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Tag Archive: Operation Overlord

Jun 09

Do you remember D-Day? Do Generations X, Y and Z?

“Normandy is marked by the landings. It is inscribed in people’s hearts, in memories, in stone, in rebuilding, in memorial plaques, in street names, everywhere.” –the Rev. Rene-Denis Lemaigre, priest of Lisieux.

Do you remember D-Day? It happened 67 years ago this week, on June 6, 1944, to be exact. On that day the world witnessed the Allied invasion of Normandy and the beginning of the liberation of Europe and the end of World War II.

But do we remember? Some of us do or at least remember being told about it by our parents or grandparents, or we might remember studying it in school.

Some of us don’t, however.

Most baby boomers, including myself, are the children of those who lived during the World War II era, and some are their grandchildren.

It is the Generations X (born mid-60s to 1982), Y (called Echo Boomers born mid-70s and up) and Z (born approximately 1991 to the 2000s) that worry me. Do they know about D-Day? Are we doing our job in helping them remember?

Regrettably, this pivotal moment in history passed by this week with relatively little fanfare.

I find this sad.

Missouri native Gen. Omar Bradley, commander of the US 1st Army at Normandy, said after the war that he never failed to remember D-Day. “I have returned many times to honor the valiant men who died…every man who set foot on Omaha Beach was a hero.”

Still, I wonder if generations two and three times removed from “the greatest generation that ever lived” remember or even know about D-Day. Broadcast journalist Tom Brokaw coined the term, “The Greatest Generation”, in his book of the same name published in 1998, saying: “It is, I believe, the greatest generation any society has ever produced.”

And what they did to preserve freedom for generations to follow, it seems to me, should have a little more “to do” made about it.

Brokaw’s book discussed how that generation served, not for personal gain, but because they believed it was the right thing to do. These men and women came home after the war and set to work to make America the leader of the free world, a prosperous nation, and a superpower.

I wasn’t exactly sure how much I remembered myself, so I began researching D-Day. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I was “rusty” on the subject.

Here are some staggering facts and inspirational observations that I found that may astound you as well.

“What a plan,” said British Prime Minister Winston Churchill addressing the House of Commons on June 6, 1944. “This vast operation is undoubtedly the most complicated and difficult that has ever taken place.”

Indeed it was.

More than 155,000 young Allied troops from the United States, Great Britain and Canada waded through the chest-high water and climbed the cliffs to storm the beaches of Normandy, France.

Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower sent these brave men into combat in Operation Overlord with these words:

“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 people of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world. Your task will not be an easy one. …[but] the tide has turned, the free men of the world are marching together to victory.”

The beaches of Normandy were named with these code words: Juno, Gold, Omaha, Utah, and Sword.

Prior to the invasion, Allied forces practiced their roles for D-Day for months along the southern coast of England. Also, the Allies conducted a deception operation called Operation Fortitude aimed at misleading the Germans about the date and place of the actual D-Day invasion.

By August after the D-Day invasion in June, the 12th Army Group, comprised of four field armies, had swollen to more than 900,000 men and was the largest group of American soldiers to ever serve under one field commander. That commander was Gen. Omar Bradley, a native of Clark, Missouri, who graduated from Moberly High School.

D-Day numbers are staggering: 2395 aircraft, 867 gliders, and 6939 naval vessels. By June 11 (D-day plus 5 as it is called), there were 326,547 troops, 54,186 vehicles and 104,428 tons of supplies that had been landed on the beaches of Normandy.

According to the British Portsmouth Museum, there were millions more men and women in the Allied countries who were involved in the preparations for D-Day. They played thousands of different roles, both in the armed forces and as civilians.

To commemorate these heroes, what can you do to remember and to pass on their legacy?

To begin, visit the National D-Day Memorial website at d-day.org or dday-overlord.com for a wealth of historical information.

Commemorate D-Day by watching the few movies available that attempt to illustrate the intensity of the invasion of Normandy: Band of Brothers, The Big Red One, The Longest Day and Saving Private Ryan.

And most importantly, shake a hand of a veteran and say thank you to all who sacrificed their lives gladly for their neighbors and for us on that momentous Day–June 6, 1944.

Let us not forget.