By: Wayne Brown
I am patently ashamed of myself as an American today. For all the media we have in this country, I cannot believe the 66th Anniversary of D-Day came without my notice. I had to be reminded by a fellow hub-writer who posted his disgust. Like too many Americans, I suppose I have grown fat and lazy and depends our politicians and the media to alert me to those things that I should pay attention to and hold sacred. I hope that is not the case. Hopefully, I can repent here today.
I won’t offer you a rehashed historical accounting of D-Day here is this article. I could never do it justice. Suffice to say that it stands in history as the largest coordinated amphibious assault in history. It was a do or die situation that in the end became the pivotal measure in keeping Europe from the talons of Hitler’s Third Reich. That was no small feat. There was plenty of American and Allied blood shed in the process. So much blood that I wonder how those beaches could ever be any other color. Dead soldiers floating in the bloody waters, tangled in the German razor wire. Young men with their whole lives in front of them going headlong into an objective that appeared insurmountable yet could not be tolerated without even greater loss. Those images behoove us to stop a moment and linger. We need to give thanks and honor those who made the sacrifice to overcome this shadow cast over all of Europe.
The invasion termed “Overland” and “Operation Neptune” included over 160,000 troops in the June 6, 1944 landing. In addition, there were approximately 196,000 Allied Naval personnel and over 5,000 ships involved in support of the operation. The goal was to land the Allied Forces in order to gain a foothold on the beaches of France. From there, the Allies would have a path into Germany to begin a ground assault against Hitler’s forces from multiple directions. It was a necessary action and also the one with the best chance of success. That said, the price for success was beyond the scope of belief in terms of loss.
Supporting the Allied initiative, American forces landed approximately 73,000 troops on Omaha and Utah beachheads. Far more American servicemen were involved in other roles such as paratroopers, airplane crews, and sailors on naval vessels. American forces suffered over 5,000 casualties in this twin assault. To this day, there is no accurate accounting of how many died. To this day, the beaches continue to yield some remains of those killed in those sands. Some estimates range as low as 2500 while other estimates are over 6000 dead. Suffice to say, whatever the true count, these are soldiers who died in a matter of minutes and hours not months and years.
The Normandy area of France which encompasses the beaches involved with the assault now also hosts the headstones of the fallen. The white crosses are lined up row upon row marking the loss of each who fell here.
Omaha beach was a “hell on earth” for the brave men landing there. The Germans were ready and waiting and most of the casualties were logged in this part of the assault. Many of the dead never made it past the front door of their landing craft, shot to death as they stepped into the water. Others, under heavy fire, were forced out of their landing crafts early only to find themselves drowning in waters too deep for them, their heavy packs and equipment quickly taking them down. Those lucky enough to make it to the beach were still in the fight of their lives and many would pay the final price in those sands. For others, wounds and death would come later. Days after they had survived this crushing assault they would fight on into the depths of France only to be killed by German fire. In many ways, they also died at Normandy with the others.
For some, my father included, they left their blood on the battlefield seemingly marking their transit of that space. My father was hit by fragments of a mortar round near the village of St. Lo France as units of the 4th Infantry Division advanced on the German occupation. My father survived to live out his life but he carried those scars to his grave. For his service and sacrifice alone, I cannot forget D-Day.
General Dwight D. Eisenhower led the coordinated Allied effort in the D-Day invasion. Eisenhower knew what his men faced. He knew the price would be high but he also knew it would be higher if the Allies failed to act. He made the hard choices. He watched the plan executed, the blood spilled, and the ground gained with a somber face. Eisenhower was likely a different man from D-Day forward. Once the war was over, he became America’s symbol of the sacrifice and the greatness exhibited on June 6, 1944. America believed in his leadership so much as to put him into the highest office in the land. Eisenhower was elected to the Presidency.
For all those who shouldered this monumental task and broke the strangulation hold Hitler had gained on the continent of Europe, we owe a great amount of gratitude. If these brave men and women had failed our world would be much different than it is today. Right was on our side but right was not enough. The task required that blood be shed if it was to succeed. Our brave men and women stepped forward and gave that blood and relinquished their futures so that we might have ours. Never, never should we forget what took place on 6 June 1944. God Bless America!
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