Seventy-five years ago, allied troops stormed the beaches of Normandy, known as D-Day. The original date leaders set was June 5, 1944, but that morning foul weather forced the attack to be postponed.
Just after midnight on June 6, allied airborne troops began dropping behind enemy lines. Their job was to blow up bridges and prevent the enemy from rushing reinforcements to the beaches. A few hours later the largest amphibious landing force ever assembled began moving through the rough waters toward the beaches. It was cold and the rough waters caused many troops to become seasick.
The most aggressive fighting was on Omaha Beach where the enemy was positioned on cliffs. Allied troops were pinned down for hours by machine gun fire that turned the beach into a vast killing field. By the end of the day Americans had taken Omaha Beach. But it was a huge cost, over 4700 troops were killed, wounded or missing out of 35,000 troops who came ashore that day.
The Normandy invasion was a turning point in history. What would have happened if they had failed? It’s believed that another landing would not have been possible for at least a year and Hitler would have had time to strengthen his army with jet craft and develop weapons to finish off his killing campaign against ethnic and sexual undesirables.
I think General Dwight Eisenhower’s letter to troops before they were sent on their mission was encouraging and accurate.
“The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you…. Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely……
I have full confidence in your courage, devotion, to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full Victory!
Good Luck! And let us all beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.”
My granddad, John Bartmess Sr, fought and was wounded in World War II. He was a BAR gunner in the United States Army and was one of the 565,861 wounded that made it home. The Army and Air Force had a total of 318,274 troops that lost their life depending our country. He was awarded a Purple Heart and when he passed away received a veteran’s sendoff where Taps was played.
There are only a few men left in Catahoula Parish who fought in WWII, if you see one of them, thank them for the sacrifices they made and for your freedom.
The World War II Museum in New Orleans is a great place to learn U.S. Military history. The lessons and stories of WWII will inspire you. If you get a chance to go look for the commemorative brick for John Bartmess, Sr., one of my heroes.