They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate." - President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Happy DDAY. Never Forget. Happy, not for the consequences of that extraordinary day but for the results.
The greatest coalition gathered the greatest force ever assembled not to conquer for polity but to free for liberty.
Every year I try to bring a humble homage to the Heroes of that fateful day so long ago. Those Heroes were our grandfathers and great-grandfathers...our brothers. There are very few of our brothers left that were there, in the Norman sand, breaching the Atlantic Wall in the first trudge of victory in Europe.
It was the deathblow of humanity's greatest foe and the first labored breath of freedom's youngest champion. DDAY turned the tide for freedom and shaped the world we now enjoy.
Please take a moment to read the transcripts of the previous two years "D+" articles now published here.
D + 26, 298
The anniversary of DDay is the spiritual resonance of the greatest effort ever put forth by man.
Whew, that’s heavy. Another thing it teaches us is that years of effort go into the big days and that after the ‘grand opening’ there are still lots of long days of hard work.
DDay was essentially conceived on the day after Pearl Harbor in the sense that FDR and Churchill had a teleconference in which they determined – despite Imperial Japanese aggression – the primary focus of the Allied war effort would be to defeat Nazi Germany.
It would take another 11 months after the DDay landings to defeat the Wermacht and receive a surrender from second Fuhrer.
The idea came to life the second week of December, 1941; was executed during the first week of June, 1944 and culminated just after Cinco-de-Mayo in 1945. Flash-to-Bang: 4 1/2 years.
As this article posts, it will be the 72nd anniversary of D+2. The worst carnage of beaches was over but the hard slog had just begun. In two days, two million troops had been brought ashore in Normandy. The regular units were making contact with the far-flung paratroopers. The British had begun there encirclement of Caen, the primary city of Norman France.
99,000 air sorties were performed in support of the ground effort, destroying half the Luftwaffe in French forward airfields.
In the channel sea one of the greatest engineering efforts in history was undertaken: The deployment of the Mulberry Harbours. The Mulberries were massive precast, concrete blocks (caissons) that could be fitted, like giant LEGOs, to form harbors capable of supporting shipping traffic until a European deepwater port could be captured from the Germans.
The Mulberries used the physics of buoyancy and were tugged across the channel and then sunk in place. Yep, each Phoenix Caisson, up to 6,000 tons of concrete, was towed across the channel and sunk in place.
Mulberry B, at Gold Beach, was in operation for 10 months and facilitated the disembarkation of 2.5 million men, 500,000 vehicles and 4 million tones of supplies. Truly monumental.
Just like the events of the film Saving Private Ryan, D+2 reminds us that while we spend years preparing for the big day it is often just the beginning of the hard work to come.
D + 25,932
Saturday marked the 71st anniversary of the D-Day. (No, not USD’s homecoming)
Operation Neptune, the landings in Normandy, France. “The greatest day of the 21st century,” according to Baylor University Professor Ray Starman.
I have, for many years, greeted my friends and comrades with “Happy DDays,” upon the anniversary much like people salute “Merry Christmas.” They always think I am a little off. But I believe that if any day deserves remembrance it was June 6th 1944.
In order to breach Hitler’s Atlantic Wall and raise the flag upon the rampart of fortress Europa the Allies would be assembling the most complicated international alliance, delivered via the most numerous littoral fleet, to assault the most heavily defended coastline, with the largest amphibious force ever uniformed, supported by the most numerous air-force ever to have taken flight.
All to defeat the most dangerous enemy we have ever known.
One heckuva case of The Mondays… And, of course, like so many things, the invasion was completely dependent upon the predictions of a meteorologist.
In overall command was General Dwight D. Eisenhower, future president of the United States. 14 nations allied together, 2100 transport planes, 6000 ships and landing craft, 2 million men. The weight of the free world brought to bare. An unstoppable force arrayed against an immovable object.
Just after midnight on June 5th, set as D-Day, CinC Eisenhower was standing at the window of his English cottage, chain-smoking, chain-worrying and counting raindrops as they fell against the pane. A penciled draft of a conciliatory note lay upon his bureau. It read:
"Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that Bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone." (National Archives)
The forecast for the 5th was bleak, the operation postponed. That evening, upon hearing of a break in the weather Eisenhower gave the go ahead and distributed the following message to the troops:
“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.
“I have full confidence in your courage and 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.”
Second Lieutenant William J. McCormick, 01295577, was one such soldier. My Grandmother relates his story to me: Her uncle, a paratrooper, landed with the 101st Airborne Division in France before dawn on that momentous day.
“Red” McCormick, as his buddies called him, died defending a bridge against an armored counter-attack as the sun set on the Norman countryside. He was 22 years old, his birthday was June 6th.
In the end, it happened on a Tuesday. No one ever read the note General Eisenhower penciled while entertaining his darkest despair as history has written the victory of Operation Overlord into the books.
I say “Happy DDay,” not to celebrate the carnage of that day but to venerate the colossal undertaking and achievement of so many men and women 71 years ago. 332 of those men and women are honored at our memorial on Lake Arlington.
I never knew Red. The only two things we have in common, that I can be sure of, are some genetics and that I was, once, also a 22-year-old Second Lieutenant. From his sacrifice I gather strength in the understanding that nothing is impossible, if we can overcome Hitler’s Atlantic Wall – together we can accomplish anything we set ourselves to.
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