Monday, June 9, 2014

D-Day 2014

By J. Mac Holladay, Founder and CEO

June 6th marked 70 years since the combined forces of the United States, Britain, Canada, and France stormed the beaches in Normandy. I have walked those beaches and seen the wonderful American Memorial Park and Cemetery there. I was overwhelmed by the experience and the remembrances of all the French people living nearby. The rows and rows of chalk white headstones are almost too much to bear.

This day and what followed 70 years ago turned the tide of the war in Europe. It saved our way of life and freed Europe from Adolf Hitler. All of us should be eternally grateful for what those brave -soldiers did all those years go. While it is joyous to see the few remaining veterans return and celebrate their victory, their number is shrinking every day. There is a sadness that comes from that reality, as Rob Citino at the U.S. Army War College said, “The passing of veterans means that the event enters into the realm of history, and is no longer in the realm of personal experience.”

The planning and execution of what happened on the northern coast of France is almost beyond belief. It was by far the world’s biggest amphibious offensive. The U.S. and its Allies deployed 6,039 ships and 11,590 aircraft on that day. There were 156,000 troops deployed. Over 4,400 Allied troops were killed in action that day, nearly 2,500 Americans. There were over 14,600 flight missions. The night before, 10,000 paratroopers had dropped from 800 aircraft behind the landing areas to cut off the Germans who would retreat the next day. On D-Day another 15,000 Allied paratroopers dropped around the village of Sainte-Mere-Eglise. That city was the first liberated by our forces.

Perhaps the most touching scene for me this D-Day was 93 year-old Jim Martin parachuting again into France. After he landed, the reporters asked how it compared to 70 years ago. He quickly stated, “Oh this was easy, nobody was shooting at me.”

We should never forget what all the Jim Martins did that day so long ago.