Seventy five years ago on June 6, Adolph Hitler and Nazi Germany controlled Europe. The grip was getting tighter and opportunities to restore liberty in France were getting perilously tenuous. That is when the US and its Allies planned the largest amphibious landing in the history of documented human warfare. An airborne and naval assault provided some advance cover and distraction as 156,000 allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy in northern France during turbulent weather that night. We recognize Operation Neptune now as D-Day. Operation Overlord is now known as the Battle of Normandy.
General Dwight D. Eisenhower was the commander of the Allied forces. He rallied the troops the night before knowing this would be a challenging operation. However, it was vital to any chance the Allies had in overtaking the German foothold in France.
The operation of June 6 was supposed to have taken place the night before. However, high winds and heavy seas delayed the operation 24 hours creating additional drama. Any further delay would have cost the Allied forces two weeks because of moon phases and tides that had to be considered.
Here are some additional figures courtesy of The American Legion Magazine, June 2019.
• 156,000 troops from the United States, the UK, Canada France, Norway, and other Allied nations hit the beaches on June 6.
• 5 beaches along a 50 mile stretch of Normandy’s were targeted for landing under the Allied code names of Utah and Omaha (where US troops landed), along with Gold, Juno, and Sword.
• 6,000 ships and landing craft were involved as were 50,000 vehicles and 11,000 planes.
In all, 326,000 troops crossed the English Channel by June 11.
• 12,004 Allied troops were killed, wounded, captured, or reported missing with 8,230 of those from the United States.
Most were 18-20 years old. They were too young to drink, too young to smoke, too young to vote. However, they weren’t too young to die.
About 16 million people served in the armed forces during World War II. Over 415,000 Americans died during U.S. involvement in the war. It’s a shame they had to be there, but we need to thank our lucky stars every day that they were.
They were arguably among the greatest part of what is arguably our country’s greatest generation.
We could never join together again in such a unified effort.