A Brief History of D-Day and A Visit to the WWII Memorial in Washington DC
Today, we pause to remember the 160,000 brave men who landed upon the battle-hardened shores of northeastern France to liberate a continent on D-Day. 4,414 allied troops would give their lives for this cause within the first 24 hours as the faced seemingly insurmountable odds as they faced down they faced the Nazi’s imposing Atlantic Wall, the most fortified line of coastal defenses the world has ever seen. When the smoke cleared, D-Day would prove to be the deadliest day for American forces since the Battle of Antietem during the Civil War. Yet through manpower, innovation and sheer determination, the allied forces were able to capture all 5 of the beaches that had been their objective – code-named Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword.
Before dawn on June 6, 1944, at 5 AM, over 200 Allied battleships, destroyers and cruisers thundered to life, setting the sky ablaze like endless bursts of lightning as they unloaded barrage after barrage on the Nazi defenses along the shores of Normandy, an unmistakable signal that D-Day had begun. Several hours earlier, under the cover of darkness, a massive force of 11,590 bombers and personnel carriers, including a slew of fragile gliders towed behind C-47 cargo planes marked with the now-famous white and black D-Day stripes to mitigate friendly fire, crossed the shores of Normandy, set on destroying and disrupting the Axis’ ability to defend against the impending attack.
As the sun rose over the churning coastal waters of the Channel, wave after wave of Allied soldiers stormed the beach, battling through chest-high water, German mines, menacing obstacles, and an unceasing barrage from Axis defenses on the Allied troops’ exposed positions, to take the beaches. Many fell before even making it to dry land on this D-Day morning. But as night fell, the allies had captured a 60-mile swath of French soil, signaling the beginning of the end for the Third Reich. Many bloody days were yet to come, but for the first time, it seemed to many that the end of World War II was finally in sight and our American boys might soon be coming home.
Today, we pause to honor those brave soldiers who risked all for the cause of freedom on D-Day. Your example of bravery and sacrifice will not soon be forgotten.
Though we have never had the privilege to visit the D-Day battlefields, last summer we did have the pleasure of visiting the National World War II Memorial in Washington, DC. Though the weather was scorching, we found many taking the time to visit and reflect upon the bravery and sacrifice of so many. The War shaped America in ways big and small, individual and public. The monument expresses this reality well – with its overall scale and complexity paying a fitting tribute to a War that shaped our country more than any other war, save the Civil War. But it also provides these vignettes of individual tributes, from a wide range of quotes, markers for every state in the union, and tributes to individual battles, large and small, that unfolded during the war. It’s certainly a moving monument to those who sacrificed so much for the cause of liberty.
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