The photo above makes me wonder what these soldiers were thinking, before leaving the landing craft on D-Day, June 6, 1944. Some of them would be dead minutes later, as they came under intense German gunfire from beyond the beach. They could see their fellow soldiers being shot, before they even left the landing craft.
I saw a PBS program about veterans returning to Normandy, France and telling their stories of what they experienced that day. One soldier was helping wounded soldiers, but then was hit himself several times. He had just told another soldier that he was too weak to help with the wounded soldiers and at that moment the other soldier was hit by a bullet that went in one side of his head and exited on the other side.
He assumed the soldier had died, but he encountered him at an Army reunion later and saw the man and his wife there. He told him that he thought he was dead and the other soldier thought the other soldier was dead. So both soldiers, had thought the other soldier was dead, when in fact both had survived their wounds from D-Day.
A 18 year old soldier on D-Day would be 86 years old today. The 70th anniversary of D-Day will be held on June 6, 2014. Any soldier that was 30 or older that day, probably would have died by that date.
Even though President Roosevelt had declared war on Germany on December 8 of 1941, it would be two-and-a- half years before American forces entered the European theater.
The French civilians on the program today, are still thankful for the Americans freeing them from German rule. They spoke of passing the torch to each generation of the French people, to let them know that the American soldiers, were the reason that they regained their freedom.
Hitler’s harebrained military plans, enabled the Americans to gain inroads to other French cities, since he had 157 divisions on the Russian front, while having only 59 in France.
13,000 American paratroopers were dropped from the sky, as part of the D-Day invasion, but the paratroopers were very fragmented and only 2,500 of them had joined up with their units, 24 hours after being dropped. One of the veterans on the PBS special said they wrapped up dead American paratroopers in their parachutes and buried them.
The allied forces were outnumbered 380,000 to 175,000 but still they still won the Battle of Normandy. Allied casualties at Normandy totaled close to 10,000 with 2,500 making the ultimate sacrifice for the allied forces.
Words can’t express our gratitude for the soldiers, who stepped out of their landing craft, facing death immediately and those that survived the onslaught at the beach, as they began their trek through France, as they liberated the French people, from the clutches of Adolf Hitler.