…”You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world. …. ” — General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander Allied Expeditionary Force.
At 1:30 am on the morning of the 6th of June, 1944 the first allied troops from the 101st Airborne under Major-General Maxwell Taylor landed on French soil to begin Operation Overlord, probably the greatest amphibious assault the world will ever see. The invasion fleet was comprising 6,939 vessels: 1,213 warships, 4,126 transport vessels (landing ships and landing craft), and 736 ancillary craft and 864 merchant vessels from eight different navies. Anyone who has an interest in WWII knows the names of the 5 beaches: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Sword and Juno. Soldiers from the U.S. , Britain, Canada and Free French Forces all participated in the landings facing a formidable array of defenses developed by Field Marshal Erwin Rommel for Festung Europa. While many of the Germans manning the defenses were not front line troops, the soldiers landing at Omaha beach faced the tough experienced German 352nd Division. The desperate fighting saw the citizen soldiers of the Allies eventually succeed after being almost thrown back at Omaha beach. Gen. Eisenhower himself understood just how precarious the invasion’s success was, carrying in his pocket throughout the day a previously prepared announcement in the event the landings failed. On this day the Allies managed to land 150,000 men under intense fire from the German defenders at the cost of 12,000 casualties. Let us honor on this day the brave men who sacrificed so much for their countries and freedom.