This Day in History: D-Day

Seventy-five years ago today, the allies opened a second front in the war in Europe by landing a massive invasion force on the beaches of Normandy, France. The seaborne force was to link up with airborne forces which had been parachuted in, or landed in gliders, the previous night.

In what was code-named “Operation Overlord,” five beaches were chosen for the invasion, with the Americans assigned to land on beaches code-named Utah and Omaha, the British at Sword and Gold, and the Canadians at Juno. The stiffest resistance was met on Omaha beach, where the first wave was largely massacred, and the survivors forced to seek cover by wading in tides up to their shoulders. Eventually some troops landed on the edges of the zone were able to find paths off the beach and secure some of their objectives.

Historian S.L.A. Marshall felt that even as early as 1960, sixteen years after D-Day, the Omaha beach landing was being cleaned up for history, and its true brutality softened. He prepared this article based upon notes he made during the first couple of days of the invasion.

Mark Steyn provides a Canadian perspective here.

Ronald Reagan gave a noteworthy speech, The Boys of Pointe du Hoc, when he attended the 40th anniversary of D-Day, on June 6, 1984. At that time, he poignantly noted, the liberation of Europe was as yet incomplete:

“In spite of our great efforts and successes, not all that followed the end of the war was happy or planned. Some liberated countries were lost. The great sadness of this loss echoes down to our own time in the streets of Warsaw, Prague, and East Berlin. The Soviet troops that came to the center of this continent did not leave when peace came. They're still there, uninvited, unwanted, unyielding, almost forty years after the war. Because of this, allied forces still stand on this continent. Today, as forty years ago, our armies are here for only one purpose: to protect and defend democracy. The only territories we hold are memorials like this one and graveyards where our heroes rest.”

Today, few of the men who landed in France on D-Day are still alive, and those that remain are all well into their 90s. Sixty of them were present at today’s commemoration. Below is President Trump’s speech honoring the fallen, as well as those nonagenarian survivors who made the trip to France one last time: