D-Day: Never forget
|Visitors pay respect at the Colleville American miliatary cemetery in France. Francois Mori/AP|
It was a victory of strategy and a superior military force.
On June 6, 1944, the greatest invasion ever seen at that point landed on the Normandy shore in France as the U.S. and its allies — some 156,000 strong, supported by more than 5,000 ships and 13,000 aircraft — fought against a legion of German machine-gun nests planted in the hills above the beach.
Sheer numbers empowered the Allies to win the battle.
The invasion, “Operation Overlord,” had been meticulously planned. It called for a high degree of cooperation and secrecy among Allied commanders.
A massive deception led the Germans to think an invasion would take place elsewhere so that the German troops at Normandy were taken by surprise.
And when the military vessels arrived at the Normandy beaches on June 6, our troops surged forward courageously, knowing that many among them would not survive. They sacrificed their lives in battle in hopes of turning the tide in the world-wide conflict.
Despite its successful execution, the operation demanded a deadly price that will forever underscore the cost of war and its inhumanity.
Though there was no official count, according to some estimates, more than 4,000 U.S. troops were killed by enemy fire as they fought across the beach to reach the German enclaves. Thousands more were wounded or missing.
But the U.S. and its allies succeeded, capturing the beach and gaining a foothold in the struggle against German occupation and oppression. By late August, all of northern France was liberated and by the following spring, the Germans were defeated.
D-Day was the beginning of the end.
Many of those who fought there came home and worked hard, building families and communities. Journalist Tom Brokaw dubbed them part of “The Greatest Generation” in a book by that title, asserting that they developed values of “personal responsibility, duty, honor and faith” that contributed to their victory in war and in peace.
Many others are marked by white crosses in a Normandy garden of stone.
It’s a story that has been passed down through the years, by word of mouth, history books and classic films like 1962’s “The Longest Day” and 1998’s “Saving Private Ryan.”
But every year those who survived the actual liberation are fewer and fewer in number. One day, maybe soon, they all will be gone.
This is a story that our children and their children should know. It speaks of sacrifice and liberation. It speaks of an international force, united for the worthy cause of defeating one of the greatest evils of history.
Let us never forget D-Day.
President Reagan's Address at the Ceremony Commemorating the 40th Anniversary of the Normandy Invasion, D-day at Point-du-Hoc - 6/6/84.