June 6 marks the anniversary of that fated day that began the campaign of the liberation of Nazi-controlled Europe and brought the long-planned Operation Overlord into play. It also marked the beginning of the end of the war that started for most Americans with the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The Allied invasion of the beaches of Normandy in France was the largest seaborne invasion in history and came to be known as D-Day. Planning for this operation began the year before and proved to be the crucial turning point in the war in Europe. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower called the operation a crusade in which, “we will accept nothing less than full victory.” Although victory did not come easy, nor did it come without significant cost, it did eventually come.
The naval invasion fleet included 1,213 warships, 4,126 landing craft of various types, 736 ancillary craft, and 864 merchant vessels. More than 13,000 aircraft supported the invasion including over 2,200 British and American bombers. Nearly 160,000 troops crossed the English Channel on that fateful day with over 10,000 casualties logged and 4,414 brave men and boys having given their lives.
This important day in history is memorialized in an informative and interactive way online by visiting the US Army’s official D-Day website. You can listen to Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s speech to the troops reminding them that, “The eyes of the world are upon you,” before they embarked on ” a great crusade.” You can also learn what the “D” in D-Day stands for.
For the younger generation, the book Normandy, A Graphic History of D-Day tells the intricate story of the planning and execution of Operation Overlord from the invasion of five D-Day beaches (Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword) on June 6, 1944, to the liberation of Paris on August 25, 1944. In between, Vansant paints a portrait of the campaign’s vicious and unforgiving fighting, including the Allies’ capture of Cherbourg, the deadly battles in hedgerow country, the Allied struggle for Caen, the breakout of Patton’s Third Amy, and the eventual defeat of Axis forces in the Falaise Pocket. It was the Allied success in Normandy that hastened the beginning of the end for the Nazis.
However you choose to teach your children about this day isn’t as important as the fact that you are teaching them about this very important day. It is a day in the history of the world where men and women of many nations, religions, and races came together with a single-minded purpose to defeat a common enemy. It is the story of good vs. evil and triumph over tragedy. It is a story that must be told for many generations to come.