Friday, June 6, 2008

I Almost Forgot

[Caption: U.S. Army troops wade ashore on Omaha Beach during the landings, 6 June 1944. Image credit: Wikipedia.]

I was way too young to be a part of it, so I suppose I can be forgiven. As an e-mail today reminded me, though, this is the 64th anniversary of D-Day. On that day in 1944, over 130,000 Allied soldiers stormed the beaches of France to create a second front against Nazi Germany. Of course, in some ways the term "storm" is deceptive, since they often had to wade ashore under intense fire from German defenses, as they are in this photo. They were weighted down with so much equipment that if they stepped in a shell hole or a deep spot while they were in the ocean, they would drown.

For most of us who have heard of this battle, the enduring image is the one in this photo - men jumping out of a ship that's far from shore, to wade through water while they are being shot at and shelled, no doubt hoping that the beach would provide some safety.

In addition to being a harrowing landing for the soldiers, Operation Overlord, as the invasion was code-named, was a logistical task of immense proportions. Almost three thousand ships had to be sent to the right place at the right time, over a stretch of sea known for its bad weather and tricky tides. They had to fire on the enemy without hitting their own troops, or each other, and they had to avoid shooting at their own aircraft while defending themselves from enemy planes.

Yet they did it. On D-Day itself more than 10,000 Allied soldiers were killed, wounded, or missing, almost two-thirds of them American. In the Battle of Normandy, which included both D-Day and the subsequent battle to establish a foothold in France, more than 425,000 Allied and German military personnel are estimated to have died, been wounded, or gone missing.

It's no exaggeration to say that these people died so that both America and Europe could be free. We should remember.

1 comment:

One Fly said...

Nicely done Cujo!