It was discreetly referred to as Operation Overlord - the final push into Fortress Europe through the inflexible sea wall, built by the Nazi overlords, just a spare few miles from the free shores of Great Britain, where the entire United States Expeditionary Force was congregated awaiting deployment. Later it would de revered as D-Day - the "longest
day," when Allied forces grasped a toehold on the beaches of Normandy in the Nazi occupied nation of France, and Vishay France to the south of the landing zone.
It was the beginning of the end for Adolf Hitler's Third Reich. The Allied forces: United States and Great Britain, and in lesser numbers; Canada, Norway, Poland, Australia, New Zealand, Netherlands and Free France stormed the beaches of Normandy and unleashed the maelstrom of Allied might that within 11 months crushed the spine of the German Wehrmacht's western front.
The combined Allied forces stormed the Normandy beaches, divided into four sectors: Gold, Juno, Sword and Utah, with the fifth sector, Omaha Beach, just the American soldiers. It was the bloodiest fighting of the day, with the Americans suffering nearly 5,000 casualties
out of the overwhelming force of 50,000 brave soldiers that withstood the withering fire from entrenched Wehrmacht positions high above the sand and foam, stained to a scarlet hue from the blood of these bravest and best of all Americans, anywhere, that drew breath that June morning.
The fighting from as much as 30 miles deep behind the Nazi sea wall, some of it quite heavy, was left to the well-trained young men of the 82nd and the 101st Airborne Divisions, who airdropped amidst hellacious anti-aircraft fire from below in the pitch black of that near moonless eve of that infamous Longest Day.
It was a day long, exhaustive fight, whereby the Allied forces made their way ashore on the continent of Europe's mainland. It was also a day that must always be remembered for the ultimate sacrifice that so many young men so willingly gave, and by their supreme effort, preserved our freedoms that we still enjoy today. Should we ever forget their selfless sacrifice, we, as a free American people, do no longer deserve that gift of freedom that is continued by their unwavering courage that fateful day.
Supreme Allied Commander Dwight Eisenhower speaks to his airborne on June 5, 1944: Shown here with the storied 101st Airborne: Above. Even though this picture appears out of focus, I love this image. Soldiers, components of the U.S. Army's 1st Division (the "Big Red 1"), and one frightened photojournalist, embarking onto the shores of a 5 hour "Hell on Earth" at Omaha Beach: Below.
I close with this poignant message from the Supreme Allied Commander, Dwight Eisenhower, delivered as these young American soldiers braved the hell that was Omaha Beach:
"Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force! You are about to embark upon a 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.
Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle hardened, he will fight savagely.
But this is the year 1944! Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of 1940-41. The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats, in open battle, man to man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our home fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men. The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to victory!
I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory!
Good Luck! And let us all beseech the blessings of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking."
Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower
Can you imagine yourself, enjoying the tranquility of your favorite beach on a beautiful June morning, juxtaposed against the irrepressible dread that seized into a terrible, tight knot within the hard, flat stomachs of these brave young American soldiers, as they make ready to storm the Hell that was bloody Omaha Beach? These young men are our collective fathers of this great land of liberty - the United States of America - and they are our "Greatest Generation:" Above.
On June 7, 1944, the perished lives of so many fine American young men, that June day, culminated into this fissure into the great sea wall of Adolf Hitler's Fortress Europe, whereby over 250,000 men and material poured through this crack in just a mtter of days: Below.