Remembering D-Day 75 years later
June 6, 2019--10:52 a.m.
On June 6, 1944, more than 160,000 Allied troops landed along a 50-mile stretch of the heavily-fortified French coastline, to fight Nazi Germany on the beaches of Normandy, France.
“You are about to embark on the great crusade toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you… I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. – Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower”
The Allied invasion of Western Europe was code-named Operation Overlord and required two years of planning, training, and supplying by the United States and Great Britain. It was one of the most heavily guarded secrets of the war.
On the morning of June 5, 1944, General Eisenhower announced: “O.K. We’ll go.” Within hours an armada of 3,000 landing craft, 2,500 ships, and 500 naval vessels departed English ports to cross the narrow strip of the sea to German-controlled Normandy, France.
That night 822 aircraft, carrying parachutists and gliders, deployed troops over landing zones in Normandy. Intended to be the vanguard of the whole operation, the Airborne troops’ landings were a tremendous success. Seaborne units then began to land on the beaches of Normandy at 6:30 on the following morning.
Although caught by surprise, the Germans fought fiercely, particularly on a stretch of beach code-named Omaha by the Allies.
The cost in lives on D-Day was high.
More than 9,000 Allied Soldiers were killed or wounded, but their sacrifice allowed more than 100,000 Soldiers to begin the slow, hard slog across Europe, to defeat Adolf Hitler’s crack troops.
More than 5,000 Ships and 13,000 aircraft supported the D-Day invasion, and by day’s end, the Allies gained a foothold in Continental Europe.
There would be eleven more months of hard fighting in Europe before the Nazis were defeated, but the D-Day invasion gave the Allies the success they needed to start that fight.
On June 6, 1944, President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed the nation with a prayer:
“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. It has come to pass with success thus far.
And so, in this poignant hour, 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, and to set free a suffering humanity.
Lead them straight and true; 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. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph.
They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest-until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men’s souls will be shaken with the violences of war.
For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and good will among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.
Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.
And for us at home — fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas — whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them–help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice.
Many people have urged that I call the Nation into a single day of special prayer. But because the road is long and the desire is great, 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, too — strength in our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and the material support of our armed forces.
And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be.
And, O Lord, give us Faith. Give us Faith in Thee; Faith in our sons; Faith in each other; Faith in our united crusade. Let not the keenness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose.
With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogancies. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister Nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. 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.
Source material for this story comes from the U.S. Army and the National World War II Memorial
Photos from the National Archives and Records Administration