June 4, 1944 – D-Day

Today is the 71st anniversary of the invasion of Normandy, one of the most audacious military operations ever undertaken. In recognition of the event, I’ve reposted below a story I wrote several years ago about D-Day. Includes are some photos from a 2004 family visit to Normandy.

Looking up the bluff from the beach

The Allied invasion of Normandy – D-Day – occurred 68 years ago today. In the pre-dawn hours, thousands of British and American paratroopers jumped into the dark and stormy night. Though they mostly landed far from their designated drop zones and in scattered small bunches, their mere presence was enough to disrupt the German response. At dawn, thousands more troops came ashore in landing craft. While none had it easy, those landing on the beach code named Omaha had the worst of it. Back in 2004 during a visit to France I stood at the waterline on Omaha Beach at low tide and looked inward. The steep slop of a ridge marked the edge of the beach and was visible as far as you could see to both east and west (Omaha Beach faces north). That the American troops were able to get off the beach at all was miraculous. The thousands of white crosses in the cemetery at the top of that ridge are reminders of the cost of getting off that beach.

The exact cost in lives of D-Day is tough to calculate because of the scale and sophistication of the operation. Here is one account of US casualties that day:

The breakdown of US casualties was 1465 dead, 3184 wounded, 1928 missing and 26 captured. Of the total US figure, 2499 casualties were from the US airborne troops (238 of them being deaths). The casualties at Utah Beach were relatively light: 197, including 60 missing. However, the US 1st and 29th Divisions together suffered around 2000 casualties at Omaha Beach.

So please take a moment today to pause and remember all those who were lost as well as all who participated in D-Day on June 6, 1944.

From the top of the bluff, looking down to the beach