We Salute the Brave Soldiers …

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By Suzanne Bardwell

Seventy-five years have passed since the June 6 D-Day invasion which not only turned the tide of World War II, it changed history. Operation Overlord was launched on June 6 under the orders of commanding Allied general Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Hundreds of thousands of American, Canadian, British and other allied troops participated in the largest invasion force in history crossing the English Channel to land on what became the bloody beaches of Normandy on France’s northern coast.

“The eyes of the world are upon you,” Gen. Eisenhower said before the invasion. “The hopes and prayers of liberty loving people everywhere march with you.”

At that point in the war nearly all of Western Europe was occupied by German troops or held by fascist governments. The goal of the invasion reached far beyond the battle itself in its results. D-Day halted the genocide by the Nazis of millions of people including six million Jews and millions more Poles, Russians, the disabled and those deemed undesirable by the Nazi regime.

“This operation is not being planned with any alternatives,” Gen. Eisenhower said. “This operation is planned as a victory, and that’s the way it’s going to be. We’re going down there, and we’re throwing everything we have into it, and we’re going to make it a success.”

The casualties at D-Day were staggering with over 12,000 killed, wounded or missing in action. Americans lost 8,230 men on those beaches. Over 3,000 French civilians were killed in the invasion mostly due to Allied bombing yet the French cheered the allied forces as they moved inland liberating Paris in August. Without a doubt the D-Day invasion contributed to the shortening of the war.

By the numbers, according to historian Stephen Ambrose D-Day was a massive undertaking:

5,000 ships carrying men and vehicles, 800 planes dropping over 13,000 paratroopers, an additional 300 planes bombing German troops defending the beaches.

More than 156,115 Allied troops made it to shore that day. That breaks down to 73,000 Americans (23,400 airborne), British 61,715 and Canadian 21,400. There were 11,590 aircraft with 127 lost. With 6,939 naval vessels in the engagement 1,213 were combat ships, 4,126 were landing craft, 736 ancillary craft and 864 merchant vessels.

By June 11 (D+5) 326,547 troops and 54,186 vehicles had landed.

“These are the men who took the cliffs,” President Ronald Reagan said in a speech commemorating D-Day during his presidency. “These are the champions who helped free a continent. These are the heroes who helped end a war.”

Editor’s Note:  We honor and salute all Americans of that Greatest Generation who literally saved the free world in a defining war that changed the course of history. For them we are very grateful.

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