Let Us Never Forget Those Who Went Ashore on D-Day

Eighty years ago this week, on June 6, 1944, the United States and its allies launched the largest amphibious invasion in military history. Almost 133,000 troops, supported by 7,000 ships and 195,000 naval personnel, plus almost 12,000 aircraft, landed on the shores of Normandy, France on that fateful day.

The brave soldiers who landed on those beaches knew what was awaiting them — batteries of German defenders who had a seemingly insurmountable logistical advantage. But somehow, the Allied soldiers overcame the odds and took the beaches, establishing their presence on the European continent. Within 30 days, a million more Allied soldiers had landed on those beachheads, and within 11 months, they had fought their way to Berlin.

However, the D-Day victory came at a great cost, with 4,415 Allied personnel killed, including 2,501 Americans, with more than twice that many wounded.

The D-Day invasion was seared into our memory as a young child when we watched the epic 1962 film, The Longest Day, in the Winthrop Theatre with a group of friends. Although the Longest Day depicted the invasion accurately, it nonetheless did not display the carnage and horror (in keeping with war films of that era, which were less than 20 years removed from WWII) that later were graphically depicted in the 1998 film, Saving Private Ryan.

Saving Private Ryan ushered in a new wave of verisimilitude filmmaking about WWII, which have included Band of Brothers, The Pacific, and the recent Masters of the Air on Apple TV, all of which paid homage to those who served our country and made the Supreme Sacrifice.

Today, fewer than one percent of the 16.5 million Americans who served in WWII are alive today. Ten years from now, there will be only a handful WWII veterans, if that. It is more imperative than ever therefore that, in the words of Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg, “… we never forget what they did …and we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion.”

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