It was 69 years ago today when the Allied forces launched their largest military action of World War II: the invasion of Normandy Beach in France.
The location of the invasion was considered the most heavily guarded secret on the planet at the time. Even the units conducting the initial assaults didn’t know the locations of their landings.
Germany had 55 divisions in France and the Allies could transport no more than eight divisions on the morning of June 6, 1944. Secrecy was a key factor in the successful invasion which was dubbed “Operation Overlord.” The actual assault was dubbed “Operation Neptune.”
In the June 9, 1944 edition of the Town and Country newspaper, the following words opened the story about the event:
The Upper Perkiomen Valley received with calmness and a feeling of solemnity the electrifying news of Tuesday morning that the long-awaited invasion of Western Europe by Allied forces had begun.
As throughout the nation, there was little excitement here with the announcement of the landing of American, British and other Allied troops on the coast of France. Only calm confidence and resignation to what is necessary and inevitable greeted the world-stirring news on the opening of the greatest military operation in history.
Each citizen seemed to hold full awareness of his stake in the tremendous undertaking – a stake which ran from love of country and a deep desire for her triumph, to apprehension for the welfare of loved ones… Less clear-cut to the folks here a home was the possible fate of hundreds, sons, brothers and husbands who were known to have been in England as potential land invasion troops, but there was a full realization that for the second time in a quarter century Americans were fighting on the soil of France and again among the forces of freedom and democracy were Upper Perkiomen Valley boys by the hundreds.
There is no official casualty figure for D-Day, but it is estimated that Allied casualties on that single day were 10,000, including 2,500 killed. In the two months prior to the Normandy invasion, Allied air forces lost nearly 12,000 men and more than 2,000 aircraft in operations that paved the way.
During the two-month period after the assault, more than 425,000 Allied and German troops were killed, wounded or went missing in the battle for Normandy.
There are 9,386 graves in the American cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer, France. Each grave faces west, toward America. Of those graves, 307 contain the remains of “unknown” soldiers. There are 1,557 names are listed in The Garden of the Missing for those who were never found.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was on the radio the day before to tell of the fall of Rome to the Allied forces, returned on the morning of June 6 to lead the nation in prayer. He said, “Lead them straight and true … They will need thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard … but we know that by Thy grace and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph…Some of them will never return. Embrace these, Father and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.”
It was called the turning point of World War II. Of the massive invasion, General Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “We will accept nothing less than full victory.” Anything less and we might be living in a very different world today.