Thursday, June 6, 2013

Three Score And Nine Years Ago...

Operation Overlord began.

From the US Army:
June 6, 1944, 160,000 Allied troops landed along a 50-mile stretch of heavily-fortified French coastline to fight Nazi Germany on the beaches of Normandy, France. General Dwight D. Eisenhower called the operation a crusade in which “we will accept nothing less than full victory.” More than 5,000 Ships and 13,000 aircraft supported the D-Day invasion, and by day’s end on June 6, the Allies gained a foot- hold in Normandy. The D-Day cost was high -more than 9,000 Allied Soldiers were killed or wounded -- but more than 100,000 Soldiers began the march across Europe to defeat Hitler.

The storming of the beaches at Normandy has always fascinated and amazed me. Watching the footage - the first time in warfare that we've seen actual video from the front - it strikes me that the men in the landing craft had to have known that they were most likely going to die that day. They were landing on a heavily fortified and mined beach overseen by pillboxes and towers filled with German heavy machine guns - and yet they still came. They were cut down by the thousands - nearly 10,000 casualties - and yet wave after wave hit the beach, taking on 8mm belt-fed machine guns with M1 Garands.

Next year will be the 70th anniversary of the invasion. Even the youngest of soldiers that stormed those beaches - the ones that came home, not the ones forever residents of France - are well into their 80s. Each year we lose more and more WWI veterans; our connection to that time period and the heroes that went to war to literally save the world slipping ever further away. Old age is doing what Hitler's army could not; these men are falling to the predation of time. Their stories are being lost to the ages, which makes it even more imperative to fully document and preserve their stories.

Take a moment to think about those young men, riding in those landing craft or parachuting down behind enemy lines. Fighting back seasickness, enemy fire, and the very real possibility of that day being their last, they pressed onward and defeated the mightiest army their generation - and generations before them - had ever seen. Man by man, they took down the Nazi war machine piece by piece and freed a continent from fascist rule. Then they came home and saw the US through one of the most amazing periods of technological growth in human history.

Damn. I need an M1 Garand now...

That is all.


wolfwalker said...

"Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force!
You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you." -- from General Eisenhower's Message to the Troops, June 2, 1944

Angus McThag said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stretch said...

Brother-in-law Neil and I were at the WWII Memorial last month. Lots of vets. Many in wheelchairs. Combined service color guard presented the flags and a bugler played taps. Have you ever seen a whole line of men SIT at attention?

The vets were flown and escorted by Honor Flight. Dig deep.