminder to all our freedom came with a price. Thank God for our brave American Troops!

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