On June 6, 1944, 156,000 young men embarked upon an invasion that forever changed the world. More than 9,000 of them sacrificed life and limb to secure a foothold for freedom in Europe. Today, 75 years later, we strive to remember the service and sacrifice of those who stormed the beaches of Normandy and pray our Nation never again sees a day so bloody.
The D-Day invasion of Normandy was indeed costly, but it proved a pivotal moment in the fight to liberate Europe from Nazi Germany. It took countless days, weeks, and years to plan, yet no amount of planning and organizing could change the task that lay before the Allied troops. For those arriving by sea, heavy artillery and machine gun fire met them on the beaches. For those arriving by air, anti-aircraft fire greeted their arrival to the maze of hedgerows deep behind enemy lines.
Disorganization and confusion plagued the early hours of the invasion—especially for airborne troops landing in the early morning hours. They fought hedgerow to hedgerow to regroup after scattered landings left many separated from their weapons and fellow soldiers. Hours later, thousands of brave young heroes would land at Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword beaches to face down Hitler’s feared Atlantic Wall. Yet, in the face of these seemingly insurmountable odds, the courage and perseverance of the Allied troops secured victory from what could well have been the jaws of defeat.
The unparalleled heroism of the infantrymen, paratroopers, and others involved in the Allied assault succeeded in accomplishing the most important objective of all—securing a beachhead for a full Allied invasion of Europe. These brave soldiers and airmen took on a mission preparing to sacrifice everything in defense of freedom. Their actions paint a clear picture of the duty our Armed Forces are called to uphold—and an example for all the world.
Every day the number of living veterans of World War II continues to dwindle. With their passing and the passing of time, so goes many of their personal stories of struggle and sacrifice. As we move beyond the 75th Anniversary of D-Day, it may become more difficult to fully grasp the gravity of what happened on June 6, 1944. It is my deepest hope we never forget the stories of these heroes— and that we never forget the price of freedom.