What happened today? Um…hmm – you’re most likely thinking. Is it someone’s birthday or anniversary? You’re getting closer. It’s an anniversary of a costly fight to preserve liberty and freedom of thought around the world.
June 6, 1944, was D-Day of the Allied Invasion of Nazi occupied Europe. Seventy years ago American and British troops set foot on the shores of Normandy and battled to secure the beaches.
Sadly, this day will pass with comparatively few people – young people especially – remembering the sacrifices that were made.
If you’re wondering: what was D-Day exactly? Here are some fast facts to get started. (In my next three posts for June, we’ll explore some more in-depth stories, so “stay tuned.”)
- The term “D-Day” is actually a military name for the day a combat attack will start; “The Normandy Invasions” is technically the correct term to use when referring to the June 6, 1944, operations
- There had been no major land operations by the Allies in mainland Europe since the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940
- The campaigns in North Africa (1940-1943) and invasion of Italy (1943) were preparation and cover for the invasion of mainland Europe
- United States’ General Dwight D. Eisenhower was the supreme commander of all Allied Forces in the invasion while General Erwin Rommel commanded the German divisions stationed in Normandy
- The code name for the invasion was Operation Overlord
- There were five beach landings in Normandy; the code names for the beaches were Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword
- In the months prior to the landings, the Allies executed bombing raids and a fight to secure air superiority
- French Resistance Forces played an underground role assisting the Allies in the preparation and attack
- Paratroopers and Gilders were the first wave of the June 6th attack
- A naval bombardment of the German “sea wall” defenses preceded troop landings
- Over 5,500 sea vessels were part of the Normandy landings, making it the largest seaborne invasion in history
- Approximately 160,000 troops crossed the English Channel on D-Day
- Utah and Omaha Beaches were attacked by American troops; Gold, Juno, and Sword were captured by English and Canadian soldiers
- Allied casualties were approximately 12,000 (dead, wounded, missing) and German casualties were between 4,000 and 9,000
- The objective was achieved and in the following months Allied forces broke out of Normandy and began a rapid, fighting advance through Europe which culminated less than a year later with the capture of Berlin, Germany and VE (Victory in Europe) Day
Freedom isn’t free and many soldiers made the ultimate sacrifice because they wanted liberties they enjoyed to remain for the next generation. Do we – those next generations – value our freedom and do we honor their sacrifices?
Start today – remember. Ask your friends, acquaintances, co-workers, or strangers if they know what happened 70 years ago and gently remind them of their patriotic duties. Fly the flag that waved victoriously over the beaches. Thank veterans of all wars for their service. And always REMEMBER.