65 years ago today 160,000 American, British, Canadian and Free French troops landed on the beaches of Normandy, France. It was the single largest amphibious assault ever undertaken. It was a Day of Days:
General Eisenhower’s letter to the troops sums up the importance of the Normandy invasion better than I can:
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 I944 ! Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of I940-4I. 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 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 beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.
Signed….Dwight D. Eisenhower
On related note while the focus is understandably on the D-Day commemorations lets also take a moment to remember the Battle of Midway.
The Battle of Midway was fought near the Central Pacific island of Midway between June 4-7, 1942. It is considered the decisive battle of the war in the Pacific. Before Midway the Japanese were on the offensive, capturing territory throughout Asia and the Pacific. After the battle they’re were on defensive.
The Japanese planned to capture Midway to use as an advance base for an invasion of the Hawaiian islands in 1943, they also planned to use the Midway attack to draw the U.S. Pacific Fleet into decisive battle that would have crippled American naval power in the Pacific.
Because of successes in intercepting and breaking Japanese radio codes, the U.S. Pacific Fleet was able surprise the Japanese forces and sink the four Japanese carriers that had attacked Pearl Harbor only six months earlier., The U.S. Pacific Fleet lost one aircraft carrier during the battle.
Winston Churchill said of the Battle of Midway, “this memorable American victory was of cardinal importance, not only to the United States but to the whole Allied cause… At one stroke, the dominant position of Japan in the Pacific was reversed.”
It’s very likely that without the American victory at Midway the war would have taken far different course.