This will be the first in a new Category of blogs I will write and I will call them The History Files.
My heart aches for the loss of understanding and knowledge of our American history and events that have made us who we are. Loving history and teaching, this is my attempt to bring those two together and help inform or remind the reader of important events in our history.
June 6, 1944
WWII was raging as Hitler’s Nazi’s were advancing through and occupying Western Europe. But the Allied forces of UK, US, Canada and France had something up their sleeves.
Together, the Allies had been planning for years a massive invasion of Normandy, France and as their “D day” approached Operation Bodyguard went into action. This plan was to keep the Germans guessing as to the exact day and location of the suspected invasion.
On that “D day”, morning weather conditions were so bad that the attack had to be pushed back a day.
So, on the morning of June 6, 1944 Operation Overlord, or code name Operation Neptune began the largest seaborne invasion in history. General Dwight D. Eisenhower was the Commander of 156,000 Allied troops, 5,000ships and landing crafts, 50,000 vehicles and 11,000 planes.
Paratroopers began the assault by landing behind enemy lines by the thousands to blow up bridges and roads. At 6:30 AM the beach landings began.
Hitler thought he was ready, but his defenses focused in the wrong place. In 1942, the Germans began construction of the Atlantic Wall, a 2,400 mile network of bunkers, pill boxes, etc. on the French coastline. Normandy was less defendable.
Even tho’ it was less defendable, there were plenty of Nazi soldiers in place along the shores of Normandy to cause the battle to be a bloody one.
Things didn’t go as planned for the Allies. Despite the set backs, the troops pushed forward.
As the tanks carrying soldiers prepared to open their gates in the water, those ramps that were their shields would be dropped and so too would be the soldiers defense from a flurry of bullets. Soldiers, all young, we’re killed instantly. Bodies fell everywhere and those that didn’t had to find a way out, maneuvering those courageous and gruesome sacrifices.
By the end of that day the Allies had taken the beachhead but at a very high price. It is estimated that 4,400 Allied soldiers lost their lives that day with another 9,000 wounded or missing.
This day though, became the turning point for WWII in Europe.
Hero’s abounded that day, and stories, books and movies are written about them. But I would list each and every soldier who prepared and was there that day as a hero.
Eisenhower was told in advance that the paratrooper deaths could reach 75%. Other leaders were well aware of the cost and the soldiers themselves were too.
These men, from the lower in rank and age to the more seasoned professional military minds, all took an oath, and then, their oath took them. Some from this life and some to another phase of this life. They gave their all, not only that day but in the days leading up to and following it.
Just 11 months later, WWII ended in Europe on May 7, 1945 when the Allies accepted the full and unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany. This is called VE Day- Victory in Europe day, when all hostilities in Europe ended.
A few months later, on September 2, 1945 documents were signed on the USS Missouri by the US and Japan that put an official end to WWII.
The importance of what they did for the world cannot and should not be understated. It changed the future of countries as well as families. They won more than battles and wars, they won influence and perception.
The deadliest of all wars had ended, with an estimated 3% of the worlds population having died in it, approximately 60-80 million people. Among them, those young men who bravely and selflessly turned the tide in Europe on the beaches of Omaha, Juno, Hold, Utah, and Sword.
May we carry their tenacity to fight for truth and along with them win the battle for influence and perception.
That is why we remember D Day. every June 6.
Let’s remember our history.