Just a Thought — 75 Years After D-Day

Posted on June 3, 2019

On June 6, 1944, and during the days that followed, men from all over the world came to fight in Normandy to defeat Nazism and re-establish freedom.  Normandy will bear the scars (the hallmarks of freedom) forever from that moment in history, and every year we remember and pay tribute to the veterans from America, Britain, Canada, Belgium, Denmark, Holland, Norway, Poland, Australia, the French resistance, and their brothers in arms – those many heroes who lost their lives during that summer of 1944.

Codenamed Operation Overlord, the battle began on June 6 as 156,000 American, British and Canadian forces landed on five beaches along a 50-mile stretch of the heavily fortified coast of France’s Normandy region. The invasion was one of the largest amphibious military assaults ever.  

Prior to D-Day, the Allies conducted a large-scale deception campaign which misled the Germans about the intended invasion target – it helped assure success.  Long before dawn on June 6, thousands of paratroopers and glider troops were already on the ground behind enemy lines, securing bridges and exit roads, and creating confusion for the enemy – actions that all helped. US Army Cavalry soldiers, at 4:45AM silently swam ashore the St. Marcoufs Islands…6000 yards off Utah Beach, armed only with knives to neutralize enemy prior to the main landings. The amphibious invasions began at 6:30AM.  British and Canadians overcame light opposition to capture beaches codenamed Gold, Juno and Sword, as did Americans at Utah Beach. US forces faced heavy resistance at Omaha Beach, and suffered over 2,000 American casualties.  Omaha Beach was represented in the opening scenes of the film “Saving Private Ryan.”  Picture that in your mind – the surf turned red with blood, brave young men – each terribly afraid, but each moving forward doing his job.

By day’s end, allied troops successfully stormed Normandy’s beaches.  The cost was high; more than 9,000 Allied soldiers were killed or wounded in that one day.  But their sacrifice allowed the allies to begin the hard slog across Europe to defeat Adolf Hitler’s forces.

By late August 1944, all of northern France had been liberated; the Battle of the Bulge was next; but, by the following spring the Allies had defeated Hitler.  D-Day was the beginning-of-the-end of the war in Europe.

A memorial to D-Day sits upon 88 acres in Bedford, VA.  The center is a tall arch embellished with the name “Overlord;” the arch is highlighted by a reflecting pool and a scene symbolic of the arduous trudge soldiers made across blood stained beaches of Normandy.  

Why Bedford?  Bedford provided a company of soldiers to the US Army’s 29th Infantry Division that landed at Omaha Beach, and more soldiers to the First Infantry Division.  19 Bedford soldiers died in the D-Day invasion; 2 more Bedford soldiers died later in the Normandy campaign; and another 2 died fighting elsewhere.  Bedford’s population in 1944 was about 3,200 people; proportionally, Bedford suffered the nation’s severest D-Day losses of any city.

On June 6th, we honor our Nation, our Allies, and all who fought for victory…that Greatest Generation to whom we owe our freedom today!  Think about it.

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