Wednesday, June 6, 2012
With the world already at war for two years, President Roosevelt appointed General Eisenhower as the Supreme Allied Commander in December 1943. He was given this title with simple orders: "Enter the Continent of Europe, and in conjunction with other United Nations, undertake operations aimed at the heart of Germany and the destruction of her armed forces"
After months of planning and training, at 0630hrs on June 6th, 1944 the Allied forces executed Operation Overlord. Prior to the beach landing, 24,000 Allied paratroopers, including 13,000 Americans were dropped behind enemy lines in the attempt to take key positions such as bridges and roads. The mission was to slow and eliminate the German troop movement in their attempt to suppress the beach landings and counter attack the Americans. Despite nearly half of the paratroopers being misdropped, they were successful.
A 50 mile section of the Normandy coast was divided into five sections: Beaches Juno, Gold, Omaha, Utah, and Sword; as well as Pointe du Hoc would become the site for 156,000 American, UK, Canadian, French, Polish, Norwegian, Australian and New Zealand forces attempting to break the 10,000 Germans and the Atlantic Wall. Pillboxes, machine guns, anti-tank guns, artillery and mines met the forces delivered by 6,939 naval ships. The operation was the largest amphibious invasion in world history and would have the Allies as the decided victor. With the Invasion on June 6th, Victory in Europe Day would come in eleven months, as well as the official end to World War II in fifteen months.
In total, 9,102 Americans were either killed, wounded, missing or prisoners of war during the landing and air drop operations. There is no official German total; however it is believed 4,000-9,000 were killed.
The term âD-Dayâ in military terms is a phrase indicating the day upon an event will or has occurred and is not limited to just the Normandy Landing.
At the time, several German Panzer divisions were in reserve. Earlier in the war these divisions could be activated by a general, however Hitler in his growing insecurity declared that only he can order said divisions into action. On the morning of the Invasion, these divisions sat idle due to the staff afraid to awake Hitler and inform him of the assault.
Prior to the Invasion, SAC Eisenhower wrote a success and failure statement. In the failure statement that was never read, he said âIf any blame or fault attaches to the attempt, it is mine alone.â At his funeral in 1968, President Nixon spoke these words of Eisenhower: âSome men are considered great because they lead great armies or they lead powerful nations. For eight years now, Dwight Eisenhower has neither commanded an army nor led a nation; and yet he remained through his final days the world's most admired and respected man, truly the first citizen of the world.â
In Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy, 9,387 Allied soldiers are buried in the 172 acre Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. Not to be opened until June 6th, 2044, another memorial site hosts a time capsule covered by a granite slab with a bronze plaque stating: âIn memory of General Dwight D. Eisenhower and the forces under his command. This sealed capsule containing news reports of the June 6, 1944 Normandy landings is placed here by the newsmen who were here, June 6, 1969.â
In 1988, two geologists visited Omaha Beach and collected sand samples. Upon examination, shrapnel was found. While the veterans of the war slowly leave us, there will always be a physical reminder of that day in one form or another.
STORY BY MATT LEONARD