Today, we mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the Allied invasion of Normandy, France on June 6, 1944 and the paramount battle of World War II. D-Day was the initial phase of Operation Overload, the Allied invasion of German occupied Western Europe. A 1,200-plane airborne campaign preceded an amphibious assault involving more than 5,000 vessels. Nearly 160,000 troops crossed the English Channel on June 6th, and more than two million Allied troops were in France by the end of August.
Between June 6th and the end of August, 1944, 20,668 American service members gave their lives in the cause of freedom to liberate a continent from Nazi totalitarianism and to defeat a brutal enemy. But for their incomparable bravery and sacrifice, the Allied forces could not have overcome the greatest menace the world had ever faced.
In August 2001, I had the opportunity of a lifetime to visit Omaha Beach and Pointe du Hoc in Normandy. After walking that hallowed ground, I did what every American should have the opportunity to do: I visited the American cemetery at Omaha Beach. There I saw, on land donated by France to the United States for eternity, the graves of more than 9,380 of our military dead, most of whom lost their lives in the D-Day landings and ensuing operations. White crosses and stars of David memorialized those lost under a large American flag. At that moment, I could not hold back a torrent of emotion, and like all Americans who visit that place, I felt overwhelming gratitude for those who made the ultimate sacrifice so we could be free. May God bless those patriots and let us never forget their enduring sacrifice for the cause of freedom.
”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.” — Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander, Letter to Allied Forces on the eve of D-Day