Last week we remembered D-Day, the 6th of June, 1944, and the invasion of Nazi occupied France. It was right and proper for us to remember the sacrifice of those who gave their lives on those bloody beaches. Belatedly, I take this opportunity to add my own thoughts about this epochal event. I was fourteen years old at that time – too young to be an active participant, but old enough to follow the unfolding drama with intense interest.
In retrospect, we should realize that a successful landing was by no means a sure thing. The beaches were fortified, and German troop reinforcements, in possibly overwhelming numbers, were not far away. Many German defenders were experienced, hardened soldiers with years of battle experience. No matter how well trained they might be, most Americans thrown into battle that day had never experienced real combat. For them it was a mind shattering revelation.
In addition to the bravery and determination of Allied troops, two things contributed much to their success. First was the overwhelming air superiority and the availability of supporting naval gunfire along the beaches. Air support was also critical in impeding the movement of German reinforcements. Second, deception was key to holding the beachhead during the critical days following the initial landing. By an elaborate disinformation campaign, the Allies had convinced the Germans that the main invasion thrust was to come further north in the Pas de Calais area. Hitler and the German High Command initially believed the Normandy landing to be a diversionary thrust, and they continued to hold many German divisions concentrated to the north, thus allowing the Allies to establish a firm foothold on the Cotentin Peninsula.
My own brother, Harold, went ashore a few days after the initial landing and was soon fully engaged in the difficult Normandy campaign. About six weeks later there was a breakout from the beachhead, and by early September Allied troops were pushing up against the German border. Seven more months of desperate fighting then would follow before the European nightmare was finally over.
We must never forget those who fought the good fight in Europe and in the Pacific. They were the defenders of our freedom, and we honor them.
And may God bless our native land.