June 6, 2013 marks the 69th anniversary of “Operation Overlord” – the D-Day invasion where more than 160,000 allied troops landed on a 50-mile stretch of French Coastline to fight Nazi Germany on the beaches of Normandy, France in 1944. The invasion led to the deaths of more than 9,000 allied forces, but the victory resulted in a significant turning point for Europe’s history. Today, we would like to honor the allied forces that participated in the invasion by sharing a film created by the U.S. Army in 1969. In this film, the drama and battle action of the landing at Normandy is portrayed along with the fierce combat that took place to overcome “Fortress Europe” (compliments of the National Archives).

 

42 Responses to Sixty-Nine Years Ago Today in Normandy . . .

  1. My grandfather was a WWII Vet, and he died my freshman year in college. Although I got to grow up with him around, there’s not a day that goes by when I don’t wish I had been able to listen to him more.

  2. My grandfather landed at Omaha Beach in the second wave. He was a 2Lt, barely 7 months out of the Castle Heights Military Academy (no longer exists) and this was his first action of the war. His LCM took a direct hit on the Port Quarter from a German shore battery, killing 15 of his men instantly, along with the Coast Guard drivers. They were stalled in 6 ft of water and had to abandon the vehicle and most of their engineering equipment to swim ashore. Several of the men drowned in the surf, weighed down by close to 200 lbs of combat gear and engineering equipment. Within 10 minutes of landing, all of his superiors were either dead or incapacitated and he was acting company commander. His company sustained 45% casualties that day. My grandfather was wounded by shrapnel from a German mortar, for which he was awarded a Purple Heart, but he remained with his unit through the duration of the war. In the days following the landings, he was promoted to 1Lt for his conduct in organizing the company after the CO was killed. He brought home several souvenirs from that day; a 9 mm Parabellum Luger and a Helmet he collected off of the body of a German Officer he shot and killed himself with his M1 Garand, his first kill he would say. You can still see the dried blood on the side of the helmet from the splatter when the round passed through his neck. He also brought home constant soreness and pain from the shrapnel wound to his leg, a pain that he carried with him until his death in 1995. He remained in the Army after the war and served in Korea as well. He was awarded another Purple Heart as well as a Bronze Star in that conflict. He completed 20 years of service in the early 1960’s and retired at the rank of LtCol. He talked freely about his experiences at Normandy, although from time to time he would trail off and gaze into the distance whenever he thought of his buddies that died over there. The one thing he would never talk about was what he saw when he liberated concentration camps. He would get angry if you even asked about the topic. I will forever be proud of and thankful for the honor and sacrifices that he and his generation made for our freedom.

    Every year on this day, I sit down and watch the Longest Day, which in my humble opinion is the greatest war movie ever made.

  3. In Flanders fields the poppies blow
    Between the crosses, row on row,
    That mark our place; and in the sky
    The larks, still bravely singing, fly
    Scarce heard amid the guns below.

    We are the Dead. Short days ago
    We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
    Loved and were loved, and now we lie
    In Flanders fields.

    Take up our quarrel with the foe:
    To you from failing hands we throw
    The torch; be yours to hold it high.
    If ye break faith with us who die
    We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
    In Flanders fields.

      • You are right.
        It was recently read at the funeral of a WWII/D-Day vet and in my mind has been forever associated with those men as well.

        • Before I retired, I was on the honor guard. We had the honor of presenting colors, reading off a list of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice, reciting the Gettysburg address, and reciting Flanders Field.
          Gramps was in WW-I. Never could get him to talk about it.

    • My mother is Canadian. She learned it in school shortly after WWI was over. Every Canadian born up through 1960 could probably still recite it by heart.

  4. They day when over 12,000 men died (just a drop in the bucket compared to the war as a whole) because the US was stupid enough to get involved in World War I. It’s sickening to think that every single death in World War II could have been prevented if the US had just minded its own business a couple decades earlier.

    • Indeed, our involvement in WWI was brought about my our first modern-era “I’ve got an Ivy League degree, therefore I know more than you” president, Woodrow Wilson. He sought to entangle us in all manner of affairs of the world with which we have no direct interest or benefit.

      From Washington’s farewell address, the following words warn us across the centuries of history:

      “Europe has a set of primary interests which to us have none; or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves by artificial ties in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.”

  5. My grandfather went into Normandy on D-Day +2, and fought all the way through France. He was wounded by a German shell while in the Ardennes forest, during the Battle of the Bulge, late in the night on December 24th. One hell of a Christmas present. Somehow he managed to keep his leg from being amputated, and I remember him showing me the two pieces of shrapnel that were taken out of him.

    He passed away of cancer in 2005. I remember him going to the hospital in 2003, he told the nurse that it was the first time he had been in a hospital since 1945. He never asked the government for handouts, while now there are 73 million on medicaid. Different generation for sure, and I will never lose my respect for my brave grandfather.

  6. When I served I had the honor of serving with men that had done service in ww2, Korea and Vietnam. One man I had served with started his military life in the Swedish navy and was on the Swedish warship that witnessed and reported the Bismarck sailing out for her one and only war sortie. He immigrated to the US and enlisted in the American military. All those years later and he still spoke with a tone of awe about the Bismarck.

    I hope that the American people never again turn against their military people like they did during the Viet Nam war. But i’m hopefull on that front. Iraq and Astan are not popular wars but the people of this country have turned their anger on the pols and not the soldiers, which is as it should be.

  7. Most of the brave men who invaded Fortress Europe that day are gone now. If they could see what America has become, many of them would never have gotten off their boats.

    • True. They are passing away far too quickly.
      I had the honor of Meeting Sgt. Malarky, (lives about 20 miles south of me), and Sgt. Guarnere from the 506th. (band of brothers)
      Studs. Very humble guys.

  8. Slight nitpick here. Overlord was the overall name of the operation, which lasted several weeks. D-Day was the first day of actual combat operations.

    • The actual invasion was Operation Neptune, Overlord was the entire Normandy Campaign that went out to something like D +60.

  9. All this talk about what your grandfathers did makes me feel old.
    When I talk about the Great WWII its about my father and uncles.

  10. Of my 18 uncles/inlaws that served in WW2, 11 died overseas, one of the few survivors joined the US Navy at age 17 in 1940, he served as a landing craft pilot in 3 major pacific operations one of which was Tarawa Island.

  11. When I was a young Captain in the 82d Airborne I had the opportunity to jump into Normandy for the 50th Anniversary in 1994. About 300 82d and 101st Airborne veterans from D-Day jumped in with us. The youngest were in their 60’s then the oldest in their late 70’s, just seeing them jump again was amazing, never mind having the opportunity to land on the same DZ’s they used. They truly were a group of humble men, almost all of them would say the same thing, everyone served, they were just doing their duty. They were amazed that we all (from our battalion commanders down privates) knew the history and lineage of our units back to their WWII exploits. (Normandy was actually the 82d’s 3rd combat jump, having also jumped into Sicily and Salerno.)

  12. Called mr. ‘Wild Bill’ Guarnere from the 101st.Co.E 506th to say Thank You.
    He’s 90 years old and the biggest example I have ever encountered in my life.
    Thank You for all who gave SO much!!

  13. My deepest thanks to the men who quite literally saved America. We can gripe all that we want about how things are today but the evil of Nazi Germany was infinitely worse than anything we can imagine. My dad drove a Dodge 3/4 ton ambulance across Europe as a member of the Big Red One. Dad was a gentle and quiet man and I only saw him get close to violence one time in my life. That was when he ran into a loudmouth who suggested that the Nazis didn’t really operate concentration camps. Dad said that he participated in the liberation of a small camp and could smell the place five miles away. He grabbed the idiot by the lapels and said “I was there you SOB. Where were you?” Thankfully said idiot backed down before dad put his lights out.

    Freedom carried a Garand.

    • >> My deepest thanks to the men who quite literally saved America.

      Americans who fought in Europe didn’t save America, since it was not really seriously threatened by Germany (much less Italy). It was the Pacific Front that was about stopping the enemy that was going after you.

      Americans who fought in Europe did secure the freedom and independence of several European nations, however. They have also diverted considerable German resources to the Western Front, making job somewhat easier for the USSR. If US didn’t get involved in Europe directly, it would still be over for the Nazis eventually, but it would have taken at least a year more, and the corresponding millions of Soviet casualties. And, of course, the entire continental Europe would then be red, from Poland to France.

      • int19th, that’s true as far as it goes. When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor the Germans were under no obligation to join them in the war. Their treaty said Germany was obligated in the case of the US attacking Japan first, which was not what happened. Germany was under no obligation to go to war against the US.

        But Hitler declared war against the US and the leaders of the time decided Germany was the larger threat and they concentrated most of their efforts on defeating Germany first.

        Which is as it should have been. The Japanese did not have the resources to mount a serious attack against the mainland US and were essentially looking to clear us out of the pacific and Asia area so they could be the new bbig stick on the block.

        The Germans had resources that could prove a threat to mainland America. They devoloped missiles, jet aircraft and had the western allies not pushed them they may have had an atomic bomb.

        I take nothing away from the sacrifice of the Russian people in the battle against Germany. The Russians, for a number of reasons, bore the brunt of the land fighting against the germans.

        But think if there had not been an American backed alliance in the west. If the Germans had not had to split their forces from the east they may quite well have developed atomic warheads for their missiles and missiles with longer range and better accuracy.

        Could the Russians have sustained atomic level losses and still pushed against the Germans? Thankfully we’ll never have to know.

        • Germany did indeed declare war against US, and US involvement in Europe was both justified and just, and the sacrifices involved were still worthwhile. My point was merely that it was not an existential threat, the way it was for all European players.

          It is very unlikely that Germans could have developed nukes if given a relief of a couple more years. The history of their nuclear project is basically a long string of epic fails and wrong paths taken (and then traveled far before they realized they were wrong). There’s also some evidence of internal sabotage there, as well. In short, I don’t find it likely that they would have had nukes even by 1948, by which time it would have long ceased to matter.

          I also don’t think that German involvement in the west did considerably detract from their nuclear program. It was more about forcing them to keep some of their military units in France and Italy to try to hold back the American tide, rather than sending them east to fight the Soviets. It didn’t significantly affect any resources that were relevant to developing nukes, though.

  14. I know a WW2 veteran also. Private Wilson Colwell parachuted behind enemy lines on D-Day. He survived several battles on that day, and served through the remainder of the war. He has been interviewed on TV a few times as he is one of the last surviving WW2 veterans.
    He is a wonderful man, who I greatly respect.

  15. My grandfathers didn’t participate in the D-Day landings- my grandad was in North Africa and Italy and my mom’s dad was in the Pacific theater. But I respect every man who fought, and died, so that others might be free (making Europe’s current state all the more tragic).

    I think I’ll take the old M1 Carbine out this weekend.

  16. My paternal grandfather wasn’t at D-Day, but was drafted in the Army and station in Alaska for the majority of the war, waiting for a Japanese invasion that never came after the battle in the Aleutian Islands.

    A couple of my buddies had grandfathers / great uncles that served in the famed 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Everybody who fought during WW2 was a patriot, but their patriotism was on a special level. Several didn’t come back. I can’t fathom the strength it would take to serve in the US military knowing that while you fight, your entire family is locked up in an internment camp, with guns pointed IN, rather than out.

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