By Pam Dudding
For many years, I have visited the D-Day Memorial in Bedford to pay honor to those who sacrificed their lives for us to continue walking in our freedom every day. This year, their event was on the same day as our Memorial Day event in Craig, therefore I was unable to attend. However, the heartfelt honor is still extended.
In the speech that took the form of a prayer from President Franklin D. Roosevelt on the evening of the dreadful Normandy invasion, he shared, “God, 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!”
Always, there are thousands in attendance at the Bedford D-Day Memorial Service.
As I would look around, I noticed that for many, words were of no value, when one watched the long line of World War II Veterans as they crossed the bridge in front of the ‘Overlord’ waterfall, to be honored with a medallion for their sacrifice and dedication, commemorating their valor, fidelity, and sacrifice during Operation Overlord.
Some walked; though slowly, they walked. Some with canes and walkers while many others were in wheelchairs. Some, of course, were unable to make the trip due to physical inabilities or PTSD.
No one seemed to complain when the hot sun came out while the veterans were walking around the court that is ladened with the likeness of that day in Normandy on June 6, 1944. During the presentations, the piercing shots into the water were silenced.
I have witnessed people standing for over an hour while many veterans were honored.
Tears flowed, hands were extended, pictures were taken, and salutes raised in respect. The quietness of the thousands created an honorable atmosphere.
Still, the common response of many of the WWII Veterans have echoed in the air, “I just did my job, I would do it again for my country” and “It’s what we do as military.”
The heartfelt comradery that extends amongst Veterans seems to pierce the souls of those around.
Hugs seem stronger, handshakes seem longer and looks between veterans are so deep that the words ‘honor’ and ‘respect’ seem to penetrate everyone’s soul.
In the military, D-Day is the day on which a combat attack or operation is to be initiated.
During World War II, the Battle of Normandy, which lasted from June 1944 to August 1944, resulted in the Allied liberation of Western Europe from Nazi Germany’s control.
Codenamed Operation Overlord, the battle began on June 6, 1944, when some 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.
History tells us that the invasion was one of the largest amphibious military assaults in history and required extensive planning.
Wikipedia shares, “After World War II began, Germany invaded and occupied northwestern France beginning in May 1940. In November 1943, Adolf Hitler (1889-1945), who was aware of the threat of an invasion along France’s northern coast, put Erwin Rommel (1891-1944) in charge of spearheading defense operations in the region, even though the Germans did not know exactly where the Allies would strike. Hitler charged Rommel with finishing the Atlantic Wall, a 2,400-mile fortification of bunkers, landmines and beach and water obstacles.”
General Dwight Eisenhower was appointed commander of Operation Overlord in January of 1944. He decided to carry out a massive deception operation intended to make the Germans think the main invasion target was Pas-de-Calais rather than Normandy.
History again tells us that in addition, they led the Germans to believe that Norway and other locations were also “potential invasion targets and that many tactics were used to carry out the deception, including fake equipment; a phantom army commanded by George Patton and supposedly based in England, across from Pas-de-Calais; double agents; and fraudulent radio transmissions.”
Though the invasion was initially scheduled for June 5, due to bad weather, it was delayed a day.
Eisenhower gave the go ahead for June 6 and told the troops, “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.”
As history shares:
- Later that day, more than 5,000 ships and landing craft carrying troops and supplies left England for the trip across the Channel to France, while more than 11,000 aircraft were mobilized to provide air cover and support for the invasion
- By dawn on June 6, thousands of paratroopers and glider troops were already on the ground behind enemy lines, securing bridges and exit roads
- The British and Canadians overcame light opposition to capture beaches codenamed Gold, Juno, and Sword, as did the Americans at Utah Beach
- U.S. forces faced heavy resistance at Omaha Beach, where there were over 2,000 American casualties. By day’s end, approximately 156,000 Allied troops had successfully stormed Normandy’s beaches
- According to some estimates, more than 4,000 Allied troops lost their lives in the D-Day invasion, with thousands more wounded or missing
In less than a week later, on June 11, the beaches were fully secured and over “326,000 troops, more than 50,000 vehicles and some 100,000 tons of equipment had landed at Normandy.”
It is shared that the Germans suffered from confusion in the ranks and the absence of celebrated commander Rommel, who was away on leave. At first, Hitler refused to release nearby divisions to join the counterattack. Reinforcements had to be called from further afield, causing delays. He also hesitated in calling for armored divisions to help in the defense. Moreover, the Germans were hampered by effective Allied air support, which took out many key bridges and forced the Germans to take long detours, as well as efficient Allied naval support, which helped protect advancing Allied troops.
One can only support our brave military men and women who sacrificed their lives and their families for our country.
Remember to give those Americans a sincere thank you and show your appreciation to our Veterans in Craig County who served, and to those families who lost their loved ones.
We live in the United States of America. May we forever stay united.
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