I feel horrible that I ignored the remembrance of D-Day today.
I hate it when newscasters and pundits and politicians use “fate of the world” type phrases to describe everything. There have been relatively few instances in history when the true fate of anything as fundamental as freedom or democracy “hung in the balance.” And many of those–like Stanislav Petrov, who refused to start a nuclear war–are simply catastrophes that we never knew about, averted by unsung heroes just doing their job.
June 6, 1944, however, was truly one of those fateful moments.
If you take a globe and a black magic marker and color in all the countries of the world that had been conquered by the fascist regimes of the Axis Powers, there’d be a hell of a lot of black on this planet. The Allies had begun to reverse the tide, taking back Italy and getting into Rome on June 4, but to truly liberate Europe, they knew they would have to open up another front. They couldn’t take Germany by just marching up the Appenine Peninsula. On June 6, 1944, the forces of 12 countries–led by the United States, Great Britain and Canada–launched a massive assault on the French coastline in order to gain a foothold in Western Europe.
I can’t even imagine what it must have been like to have been sitting on one of those Higgins boats, knowing that when the ramp came down, I’d have to get out, wade (or swim) to the beach, cross the beach and attack up the dunes and cliffs of Normandy through the most extensive defenses ever set up in history–all while being shot at from every angle. 10,000 of them were wounded. 4,000 of them did not see another day.
Every one of the men who did that deserves more respect and admiration than we can ever give them.
The following is from The National D-Day Memorial site.
The United States
On D-Day the US First Army comprising two corps (five divisions with auxiliary units and services – about 73,000 troops) landed on and around Omaha Beach, Utah Beach, and the Cotentin Peninsula. The US provided 16.5 percent of the Allied warships in Operation Neptune and hundreds of landing vessels. Two US air forces – 6,080 tactical and strategic aircraft – served in the Allied Expeditionary Air Force. General Dwight D. Eisenhower led the Allied Expeditionary Force as its Supreme Commander.
Most of the 1,100 officers and men of the Royal Australian Volunteer Naval Reserve taking part in Operation Neptune on D-Day served aboard British ships or as commanders of several landing flotillas and motor torpedo boats. Approximately 11,000 Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) officers and men served with Royal Air Force (RAF) or RAAF squadrons for every phase of D-Day. Australia also provided 15 percent of the 1136 aircraft committed by Bomber Command on D-Day.
The Belgian Section of the RAF received official recognition as Belgian Forces on June 4, 1942. On D-Day Belgium’s 350th Squadron participated in the aerial defense of Gold and Sword Beaches. Before the amphibious landing got underway, Belgium’s 349th Squadron provided covering fire for the US 82nd Airborne Division’s drop at Sainte-M