Saturday, June 6, 2009

D-Day; When The Tide of History Turned

General Dwight D. Eisenhower addresses paratroopers before the Normandy invasion.

As I type these words many of the world's leaders have gathered in Normandy to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the D-Day Invasion. On the stormy morning of June 6, 1944 thousands of American, British, Canadian, Free French, Polish, and other allied forces crossed the English Channel and stormed the beaches of Normandy to begin the final liberation of Western Europe from Nazi Germany.

That morning General Dwight D. Eisenhower sent the following message to the brave men who were about to storm the beaches and to be dropped behind enemy lines.

"Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force! You are about to embark upon a 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 1940-41. 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 war on the ground. Our home fronts have given us an 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 all beseech the blessings of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking."

Had this invasion failed, Eisenhower had an alternate message, one that was thankfully never delivered. Nazi Germany would have been defeated eventually even if the D-Day invasion had failed; the Soviets were pushing the Germans back through Eastern Europe. Germany couldn't possibly survive this onslaught. But Stalin's troops probably wouldn't have stopped in Germany; they could have continued on into Italy, Greece, even into Belgium, the Netherlands, or into France.

Not only did D-Day's success insure the defeat of Nazi Germany, but it probably saved Western Europe from the threat of Soviet conquest as well. D-Day's success, and the sacrifice of those who fought and who died, helped shape the face of modern Europe, and the world we live in today. This is something that must not ever be forgotten by those living today, and by future generations.

For more information, check the US ARMY's web page on D-Day, PBS"s feature onThe American Experience, and MSNBC's story on the long forgotten Operation Tiger.

If you have a chance, visit and talk to the members of that GREATEST GENERATION while they are still with us. This afternoon I'm going to do that; I'll be spending the day with my Dad.

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