68 years ago to the day, 12,000 aircraft, 7,000 amphibious vessels, and 160,000 allied troops crossed the English channel to invade Normandy, France. By this time in the day the beachhead had been breached and allied forces have been fighting their way up enemy lines facing heavy artillery and machine gun fire. As thousands of LVTs landed on the beach, each with a payload of 30 men, there wasn’t a question of who would get shot, but who wouldn’t get shot. And with the English Channel at their backs, ‘falling back’ wasn’t an option. Men were sitting ducks with no cover from enemy fire. They would need to advance up to the enemy position and engage in close range combat to accomplish their mission.
Nearly 4 hours prior to the naval assault, 13,000 troops parachuted into enemy territory by the cover of night to destroy Nazi heavy artillery and prevent enemy troops from providing reinforcements against the invasion on Normandy Beach. Where the naval landing used sheer size, numbers, and brute force to invade Normandy, the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions relied on a significantly smaller scale of ground warfare. The Nazis saw them coming and knew they had enemies within their territory. If the paratroopers hadn’t been shot out of the sky before landing on the ground, they needed to ditch their parachutes and quickly and stealthily find the other men of their platoon. Hundreds of men were without navigational bearing for their position. Days after the jump, men were still trying to find their platoons. Some men were even without weapons because they had lost them in the jump. And if that weren’t enough, in every way imaginable these men were surrounded. The only way to survive in this assault was to form up and try not to be seen. Or to engage in skirmish attacks to overcome enemy outposts. It was do or die.
Plans for the invasion began nearly 1.5 years earlier on January 14th, 1943 during the Casablanca Conference. Key military leaders from America, Britain, France, and Communist Russia met to strategize against the most evil regime in the 20th century; possibly in the history of the world. 477 days later the efforts and planning of 12 countries formed together into what the Supreme Commander of the Allied Armies, Dwight D. Eisenhower, would call “the Great Crusade… a great and noble undertaking.”
As I reflect on the anniversary of D-Day, many thoughts and emotions come to my heart and mind. The greatest of which is gratefulness. To say I am proud to be an American is an extreme understatement. To say I am “Privileged and humbled” is still lacking. I have done nothing to earn my place in history. And yet I have been fortunate enough to be born in a country that recognizes the inalienable rights of every human being. To think about all the men and women who have sacrificed their lives for this country and others around the world is unbelievable. It causes me to want to live a life worth living. And it makes me thank and praise Christ not only for what he’s done at the Cross but also for what he’s doing now.
If it weren’t for those thousands of troops on D-Day, the course of History could have been drastically different. Fascism could have maintained its footing in Europe. And America could still be wrestling with the Nazi Regime. Or worse yet, we could have been overcome again by despotism and submitting to the whims of the Third Reich. Fortunately, that is not the case. And I have been afforded many freedoms here in this country. All of which I would do well to look at them as privileges; lest I should take my rights for granted.
*References for this blog:
Wikipedia – Operation Overlord
Wikipedia – Normandy Landings
Wikipedia – American Airborne Landings in Normandy