Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Fw: TheList 4472

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The List 4472


 
To All,
A lot of History today surrounding the D-Day landings. Lest we forget.
Regards,
Skip
This Day In Naval History - June 6
1944 - In Operation Overlord, Allied invasion fleet (over 2700 ships and
craft) land troops on Normandy beaches, the largest amphibious landing in
history
 
Today in History June 6
1523
Gustav Vasa becomes king of Sweden.
1641
Spain loses Portugal.
1674
Sivaji crowns himself King of India.
1813
The United States invasion of Canada is halted at Stony Creek, Ontario.
1862
The city of Memphis surrenders to the Union navy after an intense naval engagement on the Mississippi River.
1865
Confederate raider William Quantrill dies from a wound received while escaping a Union patrol near Taylorsville, Kentucky.
1918
U.S. Marines enter combat at the Battle of Belleau Wood.
1924
The German Reichstag accepts the Dawes Plan, an American plan to help Germany pay off its war debts.
1930
Frozen foods are sold commercially for the first time.
1934
President Franklin Roosevelt signs the Securities Exchange Act, establishing the Securities and Exchange Commission.
1941
The U.S. government authorizes the seizure of foreign ships in U.S. ports.
1944
D-Day: Operation Overlord lands 400,000 Allied American, British, and Canadian troops on the beaches of Normandy in German-occupied France.
1961
Swiss psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung, one of the founders of modern psychiatry, dies.
1966
African American James Meredith is shot and wounded while on a solo march in Mississippi to promote voter registration among blacks.
1982
Israel invades southern Lebanon.
1985
The body of Nazi war criminal Dr. Josef Mengele is located and exhumed near Sao Paolo, Brazil.
 
 
Lest we forget Thanks to Dutch.  This is a good overall look at the invasion.
 
D-Day, Normandy, France June 6, 1944
by Brian Williams and John Barratt

The Atlantic Wall
After the invasion and subsequent fall of France in 1940, the German army controlled the entire coast of Northern France.  Following the Allied evacuation at Dunkirk, Hitler had hoped that Britain would agree to settle the war.  But, because of British determination and Germany's inability to carry out an invasion of England, Germany was forced to maintain a defensive posture along the coast. In 1944, the German war machine was still very powerful despite the many setbacks on the Eastern Front.  What it lacked in Luftwaffe and materials, it made up for in highly experienced and trained men.  Also, its armor, heavy infantry weapons, and anti-tank capabilities were years ahead of the Americans and British.  But, the Allies controlled the air and sea and what they lacked in quality, they hoped to make up for in quantity. The German high command was actually anticipatory about the upcoming Allied invasion.  It meant that finally the British and American threat could be "dealt with" once and for all.
Read More...
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Overlord Preparations
Operation Overlord, the Allied codename for the invasion of Normandy, involved more than 150,000 men and 5,000 ships.  It consisted of American, British, Canadian, Polish, and Free French Armies under command of General Eisenhower, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force (the choice of Eisenhower was officially made by President Roosevelt in December 1943, and agreed upon by the British). The Deputy Supreme Commander of the invasion was British Air Chief Marshal Arthur W. Tedder, who had been the commander of the Allied Air Forces in the Mediterranean.  While British Admiral Bertram H. Ramsay, was appointed naval commander.  He had conducted the evacuation at Dunkirk and also planned the Torch landing in North Africa.  British Air Chief Marshal Trafford L. Leigh-Mallory was appointed as commander of the air forces. Montgomery was chosen as the ground forces' commander, despite his well-known personality problems.  Eisenhower's first choice was in fact General Harold Alexander, but Churchill needed Alexander to remain in Italy.  Montgomery arrived in Britain in January 1944 and began to evaluate the feasibility of the operation.  He proposed the expansion of the invasion area to include landings west of the Vire River - allowing for the encirclement of Cherbourg (this would later become Utah Beach).
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The Airborne Landings
The first three of these units were given the missions of securing the eastern and western flanks of the beachhead by destroying bridges and laying mines.  Their main mission was to allow for the main invasion force to come ashore without the immediate threat of German flank attacks.  They were tasked to destroy bridges where the enemy was likely to stage a counterattack, and to secure bridges where Allied forces were expected to go immediately on the offensive.The US 82nd Airborne Division's mission was to protect the far right flank of the invasion in the Cotentin peninsula.  It hoped to accomplish this by destroying bridges over the Douve River and by securing the Merderet River by occupying both sides.  It also had the mission to capture Ste. Mere-Eglise from the German garrison stationed there.  The capture of Ste. Mere-Eglise was important because it straddled the main road between Carentan and Cherbourg. The US 101st Airborne Division's mission was to secure four exits across the marshland near the coast for the invading US 4th Infantry Division at Utah beach.  These causeways needed to be secured because on each side of the exits, it was flooded several feet deep in places.  The 101st also were tasked to destroy two bridges over the Douve and to capture the La Barquette lock just north of Carentan.  The lock controlled the water height of the flooded areas and it was essential that it be captured. The British 6th Airborne Division was to land Northeast of Caen and secure the left flank of the invasion force by controlling bridges over the Orne Canal and River. The left flank of the invasion force was much more vulnerable to German armored attack since the 21st Panzer was stationed just outside of Caen and the 12th SS Panzer miles to the east. Potentially, if the Panzer Divisions were not stopped by the British 6th, they could attack Sword and the rest of the landing beaches.
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Utah
At 0300 on the morning of June 6th, fleets of Allied bombers roared overhead delivering thousands of tons of bombs onto the German coastal defenses.  These were followed at 0500 by the naval bombardment which had been planned to immediately precede the invasion itself. The battleship USS Nevada's 14-inch guns were assigned to the bombardment of the German batteries on Utah beach, while the USS Texas was to fire at Pointe-du-Hoc where the Rangers were to land as part of the Omaha landing.  On the western end of Omaha proper, the USS Arkansas pounded a battery at Les Moulins.  Several cruisers and destroyers also jumped into the bombardment with pre-determined targets and as opportunity arose.  At such close range, there was very little trajectory to the shots and many Americans who were coming in to land, could feel the vacuum of the shells passing overhead.  Needless to say, the bombardment was a very welcome sight to those troops about to land. At approximately 0620, the Nevada turned its guns to the beach and began bombarding a concrete seawall.  Immediately after the bombardment, the plan called for a rocket bombardment by LCT(R)s (Landing Craft, Tank with Rocket launcher).  This was to be followed by the 2nd Battalion, 8th Infantry, in 20 Higgins boats which carried a 30-man assault team each.
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Pointe du Hoc
Pointe du Hoc was located on the coast to the west of the Omaha beach landings and was the position of six 155mm cannons with a range of 25,000 yards.  These cannons had a commanding view of both Omaha and Utah beaches and the potential to cause much damage to the invading force.  The area had been bombed since May and then grew in intensity during the three days and nights before D-Day.  During D-Day, the USS Texas bombarded the point as did 18 medium bombers of the Ninth Air Force at H-20. The point stood on cliffs between 85 to over 100 feet high at whose base was a very small rocky beach that offered no protection.  Because the point was positioned on near impregnable cliffs, the Germans had concentrated their defenses in anticipation of a ground assault from inland.  Above were heavily fortified concrete casements interlaced with tunnels, trenches, and machine-gun positions around the perimeter.  Although the 716th Infantry Division was thinly stretched along 30 miles of the shoreline, approximately 200 German troops (125 infantry and 85 artillery men) were garrisoned in or around the point. The task fell to Lt. Col. James Earl Rudder's 2nd Ranger Battalion and called for 3 Companies (D, E, and F) of the battalion to scale the heights.  Company D was to approach the heights on the west, while E and F were to attack on the east.  The main Ranger force (5th Battalion and Companies A and B of the 2nd) were to wait off shore for signal of success and then land at the Point.
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Omaha
The US 1st Army, V Corps had the mission of securing the beachhead between Port-en-Bessin and the Vire River and to advance towards St. Lo. The Corps was to arrive in 4 stages with the 1st Division (with the 29th attached) leading the landings with about 34,000 men in the morning, followed by another 25,000 men after noon. The 1st Division was a veteran unit which had served through the campaigns of North Africa and Sicily.  While for the most part, Normandy would be the 29th Division's first experience in combat.  Two American Regimental Combat Teams (RCTs) of four rifle companies each, were tasked with the initial landing (the US 29th 116th RCT and the US 1st 16th RCT), followed by the remainder of the 1st and 29th Infantry Divisions.  Fire support included naval gunfire from the battleships, cruisers, and destroyers offshore, heavy bombing by B-24 Liberators, the 741st and 743rd DD (dual-drive amphibious) tank battalions, several battalions of engineers and naval demolition personnel, and several howitzer battalions. 
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Gold Beach
Gold Beach was the code name for the center of the landings on the Normandy coast.  The British 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division of the 2nd Army under Lieutenant General Miles Dempsey was to land at H-Hour + 1 (0730), seize Arromanches and drive inland to capture the road junction at Bayeux.  Its additional objectives were to make contact with the US forces to the west at Omaha Beach and the Canadians to their east at Juno Beach.  In addition to the 50th, the 47th Royal Marine Commandos were to land on sector Item and to attack south of Arromanches and Longues and take Port-en-Bessin from the rear. Gold Beach spanned nearly 10 miles long although the areas where landings were to occur were about 5 miles wide.  Gold was characterized mainly by the 3 sea villages of La Rivière, Le Hamel, and the small port of Arromanches to the west.  The Allied sectors were designated from west to east: How, Item, Jig, and King.  Of these four sectors, only the easternmost 3 were to actually become assault sectors. Units of the German 716th Division and elements of the veteran 1st Battalion of the 352nd Division defended the coast in the beach houses along the coast with concentrations at Le Hamel and Le Riviere.  Fortunately for the Allies, these houses proved to be vulnerable to naval and air bombardment.  In addition, an observation post and battery of four 155mm cannon was located at Longues-sur-Mer.
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Juno Beach
Of all the troops involved in the D-Day landings, the men of the Canadian Army , with raw memories of the disaster suffered by Canadian forces in 1942 at Dieppe, might have had greatest cause for apprehension. The Canadian 3rd Infantry Division, (Maj-Gen R.F.L. Keller) supported by the 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade, formed part of I Corps (Lieutenant-General J.T. Crocker), whose D-Day objective was to secure Caen and push 11 miles inland to seize Carpiquet airfield. These were ambitious aims, particularly as the presence of rocks offshore meant that the tide would not be high enough for the landings to begin until half an hour later than those elsewhere, and so probably facing an alerted enemy. The main immediate opposition would come from three, fairly low grade, battalions of the 716th Division, but of more concern was the possibility that 21st Panzer Division, believed to be south-east of Caen, might intervene quickly, possibly reinforced during the afternoon by 12th SS Panzer.
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Sword Beach
AAs well as being the furthest east of the landing beaches, "Sword" was also the smallest, only wide enough for a brigade-sized landing force. The 3rd British Division was tasked with getting enough troops ashore to push inland quickly and seize Caen, and link up with 6th Airborne Division. It would prove to be a seriously over-ambitious aim. Early on June 6th Naval Force"S", carrying the assault force and support units, moved into position off the mouth of the River Orne. It was here that the only notable German naval activity of the day occurred, when three E-boats emerged through the Allied smoke screen, fired a salvo of torpedoes, which sank the Norwegian destroyer Largs, and made off unscathed. It proved to be the only appearance of the Kriegsmarine that day, and the Allied bombardment force, including the battleships Warspite and Ramillies, proceeded to lay down the heaviest barrage of the day on the three-mile wide stretch of beach where the 8th British Brigade was to land.
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Counterattack
As Rommel had recognized, Germany's main chance of defeating the invasion lay in prompt counterattacks, particularly by her panzer forces. However, for a variety of reasons, the powerful striking force within easy reach of the invasion beaches which he had called for was not immediately available. A major problem resulted from a lack of clarity in the panzer command structure. The newly formed 47th Panzer Corps was still in process of taking over command of 21st, 116th and 2nd Panzer Divisions, whilst administrative and supply matters remained under Panzer Group West, with both responsible to Rommel's Army Group B. To complicate matters further, Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt, Commander in Chief West, was powerless to commit the strategic reserve without the authority of OKW, meaning in effect Hitler.
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The Fight for the Foothold
By nightfall on June 6th 1944-D-Day, Hitler's Atlantic Wall on the coast of Normandy had been breached. The Allies, at a cost of 9,500 casualties compared with 4-10,000 Germans, were ashore in Fortress Europe. But their position remained precarious; the beachheads had less depth than had been hoped for, and British and US forces had not yet linked up. Supplies and reinforcements were not coming ashore as rapidly as had been planned, and the initially slow and piecemeal enemy reaction could not be expected to remain so favorable. The Allies had to link up and expand their currently insecure toeholds into something more substantial as rapidly as possible. For Germany, the result of the first day of fighting had been disappointing, but was not viewed as disastrous. Partly as a result of Hitler's hesitancy, and also as a consequence of virtually complete Allied air supremacy over the approaches to the battle area, 21st and 12th SS Panzer Divisions, forming the immediate mobile reserve, had not intervened effectively on June 6th. Indeed losses from enemy air attack were so substantial that it is unlikely that their earlier release would have made any significant difference.
Rommel, absent in Bavaria during the opening hours of the battle, arrived back at Army Group B Headquarters late in the evening, and began re-organising the currently fragmented command structure.
 
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June Rites of Passage
by  W. Thomas Smith Jr.
06/07/2011
Every June, we Marines are reminded of a fateful day in 1918 wherein our reputation in the modern era was enhanced by some unbelievable shooting, a bit of tooth-to-eyeball combat, and a few Marine-friendly reporters on the Western Front in France. For on June 6 of that year, Marines attacked and destroyed Imperial German Army positions during the Battle of Belleau Wood, an old French hunting preserve near Chateau-Thierry, in a grisly close-quarters slugfest, after which the Germans – convinced the Marines were special American "shock troops" – nicknamed their foes, teufelhunden, devil dogs.
What happened that day became the stuff of legend, or rather lore since the heroics of June 6, 1918 were confirmed by several sources, not the least of which was the enemy.
At one point during the fighting, Gunnery Sgt. Dan Daly – a two-time Medal of Honor recipient – dashed out in front of his Marines and shouted to them: "Come on you sons of bitches! Do you want to live forever?!" 
A German after-action report, read: "The Marines are considered a sort of elite Corps designed to go into action outside the United States. The high percentage of marksmen, sharpshooters, and expert riflemen, as perceived among our prisoners, allows a conclusion to be drawn as to the quality of the training in rifle marksmanship that the Marines receive. The prisoners are mostly members of the better class, and they consider their membership in the Marine Corps to be something of an honor. They proudly resent any attempts to place their regiments on a par with other infantry regiments." 
Twenty-six years – to the day – later, just after 2 a.m., Army paratroopers, members of the soon-to-be famous 82nd and 101st airborne divisions, as well as British airborne forces, began jumping behind German lines in the opening hours of the great Allied invasion of Normandy, also in France.
The paratroopers were described by German propagandists as being nothing more than gangsters and cutthroats who had learned to handle a parachute. In reality, they were young men fresh off the farm – and not far removed from their high school football fields – who had volunteered for something that not even their commanders were convinced would work on a large scale. 
Following the paratroopers were waves of glider borne forces. 
Offshore, thousands of warships, freighters, and supporting vessels were crossing the English Channel and moving into position off the French coast.
In less than five hours, the first sea borne assault waves of the initial 175,000-man Allied amphibious force began storming the beaches along a 50 to 60-mile front in the Bay of Seine between Caen and the Cherbourg peninsula. Supporting the invasion force were thousands of Allied warplanes.
Like Belleau Wood for the Marines, the invasion of Normandy made famous – for the Army – the pioneering U.S. Airborne divisions, not to mention the tens-of-thousands of sea borne soldiers, including Rangers, who kicked in the door of Hitler's Fortress Europe.
June is also a special military month for us here in South Carolina. 
For on June 28, 1776, the "first decisive victory of American forces over the British Navy" was achieved by S.C. artillerists during the American Revolution. 
That day, the garrison at Fort Sullivan – today Fort Moultrie on Sullivan's Island in Charleston harbor, under the command of militia Col. William Moultrie – repulsed Royal Navy forces under the command of Admiral Sir Peter Parker.
The 12-plus hour battle began around 9 a.m. when Parker's ships opened fire on the fort: many of the British shells sinking harmlessly into the soft palmetto logs of which the fort is constructed. The ships, on the other hand, some of which run aground on the harbor's shoals were constructed of oak, which Moultrie's artillerists quickly shatter sending deadly splinters into the unfortunate British crews.
Moultrie was destined to become a major general in the Continental Army and a South Carolina governor, and afterwards, S.C. would forever be known as the "Palmetto State."
Incidentally, this author's five-times great grandfather, Capt. Thomas Woodward – commanding a company of S.C. Rangers on Moultrie's extreme left – helped thwart an attempt by Royal Marines to land on Sullivan's Island. Woodward survived the battle, but was killed a few years later while in pursuit of a band of Loyalist horsemen. According to reports, he was literally blown out of his saddle by a blast of enemy buckshot. An obelisk to Woodward can be seen from the highway between Simpson and Winnsboro, S.C.
 
 
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More D-Day thanks to Dutch
 
These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc
 
From another net -
 
We're here to mark that day in history when the Allied armies joined in battle to reclaim this continent to liberty. For 4 long years, much of Europe had been under a terrible shadow. Free nations had fallen, Jews cried out in the camps, millions cried out for liberation. Europe was enslaved, and the world prayed for its rescue. Here in Normandy the rescue began. Here the Allies stood and fought against tyranny in a giant undertaking unparalleled in human history.
 
We stand on a lonely, windswept point on the northern shore of France. The air is soft, but 40 years ago at this moment, the air was dense with smoke and the cries of men, and the air was filled with the crack of rifle fire and the roar of cannon. At dawn, on the morning of the 6th of June, 1944, 225 Rangers jumped off the British landing craft and ran to the bottom of these cliffs. Their mission was one of the most difficult and daring of the invasion: to climb these sheer and desolate cliffs and take out the enemy guns. The Allies had been told that some of the mightiest of these guns were here and they would be trained on the beaches to stop the Allied advance.
 
The Rangers looked up and saw the enemy soldiers -- the edge of the cliffs shooting down at them with machineguns and throwing grenades. And the American Rangers began to climb. They shot rope ladders over the face of these cliffs and began to pull themselves up. When one Ranger fell, another would take his place. When one rope was cut, a Ranger would grab another and begin his climb again. They climbed, shot back, and held their footing. Soon, one by one, the Rangers pulled themselves over the top, and in seizing the firm land at the top of these cliffs, they began to seize back the continent of Europe. Two hundred and twenty-five came here. After 2 days of fighting, only 90 could still bear arms.
Behind me is a memorial that symbolizes the Ranger daggers that were thrust into the top of these cliffs. And before me are the men who put them there.
 
These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc. These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. These are the heroes who helped end a war.
 
Gentlemen, I look at you and I think of the words of Stephen Spender's poem. You are men who in your ``lives fought for life . . . and left the vivid air signed with your honor.''
 
I think I know what you may be thinking right now -- thinking ``we were just part of a bigger effort; everyone was brave that day.'' Well, everyone was. Do you remember the story of Bill Millin of the 51st Highlanders? Forty years ago today, British troops were pinned down near a bridge, waiting desperately for help. Suddenly, they heard the sound of bagpipes, and some thought they were dreaming. Well, they weren't. They looked up and saw Bill Millin with his bagpipes, leading the reinforcements and ignoring the smack of the bullets into the ground around him.
 
Lord Lovat was with him -- Lord Lovat of Scotland, who calmly announced when he got to the bridge, ``Sorry I'm a few minutes late,'' as if he'd been delayed by a traffic jam, when in truth he'd just come from the bloody fighting on Sword Beach, which he and his men had just taken.
 
There was the impossible valor of the Poles who threw themselves between the enemy and the rest of Europe as the invasion took hold, and the unsurpassed courage of the Canadians who had already seen the horrors of war on this coast. They knew what awaited them there, but they would not be deterred. And once they hit Juno Beach, they never looked back.
 
All of these men were part of a rollcall of honor with names that spoke of a pride as bright as the colors they bore: the Royal Winnipeg Rifles, Poland's 24th Lancers, the Royal Scots Fusiliers, the Screaming Eagles, the Yeomen of England's armored divisions, the forces of Free France, the Coast Guard's ``Matchbox Fleet'' and you, the American Rangers.
 
Forty summers have passed since the battle that you fought here. You were young the day you took these cliffs; some of you were hardly more than boys, with the deepest joys of life before you.
 
Yet, you risked everything here. Why? Why did you do it? What impelled you to put aside the instinct for self-preservation and risk your lives to take these cliffs? What inspired all the men of the armies that met here? We look at you, and somehow we know the answer. It was faith and belief; it was loyalty and love.
 
The men of Normandy had faith that what they were doing was right, faith that they fought for all humanity, faith that a just God would grant them mercy on this beachhead or on the next. It was the deep knowledge -- and pray God we have not lost it -- that there is a profound, moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest. You were here to liberate, not to conquer, and so you and those others did not doubt your cause. And you were right not to doubt.
 
You all knew that some things are worth dying for. One's country is worth dying for, and democracy is worth dying for, because it's the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man. All of you loved liberty. All of you were willing to fight tyranny, and you knew the people of your countries were behind you.
The Americans who fought here that morning knew word of the invasion was spreading through the darkness back home. They fought -- or felt in their hearts, though they couldn't know in fact, that in Georgia they were filling the churches at 4 a.m., in Kansas they were kneeling on their porches and praying, and in Philadelphia they were ringing the Liberty Bell.
 
Something else helped the men of D-day: their rockhard belief that Providence would have a great hand in the events that would unfold here; that God was an ally in this great cause. And so, the night before the invasion, when Colonel Wolverton asked his parachute troops to kneel with him in prayer he told them: Do not bow your heads, but look up so you can see God and ask His blessing in what we're about to do. Also that night, General Matthew Ridgway on his cot, listening in the darkness for the promise God made to Joshua: ``I will not fail thee nor forsake thee.''
 
These are the things that impelled them; these are the things that shaped the unity of the Allies.
 
When the war was over, there were lives to be rebuilt and governments to be returned to the people. There were nations to be reborn. Above all, there was a new peace to be assured. These were huge and daunting tasks. But the Allies summoned strength from the faith, belief, loyalty, and love of those who fell here. They rebuilt a new Europe together.
 
There was first a great reconciliation among those who had been enemies, all of whom had suffered so greatly. The United States did its part, creating the Marshall plan to help rebuild our allies and our former enemies. The Marshall plan led to the Atlantic alliance -- a great alliance that serves to this day as our shield for freedom, for prosperity, and for peace.
 
In spite of our great efforts and successes, not all that followed the end of the war was happy or planned. Some liberated countries were lost. The great sadness of this loss echoes down to our own time in the streets of Warsaw, Prague, and East Berlin. Soviet troops that came to the center of this continent did not leave when peace came.
 
They're still there, uninvited, unwanted, unyielding, almost 40 years after the war. Because of this, allied forces still stand on this continent. Today, as 40 years ago, our armies are here for only one purpose -- to protect and defend democracy. The only territories we hold are memorials like this one and graveyards where our heroes rest.
 
We in America have learned bitter lessons from two World Wars: It is better to be here ready to protect the peace, than to take blind shelter across the sea, rushing to respond only after freedom is lost. We've learned that isolationism never was and never will be an acceptable response to tyrannical governments with an expansionist intent.
 
But we try always to be prepared for peace; prepared to deter aggression; prepared to negotiate the reduction of arms; and, yes, prepared to reach out again in the spirit of reconciliation. In truth, there is no reconciliation we would welcome more than a reconciliation with the Soviet Union, so, together, we can lessen the risks of war, now and forever.
 
It's fitting to remember here the great losses also suffered by the Russian people during World War II: 20 million perished, a terrible price that testifies to all the world the necessity of ending war. I tell you from my heart that we in the United States do not want war. We want to wipe from the face of the Earth the terrible weapons that man now has in his hands. And I tell you, we are ready to seize that beachhead. We look for some sign from the Soviet Union that they are willing to move forward, that they share our desire and love for peace, and that they will give up the ways of conquest. There must be a changing there that will allow us to turn our hope into action.
 
We will pray forever that some day that changing will come. But for now, particularly today, it is good and fitting to renew our commitment to each other, to our freedom, and to the alliance that protects it.
 
We are bound today by what bound us 40 years ago, the same loyalties, traditions, and beliefs. We're bound by reality. The strength of America's allies is vital to the United States, and the American security guarantee is essential to the continued freedom of Europe's democracies. We were with you then; we are with you now. Your hopes are our hopes, and your destiny is our destiny.
 
Here, in this place where the West held together, let us make a vow to our dead. Let us show them by our actions that we understand what they died for. Let our actions say to them the words for which Matthew Ridgway listened: ``I will not fail thee nor forsake thee.''
 
Strengthened by their courage, heartened by their value [valor], and borne by their memory, let us continue to stand for the ideals for which they lived and died.
 
Thank you very much, and God bless you all.
 
President Ronald Reagan - June 6, 1984
 
Standing on the very spot on the northern coast of France where Allied soldiers had stormed ashore to liberate Europe from the yoke of Nazi tyranny, President Ronald Reagan spoke these words to an audience of D-Day veterans and world leaders. They were gathered at the site of the U.S. Ranger Monument at Pointe du Hoc. Following this speech, the President unveiled memorial plaques to the 2nd and 5th U.S. Army Ranger Battalions. The President and Mrs. Reagan then greeted each of the veterans. Other Allied countries represented at the ceremony by their heads of state and government were: Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, Queen Beatrix of The Netherlands, King Olav V of Norway, King Baudouin I of Belgium, Grand Duke Jean of Luxembourg, and Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau of Canada.
 
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Thanks to Carl for this addition to the D-Day history
 
JUNE 6, 1944: THE GREATEST DAY OF THE 20TH CENTURY
Approaching_Omaha
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.
SIGNED: Dwight D. Eisenhower
By Ray Starmann
For years, my George refused to talk about it. Whenever I pressed him, I would be met with silence, or a brief outburst of nothing more than staccato words: bangalores, shingle, terror, dead men everywhere. George, you see, as a young US Army officer, landed with the 5th Engineer Brigade under V Corps on Omaha Beach during the famed D-Day invasion of Europe 73 years ago, on June 6, 1944.
The last time I saw him, on Christmas Day 1998, he looked at me with misty eyes, threw down the rest of his bourbon and said that D-Day will forever be remembered as the greatest day of the 20th century. George, like so many members of his generation, is no longer with us, but on this anniversary of Operation Overlord, his words resonate strongly. And so they should.
In the late spring of 1944, World War II was in its fifth year in Europe. The German Army had suffered defeats in North Africa, Sicily and in the battles of Stalingrad and Kursk in Russia. But, the formidable Wehrmacht still controlled Europe from the Russian steppes to the Norwegian fjords to the English Channel.
Several months before, in the autumn of 1943, Hitler had discerned that the main threat to Germany loomed not out of the East, but the West. In Fuehrer Directive Number 51, he proclaimed, "I can no longer justify the further weakening of the West in favor of other theaters of war. I have therefore decided to strengthen the defenses in the West."
He appointed Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, The Desert Fox, to reconstruct the fortifications along the Atlantic Wall. Like the Fuehrer, Rommel believed that the invasion, when it came, could only be halted on the beaches. In just two years, the German Army had shifted from a blitzkrieg doctrine to a defensive posture hiding behind Rommel's vaunted Festung Europa.
Despite around-the-clock Allied strategic bombing, Germany's industry was producing arms and munitions at the highest capacity since the war began. Hitler's insane fantasies of wonder weapons were becoming a reality as V-1 rockets, ME-262 jet fighters and the mammoth Tiger tank rolled off of German assembly lines.
In occupied Poland and Russia, the Nazis' Final Solution (the complete genocide of European Jewry) was proceeding on schedule. Reichsfuehrer Heinrich Himmler had promised Hitler that by 1945 almost all of Europe's Jews would be dead.
In Western Europe, millions of subjugated people, living in a nightmare world of starvation, deportation and summary execution awaited their resurrection from tyranny. They would not have much longer to wait.
At 1600 on June 5, 1944, General Dwight D. Eisenhower met once again at Southwick House with his key subordinates: Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery, Gen. Omar Bradley, Air Marshal Arthur Tedder, Air Vice Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory, Adm. Bertram Ramsey, Maj. Gen. Kenneth Strong (SHAEF G-2) and RAF Group Capt. J.M. Stagg, his meteorologist. The night before, Stagg had predicted horrible weather conditions for the English Channel and the Normandy coastline. Ike had delayed the invasion for 24 hours. Now, Stagg's forecast was more optimistic. The weather would clear, providing marginal conditions for up to 48 hours. After consulting with his commanders and staff and pausing to think on his own, Ike stared at his subordinates and said, "Okay, let's go."
Within an hour of Ike's decision to go, the BBC began to broadcast its nightly "messages personnel" to the French Resistance. But, on this night, several of the messages were codes for the Maquis to begin sabotage operations. Two of them were: "Blessent mon Coeur d'une langeur monotone" (Wounds my heart with a monotonous languor) "Jean a une longe moustache." (John has a long mustache.)
Those in the French Resistance knew that the hour of liberation was at hand. On the evening of June 5, 1944, the troops of the Allied Expeditionary Force quickly received word of Ike's decision to go. Each man knew he bore a gigantic responsibility. The success of Operation Overlord would determine the freedom of a continent, and of the world for years to come.
The men of D-Day knew they could not fail. There was no substitute for victory. Winston Churchill knew the price of failure too. "If we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Churchill knew that with victory, "All Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands."
Operation Overlord commenced at just after midnight on June 6. As British Glider troops secured Pegasus Bridge near Caen, the American airborne armada was on its way to the Cotentin Peninsula. The 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions had orders to secure the various causeways and roads connected to Utah and Omaha Beaches to the Normandy interior.
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Within minutes of crossing the Normandy coastline, the vast air armada ran into thick clouds and intense anti-aircraft fire. Many of the 870 C-47s carrying both divisions separated from their "V-of-V" formations and became lost, with each plane flying seemingly blind toward the drop zones.
As the enemy fire intensified, disoriented pilots began to unload the airborne troops. In the dead of night, many of the paratroopers landed alone, miles from where they were supposed to be. Separated from their buddies, their officers, their platoons, even their divisions, the paratroopers nevertheless began to move out to their objectives. Some of them located other soldiers from their companies. Some fought with troopers from another division. Some fought alone.
As dawn broke on June 6, the Allied fleet opened-up on the German coastal defenses with naval gunfire and rockets. Under the impression that the bombardment had killed or wounded a large percentage of the German defenders, the troops of the 4th, 29th and 1st Infantry Divisions, and the 2nd and 5th Ranger Battalions, boarded Higgins landing craft.
Allied intelligence had claimed that the U.S. 29th and 1st Divisions would face the crippled German 716th Division – and only one battalion from that unit at that. Intelligence was dead wrong. Three battalions from the veteran 352th Infantry Division were dug in defending the area known as Omaha Beach.
Then a navigational error caused the 4th Infantry Division to land a mile south of its intended target. Utah Beach was lightly defended and became a quick success. Eyeing a tactical opportunity, Brig. Gen. Teddy Roosevelt Jr. ordered his commanders to "start the war from right here."
By 0700, Omaha Beach had become a shambles. Gen. Bradley, who as commander of the 1st U.S. Army was responsible for the Utah and Omaha Beach landings, considered at one point pulling out of Omaha and shifting the incoming forces to Utah. Troops were pinned down at the water's edge by intense machine gun fire. Zeroed mortars and 88s picked off disembarking soldiers like sitting ducks. But, still the men landed and attempted to move inland.
By noon, thousands of casualties littered Omaha Beach. Many soldiers huddled against the rocky shingle awaiting a certain fate. But others knew that they had to achieve a breakthrough. They had to get through the draws, climb the bluffs and destroy the machine gun nests and the pillbox crews.
One by one, junior officers and young sergeants inspired their men to get off the beach. Using Bangalore explosives, they blew obstacles and opened narrow gaps in the barriers. As the men moved inland, they set off numerous anti-personnel mines. Paths of dead and wounded men marked trails to follow.
By late afternoon, the U.S. forces had finally secured Omaha Beach. Across the Allied front, forces were gaining a small foothold in Normandy. D-Day succeeded not because of a brilliant plan, not because of special intelligence, and not because of technology. D-Day succeeded because of the ingenuity of 18-year-old-privates, the bravery of 22-year-old junior officers and the innovation of their commanders. D-Day succeeded because everyone knew the stakes at hand. They knew that to live in a world conquered by the Nazis was not an option.
What if the men of D-Day had failed?
It would have taken the Allies perhaps another year to launch a second cross-channel invasion. By that time, the Germans would have been equipped with thousands of their new jets. The V-1 and V-2 rockets would have wreaked extreme havoc on London and Southern England. The Final Solution would probably have been completed. German scientists, although behind the Allies in the race for the atomic bomb, may have gained precious time to create their own device.
Worst of all, Adolf Hitler would have continued to walk this earth.
In 1964, on the 20th anniversary of D-Day, CBS newsman Walter Cronkite – who as a young UPI reporter had landed behind enemy lines that night in a troop-carrying glider – interviewed Eisenhower on Omaha Beach. Gazing at the coastline, the former allied commander and retired president recalled why that mammoth invasion was different from famous battles in ancient history:
"It's a wonderful thing what those fellows were fighting for and sacrificing for, what they did to preserve our way of life. Not to conquer any territory, not for ambitions of our own. But to make sure that Hitler could not destroy freedom in the world. I think it's just overwhelming. To think of the lives that were given for that principle, paying a terrible price on this beach alone. But, they did it so the world could be free. It just shows what free men will do rather than be slaves."
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Perhaps correspondent Ernie Pyle most eloquently expressed what we owe these men today, more than seven decades later. In a column, written on June 12, 1944, Pyle said: "I want to tell you what the opening of the second front entailed, so that you can know and appreciate and forever be humbly grateful to those both dead and alive who did it for you."
The glory of D-Day will never die.
 
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