On this day 68 years ago 73,000 American men took part in one of the biggest Military operations in US History, it was named “Operation Overlord.” It was the invasion of Normandy, France better known as D-Day.
On this day these brave young men invaded occupied France, up against German forces that were dug in and well defended. The Soldiers that landed on the beaches of Normandy had to cross an open beach with almost zero cover or concealment, all while breaching the wire and steel cross obstacles the Germans had put up. The faced an uphill battle against heavily fortified pill boxes, cement structures that had machine gun ports on them barely wide enough for the machine gunners to see out of. Not only did these brave men have to contend with the heavy machine gun fire, Germany also had tanks on the beach and had the beach covered with overlapping artillery coverage. All that was after they were brought to shore on unarmored landing craft. The deck was stacked against them to say the least.
In support of the beach landings, there was also the first and biggest airborne assault ever. And as things always do, the assault was met with problems of its own. The planes were taking heavy fire and had to deviate from their flight plans to avoid being hit, although many of them were hit. With the confusion in the air almost no units hit their planned drop zones, and individual units were scattered all over France. Through all the confusion and mistakes, the airborne units fought through. Even though the plan was considered a disaster from a planning view it was still a success, in that the airborne forces were able to cut off the beaches from resupply and support allowing the assault force to eliminate the German threat and capture the beaches.
With everything that could have gone wrong going wrong, the Soldiers showed amazing courage and determination to overcome the huge disadvantage they were at and capture their objective. But it came at a huge cost 2499 American dead, 3184 wounded, 1928 missing and 26 captured. As heavy as the casualties were it was the beginning of the end for the Germans. I know without a doubt even if the Soldiers assaulting the beach knew how bad it was going to be, and how many of them would not make it home, they would all do it again.
There are stories about young men going to the physical for entrance into the Army and being medically disqualified, and being so pissed and torn up they actually committed suicide because they could not join the Army. This was a generation of men and women who stood up for their country, they did not try to hide, their country called and they went. And if you ever talked to a WWII veteran you would know they were also very humble. They never bragged about what they did, they never used their experience to gain publicity or fame or fortune.They did what they thought was right, even though it was hard, they did it.
They were the Greatest Generation.