An Interactive History of D-Day

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.

normandyFor 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.

 

Boy’s Lone Salute On the Beaches of Normandy a Lesson for Us All

In June 2014, an 11 year-old boy visited Normandy, France for the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion. During his visit, he spent four days at the American Cemetery teaching visitors about three paratroopers who were buried there. He did so as part of his own personal project he called “Project Vigil”.

When it came time for the official D-Day celebration, the local authorities did not allow the boy to enter the cemetery in his WWII replica uniform. Instead of being discouraged, he took his American flag to Omaha Beach. There he planted it in the sand.

As he reflected on the events of that day and the brave soldiers who met their fate that day, he was so moved that he raised his hand in salute. Although he struggled to hold the flag steady in the whipping wind, his gaze and salute never wavered.

For over an hour he stood fast in tribute. After a time, he began to draw a crowd. The crowd grew and people began to take pictures with the saluting boy and his American flag. Before long a veteran came and firmly returned the boy’s salute. After a time, a trumpeter from the D-Day 70 Memorial Wind Band joined him on the beach and played a moving rendition of taps.

This patriotic boy did a wonderful thing, and his moving and heartfelt act is an inspiring lesson for other children. His parents or whoever is responsible for teaching him both respect and honor have also done a wonderful thing. As a parent myself, I am humbled by what they have done. Going forward, I will use this as a lesson to teach my children how respect, honor, and history go hand in hand.

You can watch this moving and heartfelt video here: