Every year during the first week of June, some Americans age 80 and older really remember D-Day, the 6th of June, 1944, the greatest successful amphibious invasion in the history of mankind, because they lived it. This year marks the 75th anniversary of that event.
On that momentous date (“The Longest Day,” termed by German Field Marshal Edwin Rommel), 7,000 ships of all kinds and more than 11,000 aircraft carried nearly 2 million Allied soldiers from England across the channel to the Normandy beaches of France. Of the 156,000 Allied soldiers who landed on those beaches — Omaha, Utah, Gold, Sword, Juno — 10,000 becoming causalities, with more than 4,000 confirmed dead. Almost 2,400 of those were U.S. soldiers on “Bloody Omaha.”
But at day’s end, the beachheads were secure: the Allied troops had punctured this Nazi vaunted wall of defense. In just 11 months, total victory was achieved in Europe.
Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower told his troops embarking for Normandy, “The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. … And let us all beseech the blessings of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.”
British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery told his troops, “Let us pray that the Lord, mighty in battle, will give us victory!”
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt asked all Americans to pray daily for our troops. Back then 98 percent of Americans believed in God; not like today — only about 75 percent do.
Anyone younger than 80 might have read about this date in a high school American history textbook, if it was mentioned at all. Most of these textbooks allow up to six pages to cover six years of World War II. They really need a whole chapter to describe how 60 million people in 15 nations died in those six years, in the cause of freedom over tyranny. At stake were all the hard-won freedoms of Western civilization.
Even still, most Americans don’t remember another major event in World War II, 77 years ago on June 2-4, 1942: The Battle of Midway, a most decisive Naval battle in the Pacific Theater. Greatly outnumbered by the massive Imperial Japanese Navy fleet, which planned to air attack and then invade Midway Island to establish a base in order to strike the Hawaii Islands again, the U.S. Navy Fleet Air arm off three carriers sank four Japanese carriers and one cruiser (we lost the carrier Yorktown and one destroyer). This victorious battle stopped cold the Japanese Pacific eastward expansion and pushed it back 3,000 miles. The Japanese Navy air arm never materially recovered. It was indeed, the turning point in the Pacific War.
The leadership and war-fighting skills of the U.S. Navy men never were greater than during this mighty battle. Upon its conclusion, English Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill sent this cable to the U.S. Navy: “The annals of war at sea present no more intense, heart-shaking shock than this battle in which the qualities of the U.S. Navy and Air Force, and the American race shown forth in splender. The bravery and self-devotion of American airmen and sailors, and the nerves and skill of their leaders were the foundation of all!”
Lest we forget!
Lest we ever forget!