“A Mighty Endeavor” D-Day at 80

by | Jun 6, 2024 | Editorial and Analysis, Featured News

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Eighty years ago today, on June 6, 1944, the mightiest armada the world has ever seen appeared off the coast of Normandy to launch an invasion of occupied France. It marked a turning point in World War II: the beginning of the end for the fascist Nazi regime and, ultimately, an Allied victory and the liberation of Europe.

The D-Day landings on the beaches of Normandy were the culmination of years of planning during which hundreds of thousands of personnel and millions of tons of weapons, equipment, and supplies were ferried across the Atlantic Ocean to Britain for staging.

In announcing the invasion to the American public, U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt broadcast a prayer that praised U.S. soldiers, sailors and airmen who “this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic … and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.”

The invasion force of Operation Overlord consisted of 11,590 aircraft and 6,938 warships, boats, landing craft and other vessels. Approximately 156,000 troops, primarily British, Canadian, and American, landed in Normandy. Among them were more than 150 Greek soldiers. Although Greece had been occupied for more than three years at that point, the Royal Hellenic Navy provided six vessels for Operation Overlord, including the corvettes Tombazis and Kriezis, which escorted other ships and landing craft to Gold Beach, where the British 50th Infantry Division landed. The Greek ships provided covering fire throughout the landings and provided escort duty for other vessels plying the waters between England and France for weeks to follow.

FILE – This undated image shows the Howell Dodd graphic that appeared in the June-July 1944 issue of The AP Inter-Office, a printed and illustrated magazine that was offered to AP staff and member newspapers. The graphic shows depictions of the AP correspondents on D-Day. In 1945 the magazine changed its name to AP World. (AP Photo/AP Corporate Archives, Howell Dodd, File)

Success was not guaranteed. On the day before the invasion began, Supreme Allied Commander U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower jotted down a note accepting full responsibility for any potential failure, writing, “My decision to attack at this time and place was bound upon the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that [illegible word struck out] Bravery and dedication to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.”

Eisenhower took a more positive tone in his Order of the Day on June 6, in which he wrote to the troops, “I have full confidence in your courage, your devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full Victory!”

Between midnight and 2:00 a.m., American paratroopers and British gliders landed behind enemy lines to seize bridges and clear exit lanes for the troops who would come ashore later that morning.

At 6:30 a.m., the first American forces began landing on Utah and Omaha beaches. The first British forces came ashore on Sword Beach at 7:26, with other British troops landing on Gold Beach beginning at 7:35. Canadian troops began coming ashore on Juno Beach at 8:00 a.m. By 12:30 p.m., Allied forces had begun moving inland.

The losses on D-Day were significant: a total of 4,414 Allied troops were killed in action; another 5,800 were wounded or missing. German casualties were estimated to be between 4,000 and 9,000, and yet the action is considered the most important victory by the Allies during the war.

After gaining a foothold on the French coast and reinforcing their gains, the Allies began pushing into the interior of France, conducting what Eisenhower had termed “the Great Crusade” that would “bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.”

That is exactly what the troops who came to be known as members of the Greatest Generation did, forcing the surrender of Germany on May 7, 1945.

The free world owes a debt of gratitude to those soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Coast Guardsmen who put their lives on the line on June 6, 1944, and in the ensuing days, weeks, and months. It is a debt that we can never repay, and so we must remember. We must honor those few who are still among us, and honor the memory of those who are no longer among the living. Those warriors stood up to tyranny, to fascism, and authoritarianism. They stood up for democracy. They stood up for freedom.

Eighty years later, the remaining survivors gather today to remember their comrades-in-arms even as the storm clouds of war have descended upon Europe once again. For 80 years we have enjoyed peace bought and paid for by the blood, toil, and treasure of the Greatest Generation. Through alliances and partnerships among the world’s leading democracies, we have not only largely kept the peace in Western Europe, we have expanded liberty and freedom to millions of formerly oppressed peoples in Eastern Europe since the end of the Cold War.

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden, greet a World War II veteran during ceremonies to mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day, Thursday, June 6, 2024, in Normandy. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Today, old soldiers will weep tears of remembrance, of joy, and of sorrow. Politicians will speak platitudes in polished tones. Wreaths will be laid, salutes will be given, and volleys will be fired in honor of those who participated in that Great Crusade against tyranny.

As for the rest of us, let us not forget the cost of that mighty endeavor 80 years ago. Let us recommit ourselves to defending liberty, freedom, and democracy. Let us have the courage to stand up to authoritarianism. Let us not turn a blind eye to aggression. Let us honor those who fought for us on D-Day by holding dear the sacrifices that they made.

 

 

Captain Scott Rye, USN (Ret.), is a former correspondent for Daily Shipping Guide, the former long-time editor of Alabama Seaport magazine, and the author of Of Men & Ships: The Best Sea Tales and Men & Ships of the Civil War.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Dynamis Media Group llc, NeaProini.gr or NeaProini.us. Any content provided by our authors and/or contributors are of their opinion and are not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual or anyone or anything.

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