Honoring those who have bequeathed to us at cost of blood and life, the Liberty too many assume is their birthright.
Today marks the anniversary of D-Day, the Allied invasion of Europe.
In the early hours of June 6th, 1944, the largest amphibious in history, preceded and supported by the largest air assault in history, commenced. Codenamed “Operation Neptune” but more commonly referred to as “D-Day,” it was the first assault of “Operation Overlord,” the Allied Forces invasion of the European continent. It was the beginning of the end for Adolf Hitler’s National Socialist Workers (NAZI) Party and its reign of terror across Europe, and World War II.
It was an epic battle in defense of American Liberty, and by extension, that of all mankind.
My colleague, historian William Federer, recounts the circumstances leading to World War II: “After World War I, Germany’s economy suffered from depression and a devaluation of their currency. On January 30, 1933, Adolph Hitler was elected Chancellor of Germany by promising hope and universal healthcare. Less than a month later, on February 27, 1933, a crisis occurred – the Rheichstag, Germany’s Capitol Building, was suspiciously set on fire. Hitler was quick to use this crisis as an opportunity to set aside Germany’s Weimar Republic and seize emergency powers as a dictator. He suspended basic rights and accused his political opponents of conspiracy. He ordered mass arrests followed by executions, even ordering his SS and Gestapo secret police to murder rivals, as on the Night of the Long Knives.
"Hitler confiscated guns, forced old German military leaders to retire, and swayed the public with mesmerizing speeches. In socialist countries, a person’s life is only of worth if it benefits the state. Those not benefiting the state are removed. Hitler’s NAZI (National Socialist Workers) Party operated over 1,200 concentration camps where millions of Jews, Poles, Gypsies, handicapped, and others were experimented upon, tortured, or were killed in gas chambers.
"German churches were silent, as they had for centuries taught pietism - a version of separation of church and state where Christians were instructed to focus on their own personal spiritual life and withdraw from involvement in worldly politics. As a result, the church stood by as the National Socialist Workers Party usurped power, only to be stopped by the sacrifice of millions of courageous Allied soldiers. By the time a few courageous Germany church leaders spoke out, such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer, it was too late - the government had grown so powerful it simply arrested and executed them.
"Hitler’s National Socialists used diplomatic intimidation, deception, and Blitzkrieg ‘lightning war’ attacks to take control of: Austria, The Sudeten Region, Bohemia, Moravia, Poland, Denmark, Norway, Luxembourg, Belgium, Holland, France, Monaco, Greece, The Channel Island (UK), Czechoslovakia, Baltic states, Serbia, Italy, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Finland, Croatia, and more.
"Other Axis Powers were also aggressively expanding: Italy had invaded Ethiopia in 1935, and the Empire of Japan had invaded China in 1937.”
The United States entered World War II on December 7, 1941, when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. Having declared war on Japan, on May 27, 1941 President Franklin Roosevelt declared: “THE WHOLE WORLD is divided between … pagan brutality and the Christian ideal. We choose human freedom which is the Christian ideal.”
The turning point in the Pacific War was the Battle of Midway, June 4, 1942.
The turning point in the War in Europe was D-Day, JUNE 6, 1944.“
Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight Eisenhower issued this charge: "You are about to embark upon a great crusade. … The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of Liberty loving people everywhere march with you. … You will bring about … the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe. … Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle hardened, he will fight savagely. … And let us all beseech the blessings of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.”
(For the record, Ike had also prepared another note in the event Operation Neptune failed: “Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops, my decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.”)
Shortly after midnight, 2,200 Allied bombers and attack aircraft began their assault on German strongholds along the beaches of Normandy, France. The bombardment was followed by more than 24,000 U.S., British, and Canadian airborne troops who parachuted behind the beachheads, while aerial and massive naval bombardments continued to soften German positions at landing zones of Utah Beach, Pointe du Hoc, Omaha Beach, Gold Beach, Juno Beach and Sword Beach.
After the initial assault was underway, Franklin Roosevelt’s message and prayer for our military personnel spoke to the enormity of the task and the arduous battles that would follow. FDR declared: “My fellow Americans: Last night, when I spoke with you about the fall of Rome, I knew at that moment that troops of the United States and our allies were crossing the Channel in another and greater operation … I ask you to join with me in prayer: Almighty God, Our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our republic, our religion, and our civilization … Give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith. They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces … We know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph … Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom … Help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice … I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts. Give us strength … and, O Lord, give us Faith. Give us Faith in Thee … With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy … And a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil. Thy will be done, Almighty God. Amen.”
Through heavy swells in the English Channel, an Allied armada was launched and, by sunrise, more than 132,000 Allied infantry began landing along 50 miles of Normandy beaches. They came in 289 escort vessels with 277 minesweepers, and they waded ashore from more than 5,000 landing and assault craft – the largest invasion force in history supported by 13,000 aircraft.
The NAZI defenses were formidable: 50,000 troops manning 170 coastal 100mm and 210mm artillery guns and 320mm rocket launchers rained murderous fire down upon the Allied Forces as they struggled ashore, amid endless machine-gun and sniper fire.
Our U.S. forces who landed at Omaha Beach struggled with high seas, fog, mines and enemy fire that poured down from high bluffs. Many soldiers were shot as they departed their landing craft, dying in the bloody surf. Those who reached the sand met a wall of machine-gun fire. One commander told his men that only two types of people would stay on the beach — those dead and those going to die — so they’d better push forward. In some units on Omaha, 90% of the troops were killed or wounded. But the assault force managed to cross the beach and drive the Germans inland. At Utah Beach, the other U.S. landing zone, the first wave of troops found themselves 2,000 yards south of where they were supposed to be. It was a lucky miss since the area was not as heavily defended as the original target. Quick-thinking commanders ordered troops to follow the first wave ashore to secure a beachhead.
Before sunset of the first day, there were more than 10,000 Allied casualties, with 4,414 confirmed dead and as many missing in action — more single-day American battle dead than Antietam or Pearl Harbor. There were an estimated 1,000 German casualties.
Shortly after D-Day, a courageous German resistance movement was formed which attempted to assassinate Hitler, but he survived. Hitler retaliated by killing over 7,000 Germans.
As the landing zones were secured in the days that followed, the initial infantry and airborne units pushed inward. By the end of June, more than 875,000 Allied troops had crossed the English Channel, and by mid-August, more than two million Allied troops had landed, incurring almost 226,000 casualties — 72,911 killed/missing and 153,475 wounded. Along with many French resistance fighters, almost 15,000 civilians were killed. Paris was liberated on August 25, 1944, and the Nazi war machine was pushed back over the Seine River.
On D-Day, and many bloody days which followed on European and Pacific fronts, American Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines purchased Liberty for the next generation at a very heavy human price. The war in Europe ended with Germany’s unconditional surrender on May 8th, 1945, followed by that of Japan on September 2nd, 1945, 11 months after D-Day and six years and one day after hostilities commenced.
Total WWII battle deaths worldwide are estimated at more than 15 million, with more than 25 million wounded, and civilian deaths estimated at more than 45 million. American casualties in WWII were unprecedented. There were 405,399 deaths and 670,846 wounded. We humbly salute all the WWII American and Allied Patriots and their families for their untold service and sacrifice.
On the 40th Anniversary of D-Day, President Ronald Reagan offered these remarks in tribute: “Something else helped the men of D-day: their rockhard belief that Providence would have a great hand in the events that would unfold here; that God was an ally in this great cause. … 40 years ago at this moment, the air was dense with smoke and the cries of men, and the air was filled with the crack of rifle fire and the roar of cannon. At dawn, on the morning of the 6th of June, 1944, 225 Rangers jumped off the British landing craft and ran to the bottom of these cliffs. Their mission was one of the most difficult and daring of the invasion: to climb these sheer and desolate cliffs and take out the enemy guns.”
President Reagan continued: “The Allies had been told that some of the mightiest of these guns were here and they would be trained on the beaches to stop the Allied advance. … The Rangers looked up and saw the enemy soldiers – the edge of the cliffs shooting down at them with machineguns and throwing grenades. And the American Rangers began to climb. They shot rope ladders over the face of these cliffs and began to pull themselves up. When one Ranger fell, another would take his place. When one rope was cut, a Ranger would grab another and begin his climb again. They climbed, shot back, and held their footing. … Soon, one by one, the Rangers pulled themselves over the top, and in seizing the firm land at the top of these cliffs, they began to seize back the continent of Europe. Two hundred and twenty-five came here. After 2 days of fighting, only 90 could still bear arms.”
President Reagan concluded: “The men of Normandy had faith that what they were doing was right, faith that they fought for all humanity, faith that a just God would grant them mercy on this beachhead or on the next. It was the deep knowledge – and pray God we have not lost it – that there is a profound, moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest.”
Today, the NAZI bunkers above Normandy’s beaches remain as solemn and silent reminders of tyranny, and the region is now marked with many fitting tribute monuments to Europe’s liberators, and the vast American Cemetery, where 9,380 of our dead are interred and the names of 1,557 missing are memorialized.
At the 75th anniversary observance, I was struck by this remark from General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s granddaughter, Susan Eisenhower, with Normandy American Cemetery in the background: “I think with respect to the courage that was shown here at Normandy, today we don’t have self less Ness and self-sacrifice in our vocabulary. … there was a time when people were called upon to do things they didn’t necessarily want to do or couldn’t be spared to do. They reported for duty, they put their best selves in it and they discovered when they hit the beaches that they were more than they ever thought they could be.”
Indeed they did.
The only real estate the USA retained after World War II, was that necessary to bury our dead.
The free world will forever owe a debt of gratitude to the “Greatest Generation” of Patriots, and generations before and since, and all those who, by God’s grace and their sacrifice, have secured victory over tyranny. We owe them our steadfast devotion to American Liberty, and it’s defense over enemies foreign and domestic in our own day. It is our sacred duty to extend this priceless inheritance to the next generation.
I invite you to learn more about this pivotal juncture in our history, and that of the entire world, by visiting the D-Day Memorial website, the outstanding National WWII Museum website, and the Army D-Day website, where you can listen to Supreme Allied Commander Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s D-Day message. I also invite you to view images from D-Day.