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The biggest naval force ever assembled for war made its way across the rough waters of the English Channel on this date, June 6, in 1944. American and Allied forces landed on the beaches at Normandy, France, in what would become known as D-Day.

Nearly half of the 156,000 soldiers were Americans. They and the other soldiers would suffer massive casualties as they courageously faced Nazi artillery and troops who were entrenched farther up.

Nearly 1,500 American troops died in the struggle, and thousands more were wounded.

But the assault was a vital step toward the Allied victory in World War II that would come more than a year later, after many more horribly bloody battles in Europe and the Pacific.

Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower and Allied leaders scheduled the date for the D-Day invasion -- and with an undoubtedly heavy heart, Gen. Eisenhower accepted in advance the responsibility if it should fail.

But for all the horrible loss of life, it did not fail. Heroic U.S. and Allied troops battled across Europe, forcing eventual Nazi surrender on May 7, 1945.

Surrender by Imperial Japan would come later that year, signaling the end of World War II.

Today, a beautiful cemetery at Normandy is the final resting place of many U.S. soldiers who so valiantly gave their lives to defeat Nazi totalitarianism.

Now, 66 long years later, we humbly honor those who stormed the beaches at Normandy, and most especially those who made the supreme sacrifice in defense of freedom.

Were it not for their bravery, and their skill in battle, the outcome of World War II might have been tragically different.

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