D-Day Plus 60
This June 6th we commemorate the 60th anniversary of the allied landings on France's Normandy coast, the largest amphibious assault in history. It was the supreme effort of World War Two, the forces of freedom and democracy launching themselves at Hitler's 'Fortress Europe', one that led to the defeat of the Axis powers. Under Secretary of State Sumner Welles characterized our enemy in terms that have a familiar ring: 'We realized Hitler had a plan to conquer the world (employing) guile and deceit, later by fire and sword; (that) no evil has been too monstrous for him, no infamy too vile.'
And so we pause to remember that day when uncommon valor was a common virtue: when glider—borne and parachuting infantry descended from darkened skies into immortality; when Navy Scouts in 36 foot boats shepherded landing craft flotillas to the beaches, remaining to provide what cover fire they could, and to rescue floundering infantrymen and others needing assistance; when Army combat engineers, working with Navy Combat Demolition Units, braving scything hostile fire, placed and exploded charges, creating gaps in mined obstacles so men and machines could move further inland; when Rangers ascended to glory on the cliffs of Pointe du Hoc; when a handful of destroyers maneuvered inshore to provide crucial gunfire support; when assault infantry stormed ashore into the mortal chaos of Omaha Beach, pausing briefly before driving with peerless perseverance and dauntless courage ever onward. At sea, in the air and on the ground that day, there were countless examples of selfless bravery.
Sixty years after D—Day we are at war with an axis of evil, Islamofascists and their supporters, who are determined to defeat the citadel of liberty, freedom and democracy and her allies, who want to draw a dark veil of ancient darkness over our time. President Bush described them as 'Heirs of all the murderous ideologies of the 20th century.' In this war, America has already assaulted the beaches of terrorism around the world, employing overt and covert sea, air and land forces every bit as courageous and heroic as those who hit Omaha and Utah beaches. In fact, some of the same units who fought then are fighting now, for the same noble cause.
US and coalition forces, having hit those beaches and won the initial battles of this war on terror, now continue the fight as they secure and stabilize Afghanistan and Iraq, while conducting other operations around the world. Like the Second World War, this one is a global conflict.
It took less than the eleven months allied forces needed to crush Hitler for Afghanistan and Iraq to be liberated from their respective evils. But the war on terror will last as long as did World War Two, and probably longer. Like that conflict, this is a war that must be won. We must see it through, finding fortitude in faith and families, our history and heroes, drawing resolve from our country's bedrock beliefs proclaimed by the Declaration and Constitution. We have drawn our sword, annealed in 9/11 grief, from a scabbard of iron will, a sword that must be wielded until the beast is slain.
Sixty years ago, President Roosevelt offered a D—Day prayer that said, in part: 'With thy blessing we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy.'
Almost sixty years later, President Bush, in his January 2002 State of the Union address said: 'Our war on terror is well begun, but it is only begun... evil is real and must be opposed...in this great conflict... we will see freedom's victory.'
Sixty years from now, Americans will pause and commemorate the valiant armed forces who assaulted the beaches of 21st century tyranny and prevailed.
John B. Dwyer is a military historian