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D-DAY +70 YEARS – WE WILL ALWAYS REMEMBER

Posted by Tim Bryce on June 6, 2014

BRYCE ON HISTORY

– A tribute to our Normandy vets, and a history lesson for our youth.

(Click for AUDIO VERSION)
To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

On this anniversary of the D-Day invasion, we would be wise to remember the sacrifices and hardships our veterans endured to liberate a continent. Through their eyes, we see the true character of America and the price of freedom. The French certainly haven’t forgotten, nor should we.

Codenamed “Operation Overlord,” the Allied invasion of Europe via Normandy, France was conducted 70 years ago today. Most of the veterans of the largest amphibious invasion of all time have since passed, but we should be mindful of their achievement and the sacrifices they bore. It was their job to cross the English Channel and breach Hitler’s formidable Atlantic Wall, laced with a million land mines, booby traps, anti-tank traps, miles of barbed wire, battle hardened troops, and concealed fortifications with heavy armament. The Germans were commanded by Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, the legendary “Desert Fox” from the North African campaign. As such, the Allies recognized this would be a daunting task.

The Supreme Allied Commander was General Dwight Eisenhower, better known as “Ike.” It was his job to plan, organize and implement this massive invasion. Devising a suitable strategy would prove difficult. The conventional wisdom at the time assumed the Allies would invade at Pas de Calais, representing the shortest distance between England and France. Not surprising, this area was heavily fortified by the Germans in anticipation of the crossing there. Realizing the considerable number of soldiers and equipment needed to make the invasion a success, Eisenhower needed to rely on the element of surprise. Consequently, Normandy was selected. In addition to the strategy, the job was made complicated by the number of Allied countries involved, the number of personnel and equipment required, the weather and lunar cycle, which dictated the tides, and some slight of hand to keep the Germans off balance. To this end, Eisenhower devised an entire phantom army around General George S. Patton, using decoys, props, and fake signals. The charade caused the Germans to believe Patton would lead the invasion at Pas de Calais.

The politics and logistics of assembling the invasion under tight secrecy was incredible, and a tribute to Eisenhower’s determination, organizational skills, and political finesse. Ike hinted at his approach by saying, “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” In reality, Eisenhower had to walk a fine line not to offend any of the Allies involved with the invasion. This included not showing favoritism to the Americans and belittling the British. As a result, overall command of the ground forces was given to Britain’s Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery.

160,000 Allied soldiers would land on June 6th, a day after the original target date, delayed due to inclement weather. They were supported by nearly 5,000 ships of varying sizes and shapes, making it the largest armada ever assembled. The troops landed on the Normandy coast which was divided into five sectors codenamed:

Utah Beach – represented the right flank, the most western side of the attack. The US 4th Infantry Division met light resistance there.

Omaha Beach – was the most heavily defended and where Allies suffered the most casualties. Here, the untested US 29th Infantry Division was joined by the veteran 1st Infantry Division (The Big Red One).

Gold Beach – was charged to the British 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division.

Juno Beach – was charged to the Canadian 3rd Infantry Division and commandos of the Royal Marines.

Sword Beach – was located closest to the town of Caen. It was charged to the British 3rd Infantry Division who met armored resistance from the 21st Panzer Division.

Pointe du Hoc – was the highest point between Utah and Omaha Beaches and heavily fortified by the Germans. US Army Rangers scaled the cliffs and overcame the Germans.

Just prior to the invasion, thousands of Allied airborne troops invaded behind the lines at Normandy under the cover of darkness. Their mission was to secure bridges and strategic locations until relieved by troops coming from the beaches. At the town of Sainte-Mère-Église, American paratroopers suffered heavy casualties as they descended on the town, thanks in large part to a building on fire and illuminating the night sky, making the soldiers easy targets. Many other paratroopers fell into fields deliberately flooded by the Germans. Burdened by considerable equipment, many Allied soldiers drowned.

Eisenhower’s attack caught the Germans by surprise, including Hitler and Rommel, causing them to react slowly. Nonetheless, 12,000 Allied casualties were recorded on the first day, with 4,414 confirmed dead, and several others missing. The Germans would lose 1,000 men, small by comparison. Although the Germans were finally able to mount a counterattack, the Allies had secured Normandy and began to move inland. Two months later, they would liberate Paris. Eleven months later, the war in Europe would be over.

Those who survived the invasion were left with indelible impressions of their experience. In a letter to his wife Mabel, Army Chaplain and 2nd Lieutenant John G. Burkhalter described his experience on landing at Omaha Beach with the 1st Infantry Division:

“When my part of the Division landed, there were impressions made on my mind that will never leave it. Just before landing we could see heavy artillery shells bursting all up and down the beach at the water’s edge under well directed fire. As I stood in line waiting to get off the LCI to a smaller craft to go into shore, I was looking toward land and saw a large shell fall right on a landing craft full of men. I had been praying quite a bit through the night as we approached the French coast but now I began praying more earnestly than ever. Danger was everywhere; death was not far off. I knew that God alone is the maker and preserver of life, who loves to hear and answer prayer. We finally landed and our assault craft was miraculously spared, for we landed with no shells hitting our boat.

Nobody can love God better than when he is looking death square in the face and talks to God and then sees God come to the rescue. As I look back through hectic days just gone by to that hellish beach I agree with Ernie Pyle, that it was a pure miracle we even took the beach at all. Yes, there were a lot of miracles on the beach that day. God was on the beach D-Day; I know He was because I was talking with Him.”

Chaplain Burkhalter would go on to receive the Bronze Star for valor, the Silver Star for gallantry, and the Purple Heart for injuries sustained. His full letter was published in the Miami Daily News on Sunday, August 6, 1944.

Many memorials have been erected to commemorate World War II, but the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial has particular significance for D-Day veterans as it represents the final resting place of 9,387 Americans who perished at Normandy, and 307 graves are marked unknown. Another 1,557 names are inscribed on a wall there who lost their lives but could not be located or identified.

At the cemetery during the 40th anniversary of D-day, President Ronald Reagan asked, “Where do we find them? Where do we find such men? And the answer came almost as quickly as I had asked the question; where we have always found them in this country; on the farms, in the shops, the stores and the offices. They are just the product of the freest society the world has ever known.”

And that’s just the point, the lesson taught by the veterans of D-Day, and all the other veterans who fought for our country is simple, Freedom is not free. It has to be paid for by the sweat and blood of those willing to fight and protect it. We must be mindful of their sacrifice well after the last Normandy veteran has passed.

As Reagan said at the 40th, “We will always remember. We will always be proud. We will always be prepared, so we may be always free.”

Let us hope future generations will be able to rise to the occasion when called upon, just as the D-Day vets did. Congratulations veterans and Thank You.

For more information on D-Day, see the National WW2 Museum.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
timbryce.com

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Copyright © 2014 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

NEXT UP:  CREATING UNIVERSAL SYSTEMS – Designing systems to cross cultural boundaries.

LAST TIME:  IT’S ME, RIGHT?  – As Johnny Nash sang, “I can see clearly now, the rain is gone. Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind.”

Listen to Tim on WJTN-AM (News Talk 1240) “The Town Square” with host John Siggins (Mon, Wed, Fri, 12:30-3:00pm Eastern), and KIT-AM 1280 in Yakima, Washington “The Morning News” with hosts Dave Ettl & Lance Tormey (weekdays. 6:00-9:00am Pacific). Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube.

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11 Responses to “D-DAY +70 YEARS – WE WILL ALWAYS REMEMBER”

  1. Albert McClelland said

    Thank you very much.I was living in NYC and remember standing in line with ration stamps to get sugar and coffee and Lowell Thomas on the radio.I was nine years old.

    Sent from my Verizon Wireless 4G LTE smartphone Albert H McClelland O.S.M.,PM

    Like

  2. Tim Bryce said

    A D.N. of Cincinnati, Ohio wrote…

    “When ‘no man left behind’ was not about the narcissistic self aggrandizement of the speaker, or the rationalization of concession, but actually about the true sacrifice of true men of valor who died with the hope and valid expectation that their grandchildren would live as free as they. Great article by Tim Bryce.”

    Like

  3. Tim Bryce said

    An H.N. of Palm Harbor, Florida wrote…

    “Beautiful Remembrance! Thanks.”

    Like

  4. Anthony Sagnelli said

    Awesome!!! The metaphysical desire to always be a free person and subsequently, a free nation. Where is “A Reagan” when you need one?

    Like

  5. Too many individual and collective acts of valor abound for any tribute to do justice to the sacrifices of The Greatest Generation. However, if a single day can epitomize what all humanity owes this ever-dwindling body of warriors, June 6, 1944 is certainly that day. I still must go back to Normandy to finish what an all-too-brief time there, several years ago, began. Still, if I never do make it back, I have the awe of standing on the wind and sand blasted stretch of Utah Beach to inspire my own appreciation and moments spent atop the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc, on a raw March day, wondering “How did they manage this?” Thank you all, men of what Ike called The Great Crusade! Thank you times 70 years and times the millions of lives you fought to preserve in peace and freedom!

    Like

  6. Tim Bryce said

    A U.V. of Largo, Florida wrote…

    “Wonderful piece. Too bad it’s not taught in schools. People today are so excited that Dunkin Donuts is giving away free donuts today and they think that’s why it’s D-Day. Sad.”

    Like

  7. Bill said

    It’s an amazing experience to visit the cemetery at Normandy. You’re reminded, once there, that you are on American soil. My dad is buried there and I have had the opportunity to visit his grave one time. The employees who work there are wonderful people who go out of their way to accommodate the families of our warriors who are buried there.

    The people of France who live along the Normandy coast are much different than those who live or reside in other parts of France. They truly respect Americans. We took a tour of the area and learned quite a bit about D-Day that was not in our history books. Besides Ike, Churchill was also quite instrumental in the planning. He was paramount in planning the construction of an artificial harbor at Arromanches-les-Bains. Allied forces hit the beach both east and west of this point to draw the enemy away from the harbor site. Nearly all of the tanks and provisions needed by our forces were brought in at this point. Barges that were part of the harbor construction still lie in the water today.The town has a museum with exhibits and a movie that talks about the harbor construction. While I was there the museum curator presented be with a bronze medallion thanking me and my family for the sacrifice my father made to free the people of France. It was quite moving.

    Like

  8. William Achbach said

    And, in re. Tim’s comments about Patton’s role, Churchill probably put it best (as so often he did): “In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies.”

    Like

  9. Tim Bryce said

    A P.B. of San Diego, California wrote…

    “Tim, thanks for the article. I would hope that we will always remember, but I read a disturbing comment this morning that most people under 60 don’t even know what D-Day is unless they saw “D-Day – The Sixth of June” or “Saving Private Ryan”.

    I don’t want to know what is not being taught in schools today. But, I will bet that D-Day is not part of Common Core.”

    Like

  10. […] D-DAY +70 YEARS – WE WILL ALWAYS REMEMBER […]

    Like

  11. Tim Bryce said

    A D.F. of New York City wrote…

    “Tim, excellent article and you are one of the few people who actually spend a lot of time recounting the role of General Eisenhower. Most renditions just seem to mention the order of the day or the fact that he said “Go” and nothing more.

    This is the first time I clicked the audio button and listened. You have a really fine radio voice too.”

    Like

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