It was 70 years ago to the day that, under the leadership of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and American President Dwight Eisenhower, one of the largest air, land and seaborne invasions of all time began. The fight to liberate Europe from the oppression of Nazis. Operation Overlord. D-Day.
One of the very first phases of Operation Overlord was the largest and most infamous seaborne invasions of all time, otherwise known as Operation Neptune. Over 156,000 severely disadvantaged allied troops descended on the beaches of Normandy, France, facing certain death in their attempts to cross the obstacle strewn sandy stretch of land with over 50,350 Nazi troops trying to hold them back.
Indeed on Omaha Beach alone over 80% of the first wave of the troops landed there were slaughtered before they made if off of the beach.
Overlord saw the participation of over 2,000,000 allied troops and over 1,000,000 enemy troops by the time the operation was complete over a month-and-a-half later on August 25th. Of those 3,000,000+ men, there were over 750,000 casualties. Additionally there were over 38,000 civilians killed during the course of the operation.
The sheer number of troops involved and killed is mindbogglingly unfathomable.
There was right and wrong on both sides, and the Nazi soldiers fought bravely and gallantly. While tarred with the same brush as being evil and cruel, the vast majority were just doing their job and wholeheartedly believing they were doing it for the greater good.
However the allied troops’ efforts secured the liberation of Europe, and ultimately the downfall of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and the subsequent victory in the west. And for this the world is eternally grateful.
I’ll leave you with a transcript of the letter sent out by American President and Commander In Chief Dwight Eisenhower to many troops on the very eve of Operation Overlord’s commencement:
Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force! 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. 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 and devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full Victory!
Good luck! And let us beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.
SIGNED: Dwight D. Eisenhower