D-Day. 75 Years Ago Today.

Omaha Beach (click for larger image in new window)

Seventy five years ago today, many Americans would awake to broadcasts that the United States and her allies had invaded Hitler’s “European Fortress.” American, British, Canadian and free French units stormed the beaches at Normandy while airborne units had parachuted or landed behind the coast to cause havoc and more importantly, to stop the Germans from bring up reinforcements against the men landing on the beach.

Today, in Normandy, Europe will pause and remember the men that fought to free it from those who sought to enslave it.

There will be speeches on the heroism of the men, and there is no doubt that those speeches will not even begin to encompass the acts of the men that day. Whether we are talking about the beach landings, the absurd idea of the attack on Pointe du Hoc that was pulled off by the American Rangers, or the men behind the lines, often separated and alone and in the dark, making their way towards objectives and picking up others along the way, mere words cannot express all of the heroism that day.

We’re not even going to try.

Nothing we can write or say will be sufficient.

Instead, we are going to focus on something else – the American spirit.

This simple graphic by CNN shows the logistics of D-Day – the men and material needed for the invasion.

Compare if you will, the 6,039 sea vessels off of the Normandy coast in 1944 to the roughly 430 total ships in the US Navy today.

For just one battle, there were 14 times the number of ships than in the entire Navy today.

It got us thinking…..

From the start of the US’s involvement in World War Two on December 7, 1941 to the surrender of the Japanese on September 1, 1945, is 3 years, 8 months. It is 44 months and 26 days. Or, if you’d like, 1365 days.

During that time, the US built or converted 143 aircraft carriers of all types (fleet carriers capable of carrying 100 airplanes, escort carriers, training carriers, etc.)

That’s over three carriers a month.

The famous “Liberty ships,” which fed the insatiable need for fuel, food, supplies, munitions and transport of weapons, are even more incredible.

There were 2710 of the Liberty ships built during the war. That’s more than 2 a day.

What about aircraft? The US built over 279,000 aircraft during the war. (97,810 bombers, 99,950 fighters, 23,929 transport, 57,623 trainers) That’s 217.8 aircraft a day.

Tanks and armored vehicles? The US produced 88,184 tanks and armored vehicles or over 64 a day.

How about submarines? The US built 288 subs during the war, or 6.5 a month.

We haven’t even talked about other types of ships, (cruisers, destroyers, mine sweepers, etc.)

We haven’t talked about the actual guns and weapons the men carried into battle.

We haven’t talked about the uniforms, the shoes, the belts, the helmets, the socks, the underwear, etc that went to war.

We haven’t talked about the bullets, the shells and the bombs produced.

By any rational standard, the US produced an amazing amount of material to fight the war.

The equipment that allowed the men to fight and fight successfully, was made by men and women here in the states.

We highly recommend the book “Freedom’s Forge” by Arthur Herman on the massive industrial output by the US during WWII.

The people at home were literally making parts for the war effort in their homes and garages. We often think of the large plants that assembled the parts, but those parts came from somewhere and often times, it was the average person making them. This is not to diminish the men and women in the factories. It was the overall effort to give the men the weapons to fight that is utterly stunning. It was an all out effort.

And then, when the men and women in factories and shipyards and homes produced all that was needed to fight the war, they gave their most precious belongings – their sons, brothers, and fathers.

On D-Day, roughly 2,501 Americans would be killed and never see their homes again.

(The exact number of men killed on the 24 period of D-Day is unknown. There are a variety of reasons for this, but accurate records do not exist:

While military records clearly showed that thousands of troops perished during the initial phases of the months-long Normandy Campaign, it wasn’t nearly as clear when many of the troops were actually killed. In the chaos of the beach landings, for example, some soldiers ended up fighting, and ultimately dying, in different companies. Commanders did their best under difficult circumstances to accurately register the fallen, but death dates weren’t always definitive in the fog of war.

“Their mission was to win a World War against Hitler,” says [John Long, director of education at the National D-Day Memorial Foundation,] “not to keep records that would satisfy peacetime researchers 75 years later.”

To read more about the confusion in the records, read here)

The story of D-Day, the men who invaded Normandy and the people who supported them shows what America and Americans can do when bonded together for a common good and cause. It is part of what makes this country so great.

It always comes down to this, doesn’t it? By that we mean that while the US has produced great leaders, it wasn’t President Roosevelt or Dwight David Eisenhower that stormed the beaches and the fields of Normandy that day. It was the average American, who backed by other average Americans, did what many thought could not happen – a successful breach of the Atlantic Wall guarding “Hitler’s Europe.” Men who had never been out of their states much less out of the country fought for people in lands they did not know, but they did know the idea of freedom, and how it needed to be defended against those who would seek to suppress it.

So today, we are going to rightfully hear much about the landings in Normandy and the men who were there 75 years ago. We’ll hear stories of leaders, and units and individual men who went far beyond the call of duty. We’ll hear about those who never saw this land or their loved ones again. We’ll hear about how many of the vets have passed and are passing away at a rate that is hard to imagine. After all, when we see the men of D-Day, we see men in their late teens and twenties, not men in their 90’s.

Today we honor and remember those men, and those who supported them, and their acts of heroism and selflessness, which will never grow old and never be forgotten by grateful nations.

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