D-Day, also called the Battle of Normandy, was fought on June 6, 1944, between the Allied nations and German forces occupying Western Europe. To this day, 68 years later, it still remains the largest seaborne invasion in history. Almost three million troops crossed the English Channel from England to Normandy to be used as human cannon fodder in an invasion of occupied France.
The twelve nations who participated in the invasion included Australia, Canada, Belgium, France, Czechoslovakia, Greece, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, the United Kingdom, and, of course. the United States of America.
The codename for the invasion was Operation Overlord. The assault phase was known as Operation Neptune. Operation Neptune began on D-Day (June 6, 1944) and ended on June 30. Operation Overlord also began on D-Day, and ended with the crossing of the River Seine on August 19.
General Dwight D. Eisenhower faced a daunting task in the planning of such a massive invasion. He would have to move his forces 100 miles across the English Channel and storm a heavily fortified coastline. His enemy was the weapon-and-tank-superior German army commanded by the “Desert Fox” Erwin Rommel, one of the most brilliant generals of the war.
Less than 15 percent of the young men called upon to sacrifice their lives for our freedom in the invasion had ever seen combat.
A crossing of the unpredictable and dangerous English Channel had not been attempted since 1688. Once the invading forces set out, there was no turning back. The channel was soon hosting a 5,000-vessel armada that stretched as far as the eye could see, transporting both men and vehicles across the channel to the French beaches. Not to mention, the Allies also launched 4,000 smaller landing craft and more than 11,000 aircraft.
By the time the sun set on June 6, more than 9,000 Allied soldiers were dead or wounded, and more than 100,000 had made it ashore, capturing French coastal villages. Within weeks, supplies were being unloaded at Utah and Omaha beachheads at the rate of more than 20,000 tons per day. By June 11, more than 326,000 troops, 55,000 vehicles, and 105,000 tons of supplies had been landed on the beaches. By June 30, the Allies had established a firm foothold in Normandy. Allied forces crossed the River Seine on August 19.
There has never been an exact count of the sacrifices made on D-Day. Although, it is estimated that more than 425,000 Allied and German troops were killed, wounded, or went missing during the battle. 209,000 of those who lost their lives were Allied forces. In addition to almost 200,000 German troops killed or wounded, the Allies also captured 200,000 soldiers. Captured Germans were sent to American prisoner-of-war camps at the rate of 30,000 per month, from D-Day until Christmas 1944. Between 15,000 and 20,000 French civilians were killed during the battle.
Basically, the invasion of Normandy was a success, due to sheer force of numbers. By July 1944, some one million Allied troops, mostly American, British, and Canadian, were entrenched in Normandy. During the great invasion, the Allies assembled nearly three million men and stored 16 million tons of arms, munitions, and supplies in Britain.
Among the young men who stepped off those boats, in a hail of gunfire, was a fellow named Edward, whom everyone called Ned, from the small town of Helena, Arkansas. Already in his young life, Ned had been forced to drop out of school in the sixth grade, in order to work at the local movie theatre to help support his mother, brother, and sister faced with the ravages of the Great Depression.
He was a gentle man who loved to laugh and sing, having recorded several 78 rpm records in the do-it-yourself booths of the day. And now, he found himself, a Master Sergeant in an Army Engineering Unit, stepping off a boat into the unknown, watching his comrades being mercilessly gunned down around him.
Ned, along with the rest of his unit who survived the initial assault, would go on to assist in the cleaning out of the Concentration Camps, bearing witness to man’s inhumanity to man.
The horrors he saw had a profound effect on Ned. One that he would keep to himself for the remainder of his life. While his children knew that he served with an Engineering Unit in World War II, they did not know the full extent of his service, until they found his medal, honoring his participation in the Invasion of Normany, going through his belongings after he passed away on December 29, 1997.
How do I know so much about Ned? He was my Daddy. You see, my love of Christ and, of this country, comes from my Earthly father, 40 years my senior.
I was raised by members of the Greatest Generation. It is today that we pause to remember their sacrifices at home and abroad.
May this day also serve as a reminder of the sacrifices made by our Best and Brightest and their families, yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
May God bless them all and may He hold them in the hollow of His hand.