On This Date in 1944: The Invasion of Normandy Begins

Sixty-Eight years ago today, 156,000 Allied soldiers landed on the beaches in Normandy, France to begin liberating Europe from Hitler’s grip. And as I reflect on that day — the stories my grandfathers told, the images I’ve seen, the firearms I’ve handled, my own experiences walking down those beaches — there are some words that spring to mind without fail that sum up the day for me. And I wanted to share those words with you…

Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force!

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. 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 peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.
Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely.

But this is the year 1944! Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of 1940-1941. The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats, in open battle, man-to-man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men. The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to Victory! I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full Victory!

Good Luck! And let us beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.

Signed….Dwight D. Eisenhower

comments

  1. avatar Tommy Knocker says:

    While a substantial act, D-Day was not the end of it. My dad came in on D-Day +3 and the battle line was less than a mile from the water. The Germans weren’t pushed back so easily. It would be a long hard slog for next month or so to get things really going inland. Here is a link to some info on those first days…

    http://www.worldwar2history.info/Normandy/France.html

  2. avatar John E> says:

    My day was there from Day 1 till he was captured during the Battle of the Bulge. I took him to see Saving Private Ryan when he was 78. Not knowing how he would react when watching the invasion scene, he stated afterword the only thing missing was the smell.

  3. avatar John E> says:

    My dad was there from Day 1 till he was captured during the Battle of the Bulge. I took him to see Saving Private Ryan when he was 78. Not knowing how he would react when watching the invasion scene, he stated afterword the only thing missing was the smell.

  4. avatar bontai Joe says:

    It is still the largest invasion from water ever accomplished. And I don’t think that we could duplicate it today, even if we had to. Not enough ships, planes or men in the military. I’m not saying that our modern weapons couldn’t do it better in a different way, just that the shear size of the operation on D-Day is amazing and mind boggling at the same time.

  5. avatar Aharon says:

    “The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans…”

    Interesting. I seldom come across references to the UN in speeches or other historical readings and documentaries for that era.

    1. avatar Michael B. says:

      I could be wrong about this, but I don’t believe he was referring to an organization that didn’t exist at the time of his writing that. After all, the UN as we know it was founded in 1945. I think there is a possibility that whomever typed this up incorrectly assumed he was referencing the organization and capitalized those two words accordingly.

      Is it possible he just used that term instead of “allied nations”, “allies”, or something similar?

      1. avatar CarlosT says:

        You’re correct. I think the idea of the United Nations was around on some people’s heads, but the body itself wasn’t formed until after the war. I think it’s pretty clear he meant the nations that were united in the task of fighting the Axis Powers.

        1. avatar Hawke says:

          “The name “United Nations”, coined by United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt was first used in the Declaration by United Nations of 1 January 1942, during the Second World War, when representatives of 26 nations pledged their Governments to continue fighting together against the Axis Powers. ”

          http://www.un.org/en/aboutun/history/

  6. avatar DerryM says:

    D-Day was one of the monumental events in all history and we will probably never see its like again.
    At the end of WWII, my Dad was in the Philippines waiting to invade Japan. As kids he told us he would have been in the second wave where they expected more than 80% casualties. He expected to die.
    As an adult, I finally realized that my brother and I are, in a very real sense, children of the Atomic Bomb. Quite a sobering realization.
    Every time I watch “Saving Private Ryan” or “The Longest Day” I give thanks for our Parents who truly are “The Greatest Generation”. We may never see their like again, either. Not to detract in the slightest from all those who have given their full measure in the years since.

    1. avatar Ralph says:

      My Dad had been sent from Germany to prepare for the invasion of Japan. He was in Okinawa when the bombs fell. Were it not for the Manhattan Project, I might never have been born. Which is reason enough for some people to be hating on the Manhattan Project. 🙂

    2. avatar Utah Rob says:

      Well put. The morality of the decision to use the atomic bombs must judged not by the number of lives they destroyed, but by the number of lives they saved- Allied and Japanese, combatants and civilians- in bringing a brutal war to a quick end. America would go on to commit vast resources to rebuilding its former enemies, helping transform Japan and Germany from their postwar devastation into economically strong, peaceful democracies. It was our finest hour.

      1. avatar Chris Dumm says:

        Human history has never witnessed anything resembling the character or scale of American altruism after World War II. When revisionists and America-haters challenge me to ‘Name one good thing the U.S. has ever done in the world!” I reply with three words. “The Marshall Plan.”

        They stammer for a minute, and then the more Marxist among them sometimes throw back “But that wasn’t generous! It would never have happened if the U.S. wasn’t so paranoid of Communism!”

        I give them four more words in reply. “MacArthur’s reconstruction of Japan.” They stammer for another minute, and then even the most hashish-addled Marxists usually decide to win the argument by changing the subject to something like unemployment, or student loans, or maybe the war on drugs.

        General George Marshall once commanded the Vancouver Army Barracks, just a mile down the street from my office. I drive past his former home, now called the Marshall House, each morning on my way to work. His wisdom in lifting up a vanquished foe ultimately proved as important for American security, and American goodness, as the terrible war that defeated them in the first place.

        Our ‘finest hour’ lasted many years after V-E and V-J Days, years in which a German or Japanese schoolchild’s only small luxuries in a ravaged nation (a pack of bubble gum, a chocolate bar, a dose of vaccine) were gifts from the American people.

        1. avatar CarlosT says:

          Yes, those were undeniably the high points of American foreign policy, and yes both were largely driven by self-interest, but it was an enlightened self-interest of such refinement that was never really been seen before or since. The architects of that enlightened self-interest understood that the coming age required partners, not supplicants, so instead of taking the pound of flesh that was normally the victor’s due after a war, they instead worked to build up their former foes.

          They also worked to establish international law as a new norm for settling disputes between nations. They could have dragged the captured Nazi leaders into an alley and shot them and no one would have batted an eye, but they instead insisted on fully public trials with legal representation, insisting that the rule of law was paramount.

          Much of that is lost now. We’re much a smaller-spirited, much more frightened people than they were.

        2. avatar TTACer says:

          MacAthur let the Japanese off the hook for war crimes comparable in scale and horror to those of the Germans. It is hard to see that as wholly a good thing, and we may still live to regret that they have never had a real reckoning with their history.

  7. avatar Ralph says:

    For a guy who never held a field command, Ike had a unique connection with his troops. They liked him, respected him, followed him and voted overwhelmingly for him when he ran for office.

    I grew up in the 50s, when Ike was President. He wasn’t the most articulate man who ever lived — he was no Churchill when it came to making speeches — but he was a tremendous leader and no glory hound. Anyone who critically reviews his career must conclude that Ike was a great soldier, a great President and a great man.

    1. avatar Dex says:

      Ike Eisenhower warned us, before he left office, about the threats to our country we would face in the future.

      can you imagine a military commander or president now warning us against the military industrial complex? I cannot.

      1. avatar CarlosT says:

        Considering they’re wholly-owned subsidiaries of the military industrial complex, it’s pretty much inconceivable.

  8. avatar InternationalJeff says:

    And the US Liberty was deliberately attacked on this date in history, too. Just saying…

    1. avatar soccerdad says:

      Nope. June 8th, 1967

  9. avatar Charlie says:

    It’s a shame that American forces didn’t just plow through the Germans and into the Soviets. In a war to ostensibly “end tyranny” the Western powers had no problem with Bolsheviks enslaving half of Europe.

    1. avatar CarlosT says:

      Much, much, much easier said than done. Extending an already long war, maybe for years, and betraying a current ally while leaving no resources to rebuild Western Europe or Japan is just a bad plan. Plus suddenly declaring a new opponent and a new war would have felt like a bait and switch to the American people, who believed justifiably that the war in Europe was over and that the troops would be coming home soon, safe and sound.

      1. avatar Charlie says:

        Of course it would have been difficult. Then again so was waging a 50 year Cold War that threatened the entire species. During the Berlin Blockade, Stalin wasn’t very strong. Couple that with our nuclear monopoly and presto….free Europe. How could he resist? Sure it’s easy to be an armchair general now and I’ll admit to it. But I believe we as a people didn’t do enough for Eastern Europeans.

        1. avatar CarlosT says:

          How can he resist? By forcing us to take back every inch and by calling our bluff on the nuclear strikes. Would we really fight pitched battles to push the Russians out of Poland, Ukraine, the Balkans, after we already fought all the way across Western Europe? Were we really going to use nuclear bombs on continental Europe?

          Also remember that Truman had been president for all of 24 days when victory in Europe was achieved, so for him to turn around and declare war on Stalin is simply unrealistic. And after Japan declared their surrender, the American people were done with the war. Truman was glad to take the wins and move on to building the peace.

    2. avatar Ralph says:

      Hey, Charlie, unless we were ready to nuke Europe, I’m not sure we would have won a war with Russia.

      Ike had a great prespective on this. Many of his commanders wanted to race the Russians to Berlin, but Ike let the Russians handle it on their own. As a result, the Russians took 300,000 casualties, thumped their chests but a few months later had to give 3/4 of the city back to the US, Britain and France.

      You can say that Ike conquered 3/4 of Berlin without losing a man. Outstanding.

      1. avatar Mark N. says:

        My father was in Alaska just after thewar ended, testing our equipment (tanks, artillery, sleeping bags, aircraft, you name it) to see how well it would perform in a winter campaign against Russia, should such a conflagration occur. (Had Hitler done so, the war may have gone quite differently.) The ultimate conclusion was that our equipment would not work. Tanks could not be shut down without their engines freezing up in a matter of minutes, and if you left them running in the field, the fog cloud they created left them easy prey for aircraft attack. Artillery tubes would shrink in the cold, and more than one exploded when a shell did not make it out the other end. Supplying troops in the field was difficult if not impossible. No, going to war with Russia, a massive army that had just defeated through sheer force of numbers the most sophisticated army Europe had ever seen, was not such agood idea.

  10. avatar LTC F says:

    In 1994, for the 50th Anniversary, I had the honor of jumping into Normandy with D-Day Veterans of the 82d and 101st Airborne Divisions. The youngest of them were in their late 60’s, most of them hadn’t jumped since the end of the war, but they wanted to jump in one last time.

    What an incredible group of men. Whenever I get tempted to complain about the number of trips I’ve made to the sandbox I reflect on those guys, some of the 82d veterans fought from North Africa all the way to Germany. They were an incredible generation, it’s sad that there are so few left.

    1. avatar Ralph says:

      In their 60s and still ready to jump? Man, those guys are still made of stern stuff.

      My father and uncle never talked much about the War. They didn’t run away from it, but they didn’t talk about it, either. The last of the veterans only started opening up about the War in the last couple of decades, determined to leave an oral history.

      Funny, though, that my old man liked war movies, and his favorite TV show was “Combat.”

      1. avatar Sanchanim says:

        I guess it was a sense of serving with humility. I know when the living heritage museum roles around with the B-17 and B-24 we always go. These guys will sit around under the wing and talk. Not like they are boasting but more just meeting each other. I remember there were two guys waring the same bomb wing number. They asked where they were, same base, well imagine that. Then one asked what building did you bunk in? Next building over, well imagine that.. Then one asked, what rack you were in, same rack number. Turns out these two slept with only a wall between them and never met until 2008. I don’t think there was a dry eye on the tarmac that day.

  11. avatar Sanchanim says:

    So many people served, and lost their lives. My dad wasn’t in until much later, but he has or had friends who where there from Day 1. We should never forget their sacrifices. I see my parents at their retirement community and the war veterans sit around and tell their stories. My kids love it, and are transfixed. then again so am I.
    They have my respect and prayers…

  12. avatar Greg in Allston says:

    Eisenhower had drafted a speech if the D-Day invasion hadn’t gone the Allies way.

    It went like this; ““Our landings have failed and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based on the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that bravery could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.”

    How many of our current leaders would have held themselves up to such a high standard?

    1. avatar Sanchanim says:

      I will put my money on none!
      Ok I can think of a couple not POTUS, but a rare few..
      Ted Cruz comes to mind.

  13. avatar Gyufygy says:

    My grandfather did not fight in the war as he had been recruited to work on the Manhattan Project, which caused him no small amount of public embarrassment as he was a late 20s/early 30s, fit (swam daily until he died in his 80s) college graduate seemingly putzing around the home front without being able to say what he was actually doing to help the war effort

    He did have a rather entertaining story of a train ride to work in New Mexico (I think, been over 10 years since I heard the story from him). A couple near him on the train was talking back and forth about how one of them had heard about a secret project somewhere in the desert wilderness they were traveling through. The train suddenly slowed while they were talking and came to a stop at a lone ramp in the middle of the night with a jeep and a single private being the only signs of civilization in sight. My grandfather stood up, looked over at the befuddled couple, tipped his hat, and walked off the train to the jeep waiting for him in the middle of the desert in the dead of night. Again, been a few years since I heard it last, so the details may be off a bit, but he loved to tell that story. Unless it was Richard Feynmann who did that… My grandfather loved telling stories about him, too.

    Of course, my other grandfather was busy trying not to get shot by a bunch of frozen Germans occupying his native Norway, so interesting stories on both sides of the family.

    Not directly related to D-Day, but somewhat entertaining WWII stories nonetheless, I hope.

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