Very few of these D-Day heroes are alive today.
For the boys of World War II’s invasion force waiting on ships to board landing craft, D-Day was something for which they had practiced and trained for two years.
If all went well, it would mean the liberation of France and then on to crush the Nazi military on its home soil of Germany.
Make no mistake: These green troops were pumped up to hit the beaches at Normandy. Boarding the ships, then climbing down ropes to board landing craft these brave troops were running on patriotism and adrenaline.
U. S troops along with our allies hit the beach in waves. They charged into fierce gunfire from German troops who were combat tested.
Intense fire from German artillery and machine guns cut our troops to pieces before many of them got off their transport boats or set foot on the beaches. Yet they pressed on.
These heroes fought and clawed for every inch of ground they gained. General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s surprise invasion caught the Germans by surprise. That did not mean the Germans did not fight fiercely.
Gen. Omar Bradley pushed orders down to his officers that they needed to limit artillery and machine gun fire while fighting because they had not gotten enough of the supplies on the beach.
Regardless, our soldiers and allies fought on. They eventually beat the Germans, liberated France and pushed on to Germany.
Former NBC Evening News Anchor Tom Brokaw called the men and women of the armed forces of World War II “The Greatest Generation.” The men that fought on the beaches of Normandy, pushed through the hedge rows, clashed with Panzer tanks and German SS soldiers, and fought gallantly. They took six weeks to defeat the Germans and liberate France. Another seven weeks passed before the four-year German occupation of France was over. The French were free and only months before the war would end in Europe in 1945.
Very few of these D-Day heroes are alive today. Yet, we owe them a debt of gratitude. They served with great honor and distinction. The sacrifices of all who landed on the beaches, served aboard ship, or flew the fighters and bombers are legendary in military history.
Perhaps on the 75th Anniversary of D-Day on Thursday, June 6, we can take a few minutes of our day to remember the sacrifices of the 160,000 troops who hit the beaches — and the epic battles they would win that turned the fate of the war in our favor.
- D-Day Meaning: First Coast News
- D-Day: National World War II Museum