June 6, is a “fly the flag” day for all who can remember the majesty and tragedy of the Normandy Invasion. That was the day when almost 200,000 soldiers, about half of them American, stormed Normandy Beach on the northern coast of France in the greatest amphibious assault in the history of warfare.
Prior to that date the U.S. and its allies were fighting an up-hill battle from the deserts of northern Africa to the beaches of Dunkirk. England had been under siege from the air by German rockets. Ships at sea were constantly harassed by U-boat attacks as Germany attempted to sever the supply lines that supported our troops.
It was an unusual family in the United States that did not have a member in service somewhere overseas. More than 3 million of our men and women were in uniform and those who weren’t were working to support the war effort. Every resource, every bit of brain power, every emotion was devoted to winning the war because defeat, bowing to the Nazi war machine, was simply unthinkable.
Dwight Eisenhower was our European Theatre of Operations General. He was in that role not because he was a master battle tactician but, instead, because he was a genius at the logistics of supplying the war machine. Perhaps more importantly, he was highly skilled at handling the massive egos of our allies Joseph Stalin of Russia, Winston Churchill of England, Charles DeGaulle of France and the top Generals, Montgomery of England and Patton of the U.S., whose capabilities on the battlefield were so important to ultimate victory. Eisenhower’s calm voice and soft handed approach were exactly what was needed. He was able to guide all of the personalities into a unified fighting force that could take on the Axis powers who had conquered northern Africa and most of Europe by the mid-1940s.
Planning for the invasion had begun a full two years before but the actual date was decided by, wouldn’t you know it, the weather. Altogether, more than 9,000 ships and 340,000 men and women were involved in the assault. Within seven days there were more than 425,000 dead, wounded, or missing from both sides. The massive cemeteries of Normandy remind us of their sacrifice.
The Normandy Invasion was the “watershed” event of WWII. Prior to June 6, 1944, the U.S. and its allies were in a defensive struggle. After the successful beachhead on the northern coast of France all of our forces were in an attack mode, with every thrust focused on shutting down the Nazi war machine and gaining unconditional surrender.
June 6 is a “fly the flag” day. Let’s show our colors on June 6 to honor that great occasion.
— Dr. Mark L. Hopkins writes for More Content Now and Scripps Newspapers. He is past president of colleges and universities in four states and currently serves as executive director of a higher-education consulting service. You will find Hopkins’ latest book, “Journey to Gettysburg,” on Amazon.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.