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D-Day at 75: Honoring Courage

June 5, 2019
Weekly Columns

Over the course of world history, D-Day remains one of the most pivotal moments. Seventy-five years later, the world still remembers the incredible sacrifices made when Allied Forces courageously came together to confront Nazi Germany by storming the Normandy beaches on June 6, 1944. As we pause to reflect on and honor the courage displayed that day, we remember an event that led to the liberation of Europe and destruction of the worst fascist state to exist.

Prior to D-Day, a seaborne invasion across the English Channel had not been successfully completed since the 11th century. Operation Overlord, as it was formally called, was the most intricate military plan ever conceived. In one night and day, 175,000 men and 50,000 vehicles were transported across 60-100 miles of open water. The mission required 5,333 ships and watercraft and nearly 11,000 airplanes. As complex as the logistics were behind the assault, its execution proved even more difficult. There were approximately 10,000 Allied casualties in the first 24 hours—including an estimated 6,603 Americans.

Despite the meticulous planning and the amount of resources allocated to D-Day, it was by no means a guaranteed success. In fact, Supreme Commander Allied Expeditionary Force and future President Dwight D. Eisenhower prepared two messages prior to the operation’s commencement—one celebrating victory and another acknowledging defeat.

Hitler’s indecisiveness and arrogance ultimately helped the Allies claim victory. Had he listened to his generals, the outcome could’ve been much different. Ingeniously, Allied forces capitalized on German mistakes. Operation Overlord would not have succeeded without the courage of the junior officers, infantry and airborne forces who stormed the beaches and dropped behind enemy lines. They refused to complacently sit behind the seawalls and dunes or hide in the marshes. Instead, they quickly moved forward despite heavy casualties, attacking concrete pillboxes, machine gun nests, radar stations and bridges.

While Americans composed the largest portion of D-Day forces, it’s important to acknowledge that Operation Overlord would not have been possible without the help of our British, French and Canadian friends. D-Day underscores the importance of maintaining healthy relationships with our most loyal allies. Even 75 years later, we are still fervently committed to preserving and advancing democracy.

I had the great privilege of attending D-Day’s 60th anniversary ceremony in Normandy, where I met veterans who valiantly fought in the battle. To this day, it remains one of the most solemn events I have ever attended and a truly unique experience I will always remember.

Commemorating events like D-Day reminds us that freedom isn’t free. Multiple generations throughout American history have been willing to lay down their lives on the front lines, which speaks to the principles expressed in our Declaration of Independence and Constitution. May we never forget those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, so we can enjoy liberty.

As we remember and honor the courage displayed on D-Day, I hope you’ll say a prayer for the souls who were lost and the few veterans remaining. And I hope you’ll remember how lucky we are that we live in security and freedom thanks to the sacrifices made 75 years ago on the beaches at Normandy.