As waves occasionally sent heavy splashes of water down upon them, the damp air smelled of salt brine mixed with fuel. It is likely that most of them said a prayer for salvation, even those who heretofore had never shown any signs of religious belief. They continuously checked themselves over, making sure that they had all of their gear as they revisited their battle orders which had been drilled into their head for weeks.
As they drew closer to shore they could hear the guns, the large artillery which the Germans were using to try and stop them. Occasionally there was a nearby explosion indicating a direct hit. Their sergeants and platoon leaders yelled readiness instructions over the chaos, repeating the steps for readiness as they neared their drop off point. Now machine gun fire could be heard and they knew they were nearing the dreaded point of taking on direct fire.
With adrenalin pumping and their minds racing, they were told to stand ready as the landing craft raced the final yards before the ramp started to open. As it opened, many of them in the first waves never even had a chance to exit the craft before being mowed down by enemy fire. Others found upon entering the water that they were over their head in depth and sank to the bottom with all of the dead weight never to resurface. Even more, those who had eaten a full breakfast, became disoriented because of their sea sickness and could not find their way, becoming instant targets in their confusion.
But they kept coming, wave after wave kept coming, and now they were starting to reach the beach in larger numbers and gradually penetrate the beachhead to the base of the bluffs despite all of the blood, carnage and chaos around them. Brave medics ran from cluster to cluster doing what they could to help the wounded and combat engineers found weak points and used explosive charges to continue past obstacles and rangers and others began to climb the cliffs to the top.
Once the first breaks were made, hundreds of men continued to breach the bluff crests and they finally poured through and into inland coastal France. It took hours with thousands of dead and wounded but with the help of airborne infantry who had been dropped behind enemy lines they finally silenced the big guns, allowing the breaches to open to a human wave.
This was D-Day, June 6, 1944, truly in military annals the Longest Day. It was the beginning of the end for Nazi Germany, but it would be many long months before that would become reality. But America and her allies had finally breached the fortress that was Nazi Europe and as the industrial might of America and the thousands of patriotic men continued the push, General Dwight Eisenhower's great gamble finally succeeded and with it came the rebirth of a free Europe. The scourge of Adolph Hitler finally ended.
God bless all of those brave souls, living and dead, who carried out their mission effectively and with honor despite the heavy price that they paid. May we always remember their valor and fortitude and may they serve as a shining example of what it means to be free. Never forget and never let anyone take away our fervor and love for a free America.