June 6, 2009
'D-day'-Day of GloryBy Jan LaRue
They gave us ‘nothing less than full victory.'
June 6, 1944, "D-day," is a day that lives in glory.
"D-day" in military history stands for the "day" of invasion. On this "D-day," obscure beaches on the French coast of the English Channel became the hallowed ground on which heroic men fought and thousands died to end tyranny and liberate millions from Nazi oppression and death camps. These are the beaches renamed, remembered and revered as "Omaha, Utah, Sword, Gold and Juno."
Normandy is the most inspiring, humbling and historically important place to visit in France. Standing above Omaha Beach looking out across the English Channel from what was a Nazi cement bunker, provides a commanding view of what the allied forces faced that monumental and awesome day-"the longest day."
Excerpts from Adolf Hitler's "Directive No. 5l," 3 November 1943, expose the resolute and seemingly invincible Nazi army entrenched against the allied forces. Hitler demanded defense of the coast of France at all costs:
General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force, commissioned our troops as they boarded planes, gliders and ships, great and small. He called them to nothing less than full victory:
An invading army had not crossed the treacherous English Channel since 1688. The heroes of "D-Day" knew that the beaches of Normandy had to be taken or else. There would be no throwing them back into the sea:
It was to be the largest combined, sea, air, and land military operation in history, made up of three million men, 13,000 aircraft, 1,200 warships, 2,700 merchant ships, and 2, 500 landing craft. Fifteen minutes after midnight on June 6, the first of 23,000 U.S., British, and Canadian paratroopers and glider troops plunged into the darkness over Normandy, and the Allied liberation of France was underway. Just before dawn, Allied aircraft and ships bombed the French coast along the Baie de la Seine, and at daybreak, the bombardment ended as 135,000 Allied troops stormed ashore at five landing sites. Despite the formidable German coastal defenses, beachheads were achieved at all five landing locations. At one site-Omaha Beach-German resistance was especially strong, and the Allied position was only secured after hours of bloody fighting by the Americans assigned to it. By the evening, some 150,000 American, British, and Canadian troops were ashore, and the Allies held about 80 square miles. Over the next five days, Allied forces in Normandy moved steadily forward in all sectors against fierce German resistance. On June 11, the five landing groups met up, and Operation Overlord-the code name for the Allied invasion of northwestern Europe-proceeded as planned.
By nightfall on June 6, more than 9,000 Allied soldiers were dead or wounded, but more than 100,000 had made it ashore, securing French coastal villages.
This Saturday would be a good time to read the citations of the 12 Medal of Honor Recipients of the Normandy Invasion. Five were awarded posthumously. They embodied the words of Jesus: "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends."
A personal note:
My step-dad landed at Normandy two months after the invasion. He commanded a tank crew in Patton's 3rd Army and fought in the "Battle of the Bulge." Dad suffered severe frost bite in both feet during one of Europe's coldest winters. He spent a month in a hospital where doctors came very close to amputating them.
He didn't talk much about his war experiences, but he loved to attend the reunions of the men with whom he served. They told stories and relived some unforgettable moments such as crossing the Rhine River at night in total blackout over a pontoon bridge laid down by an engineer combat batallion. There was the time that tanks in front and in back of his were hit by enemy fire and his buddies died.
I will never forget one 4th of July when Dad came into the house after walking in the backyard while fireworks were going off. He had "hit the dirt" when a loud rocket went screaming overhead. He was concerned that neighbors had seen him and were laughing at him. Dad was embarrassed. I was proud.
Dad made it clear that he wanted to be buried with soldiers. His grave is in Arlington National Cemetery in Riverside County, California. They gave us the Flag from his coffin and "the thanks of a grateful Nation."
Jan LaRue is an attorney, author, and frequent contributor to American Thinker.