They were ordinary men asked to do an extraordinary thing. They were farmers, factory workers, teachers, students, husbands, sons, fathers and brothers.
NAZI Germany had unleashed unspeakable horrors into the world, and for them to be stopped, the Allies needed to establish a beach head in France.
For the NAZIs to be stopped, thousands of soldiers were going to walk into hell and accept a high probability that they’d never walk back out.
The Normandy Landings rank among the boldest initiatives ever undertaken by a military force. The entire plan hinged on a basic subterfuge. The NAZIs could not know where the landings were to take place.
“ In addition, they led the Germans to believe that Norway and other locations were also potential invasion targets,” History.com reported “Many tactics were used to carry out the deception, including fake equipment; a phantom army commanded by George Patton and supposedly based in England, across from Pas-de-Calais; double agents; and fraudulent radio transmissions.”
With a strong weather report for June 6, the attack was launched.
“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,” Gen. Dwight Eisenhower told his troops.
According to the Library of Congress, at about 3 a.m. on D-Day, on the four-meter swells of the English Channel, Allied troops transferred to those landing craft, some twelve miles off the French coast. British troops headed left toward Caen, the Americans right toward Utah and Omaha beaches nearer Cherbourg, and the Canadians to Juno Beach.
For the Americans, Omaha was a near-suicide mission. First, a powerful undertow swept away lives and weapons; ten landing craft with twenty-six artillery guns and twenty-two of twenty-nine tanks were swamped. Then, they faced a maelstrom of bullets. Within ten minutes of landing every officer and sergeant of the 116th Regiment was dead or wounded.
Yet, by 10 a.m., as Americans received the first news of D-Day, 300 men had struggled through mortar fire, across the body and equipment strewn beach, and up a bluff to attack the German defenses. By nightfall, the Allies had a toehold on the continent, yet, on “Bloody Omaha” alone, 3,000 Americans lay dead.
Legendary Associated Press reporter Ernie Pyle, who would later die in the war, covered the invasion.
“All that remained on the beach was some sniping and artillery fire, and the occasional startling blast of a mine geysering brown sand into the air… That plus the bodies of soldiers lying in rows covered with blankets, the toes of their shoes sticking up in a line as though on drill. And other bodies, uncollected, still sprawling grotesquely in the sand or half hidden by the high grass beyond the beach. That plus an intense, grim determination of work-weary men to get this chaotic beach organised and get all the vital supplies and the reinforcements moving more rapidly over it from the stacked-up ships standing in droves out to sea. Now that it is over it seems to me a pure miracle that we ever took the beach at all.”
The D-Day invasion, as well as NAZI failures in the Russian winter, proved to be the final turn of the tide. With a toe-hold on the continent, the Allied forces swept across Europe
Less than a year later, May 8 1945, NAZI Germany formally surrendered.
“At the core, the American citizen soldiers knew the difference between right and wrong, and they didn’t want to live in a world in which wrong prevailed. So they fought, and won, and we, all of us, living and yet to be born, must be forever profoundly grateful,” author Stephen Ambrose said.