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Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, June 6th, 2019

Today is the seventy-fifth anniversary of D‑Day — the day of the Normandy landings

Sev­en­ty-five years ago today, thou­sands of Amer­i­can troops rushed ashore onto the beach­es of Nor­mandy along with com­rades from the Unit­ed King­dom, Cana­da, France, Aus­tralia, Nor­way, Poland, and Czecho­slo­va­kia on a mis­sion to lib­er­ate Europe from the grip of fas­cism and Adolf Hitler’s tyran­ny.

U.S. troops landing at Normandy

Unit­ed States assault troops in an LCVP land­ing craft approach Oma­ha Beach, 6 June 1944. Note hel­met net­ting; faint “No Smok­ing” sign on the LCVP’s ramp; and M1903 rifles and M1 car­bines car­ried by some of these men. This pho­to­graph was tak­en from the same LCVP as Pho­to # SC 189986. Orig­i­nal Source: Pho­to­graph from the Army Sig­nal Corps Col­lec­tion in the U.S. Nation­al Archives.

It was and remains the largest amphibi­ous attack in the his­to­ry of the world.

The Allies knew that if the attack failed, it could sig­nif­i­cant­ly pro­long World War II, so they pulled out all the stops to max­i­mize the chances of suc­cess.

They sought to deceive the Nazis into think­ing that there would be an attack on Nor­way and that Calais would be where the Allies would attempt to break into France, not Nor­mandy. They coor­di­nat­ed with the French Resis­tance to sab­o­tage rail lines, elec­tri­cal facil­i­ties, and tele­phone and teleprint­er cables. And they planned and exe­cut­ed a mas­sive aer­i­al bom­bard­ment ahead of the land­ings.

Para­troop­ers were dropped begin­ning short­ly after mid­night, which is also when the night aer­i­al bom­bard­ment effort began. Some advance forces arrived by glid­er, and were in fact the first to touch down in France that night.

The largest naval fleet ever seen was assem­bled to fer­ry troops across the Eng­lish Chan­nel and pro­vide pro­tec­tion from ene­my forces.

6,939 dif­fer­ent ves­sels par­tic­i­pat­ed in the oper­a­tion: 1,213 war­ships, 4,126 land­ing craft of assort­ed types, 736 ancil­lary craft, and 864 mer­chant ves­sels.

Eight dif­fer­ent navies were rep­re­sent­ed in the fleet.

The Unit­ed States pro­vid­ed three bat­tle­ships, which engaged in bom­bard­ing coastal tar­gets begin­ning just before first light on June 6th, 1944.

The Allies came ashore at five dif­fer­ent beach­heads start­ing at 6:30 AM (0630). They were code­named Utah, Oma­ha, Sword, Juno, and Gold.

Map of the Normandy landings, June 6th, 1944

This map shows the five beach zones where Allied forces came ashore on June 6th, 1944 (Graph­ic repro­duced under a Cre­ative Com­mons license from Wiki­me­dia)

Amer­i­can forces were respon­si­ble for the Utah and Oma­ha zones; forces from Britain, Cana­da, and oth­er Allied nations were respon­si­ble for Sword, Juno, and Gold. Free French Forces com­mand­ed by Philippe Kief­fer land­ed at Sword.

The going was par­tic­u­lar­ly tough at Oma­ha Beach because Nazi for­ti­fi­ca­tions had not been impaired by the aer­i­al bom­bard­ment as planned.

Nev­er­the­less, the Allies came ashore, and were able to secure addi­tion­al ter­ri­to­ry as the days went on. None of the major objec­tives for the first day (cap­ture of Carentan, St. Lô, Caen, and Bayeux) were achieved, but in time, they would be. The Allies’ plan to deceive the Nazis worked, and Allied air suprema­cy pre­vent­ed the Nazis from find­ing out about and act­ing to repel the inva­sion until it was too late.

Con­firmed Allied casu­al­ties on D‑Day were 4,414; actu­al casu­al­ties were over 10,000. The oppo­si­tion is esti­mat­ed to have lost between 4,000 and 9,000.

If you’re not inter­est­ed in lis­ten­ing to the remem­brance speech­es that were offered today by cur­rent office­hold­ers like Don­ald Trump and There­sa May (and that lack of inter­est is cer­tain­ly under­stand­able), then you might want to instead read or lis­ten to the prayer Pres­i­dent Franklin Delano Roo­sevelt offered on that day.

Here’s the audio:

And here’s the text:

My fel­low Amer­i­cans: Last night, when I spoke with you about the fall of Rome, I knew at that moment that troops of the Unit­ed States and our allies were cross­ing the Chan­nel in anoth­er and greater oper­a­tion. It has come to pass with suc­cess thus far.

And so, in this poignant hour, I ask you to join with me in prayer:

Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeav­or, a strug­gle to pre­serve our Repub­lic, our reli­gion, and our civ­i­liza­tion, and to set free a suf­fer­ing human­i­ty.

Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stout­ness to their hearts, stead­fast­ness in their faith.

They will need Thy bless­ings. Their road will be long and hard. For the ene­my is strong. He may hurl back our forces.

Suc­cess may not come with rush­ing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the right­eous­ness of our cause, our sons will tri­umph.

They will be sore tried, by night and by day, with­out rest-until the vic­to­ry is won. The dark­ness will be rent by noise and flame. Men’s souls will be shak­en with the vio­lences of war.

For these men are late­ly drawn from the ways of peace.

They fight not for the lust of con­quest. They fight to end con­quest.

They fight to lib­er­ate.

They fight to let jus­tice arise, and tol­er­ance and good will among all Thy peo­ple. They yearn but for the end of bat­tle, for their return to the haven of home. Some will nev­er return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy hero­ic ser­vants, into Thy king­dom.

And for us at home — fathers, moth­ers, chil­dren, wives, sis­ters, and broth­ers of brave men over­seas — whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them–help us, Almighty God, to reded­i­cate our­selves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sac­ri­fice.

Many peo­ple have urged that I call the Nation into a sin­gle day of spe­cial prayer. But because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our peo­ple devote them­selves in a con­tin­u­ance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invok­ing Thy help to our efforts.

Give us strength, too — strength in our dai­ly tasks, to redou­ble the con­tri­bu­tions we make in the phys­i­cal and the mate­r­i­al sup­port of our armed forces.

And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long tra­vail, to bear sor­rows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons where­so­ev­er they may be.

And, O Lord, give us Faith. Give us Faith in Thee; Faith in our sons; Faith in each oth­er; Faith in our unit­ed cru­sade.

Let not the keen­ness of our spir­it ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of tem­po­rary events, of tem­po­ral mat­ters of but fleet­ing moment let not these deter us in our uncon­quer­able pur­pose.

With Thy bless­ing, we shall pre­vail over the unholy forces of our ene­my. Help us to con­quer the apos­tles of greed and racial arro­gan­cies. Lead us to the sav­ing of our coun­try, and with our sis­ter Nations into a world uni­ty that will spell a sure peace a peace invul­ner­a­ble to the schem­ings of unwor­thy men.

And a peace that will let all of men live in free­dom, reap­ing the just rewards of their hon­est toil.

Thy will be done, Almighty God.

Amen.

Sev­en­ty-five years lat­er, we pause to remem­ber all who were involved in the Nor­mandy land­ings. The suc­cess of the oper­a­tion set the stage for the end of Hitler’s Third Reich and the lib­er­a­tion of occu­pied Europe, includ­ing France. Men rushed ashore onto those beach­es not know­ing if they would live or die on a mis­sion of the utmost impor­tance. Many sur­vived, but many did not.

We remem­ber the fall­en and we salute their sac­ri­fice.

They died so we could be free, and we thank them.

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