Remembering D-Day: ‘This was their finest hour’


In this photo provided by the U.S. Coast Guard, a U.S. Coast Guard landing barge, tightly packed with helmeted soldiers, approaches the shore at Normandy, France, during initial Allied landing operations, June 6, 1944. These barges ride back and forth across the English Channel, bringing wave after wave of reinforcement troops to the Allied beachheads. […]

(WJHL) – On this day in 1944, one of the largest military maneuvers in history was executed on the shores of Normandy, France.

Operation Overlord, otherwise known as D-Day or the Battle of Normandy, was a joint operation by the Allies in World War II intended to establish a more permanent foothold in mainland Europe to eventually liberate France and remove Nazi regimes from the continent.

Troops were pooled from the United States, Britain, and Canada with contribution from Allies across the world.

According to the US Army’s site documenting the invasion, several units were involved across the entire Allied military including Army, Navy, Air Force, National Guard and Coast Guard units.

D-Day took place across France’s Northern coast, separated into several separate beachheads:

  • Utah: United States of America
  • Juno: Canada
  • Sword and Gold: Britain
  • Omaha: United States of America

The harshest fighting was seen at Omaha beach. According to the Department of Defense, assault units tasked with taking the rocky coastline faced over 2,000 casualties.

Before the battle, operations by the 101st Airborne were launched to sabotage supply lines and damage crucial defenses before main forces arrived. Before that, extensive intelligence and deception tactics were used to convince Nazi Germany that invasions would take place elsewhere.

The National D-Day Memorial was constructed in Bedford, Virginia after the discovery of the community’s unfortunate record: the highest per-capita casualties in D-Day. Out of 35 National Guardsmen to leave the community to serve, 19 died on the beaches of Normandy with four more losing their lives before the end of the war.

Casualties were highest at the beginning of each assault, with the first on the beach facing the worst odds. Once Allied forces established control of the beach, a multi-day campaign began to wrest control of France from German hands.

In a speech to the British House of Commons encouraging British citizens to keep up the fight and making the case for a sea invasion of France, Prime Minister Winston Churchill said:

“Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.'”

To learn more about the history of D-Day and WWII, click here.

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