Dr. Bill Atwood

Remembering D-Day

White roses and US flags were placed in the sand in front of the sea at Omaha Beach in Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer, Normandy, France on Monday as France prepared to mark the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, which took place June 6, 1944.
White roses and US flags were placed in the sand in front of the sea at Omaha Beach in Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer, Normandy, France on Monday as France prepared to mark the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, which took place June 6, 1944. AP

D-Day.

That term says a great deal. It will still have an impact 1,000 years from today. It represents the greatest invasion the world had ever seen or will ever see again. About ten thousand men died that day. Ten thousand men would never kiss their sweethearts or see their families again. Ten thousand men would never enjoy another sunrise or sunset. Ten thousand men would feel the sting of the bullet, the searing heat of flak, the stab of a bayonet, the blast of a grenade. Ten thousand men would be mourned.

They went into the battle with more than 150,000 other allied personnel and they went in for one reason. They went to free the world from the tyranny of the Nazis and the fascists who had taken a stranglehold on Europe. They saved the world.

When I think of the terror that each of the 150,000 felt that day, it amazes me the supreme sacrifice each was willing to make so that we would not live under a dictatorship. They knew the dangers and still, they went. As the order came from General Eisenhower to go ahead with the plan, each went into action and set upon the task of doing the job assigned. Pilots flew paratroopers into enemy territory knowing that German aircraft defenses would want to shoot them out of the sky. The pilots knew some in their planes would perish that day.

Paratroopers leaped out of planes at the drop zone assigned. Ships crossed the channel and the seas were rough. When the front of each landing craft hit the beaches and the ramps dropped down Nazi bullets tore into our brave soldiers before they left their craft. Some died in the water before reaching the sand.

Others scaled Pointe du Hoc, a 100-foot cliff between Utah and Omaha beaches at Normandy. As each man got to the sand, they were met with a hail of bullets from Nazi troops in bunkers. The fear of each man was enhanced by what each was witnessing. Buddies killed all around you, guys crying out in pain, blood everywhere, little sleep, heavy gear, noise of the battle and yet each drew from the sinew of his inner strength and kept pushing forward.

As they made it to the cliffs and then up onto the higher ground, they pushed back the well-armed enemy. The Germans knew that if the Allies got a foothold on that beach the war would be lost.

I have a bottle of sand from the beach at Normandy sitting in my living room that a friend brought me when they visited Normandy. I want to remember the sacrifice made on our behalf. It brings tears to my eyes when I look at it.

Those grains of sand at one time were probably covered with blood. Imagine the beaches covered in blood. So much blood that the sea ran red as it lapped onto the sand. Eventually, that blood washed away and became diluted with the water of the channel. The blood washed away but the sacrifice can’t be washed away from our memory. It has been 75 years since the invasion. In the 27,393 days since word of the invasion was heard over radios, we have stood in awe of their heroism. Very few D-Day veterans are still alive. They are in their 90s and they have lived long enough to know that their bravery has never been forgotten.

Lest we forget, they saved the world. The Greatest Generation fought the greatest battle ever and gave us the greatest gift — liberty.

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