Not far out of view as the pre-dawn light approached, a huge flotilla of ships, everything from large ships to anything which could carry troops, was preparing to deliver their human cargo of warriors to landing craft which would take them into the shore breakers. From there they would hit the water and head for the beach, amid the whizzing of live rounds and the whirring of larger shells. As happens in all forms of combat, errors happened and some lives were unnecessarily lost, such as the feeding of some troops a heavy breakfast before the rough ride to shore, causing sea sickness. Many of them became disoriented and tried to move in the wrong direction, others jumped into water too deep and with all their equipment sank like rocks to their deaths. But many more in huge numbers made it to shore to fight their way through obstacles to move inland.
What these brave troops didn't know was that overnight, one special military action had at least played a big role in stopping some of the most withering artillery fire which was immobilized. Men of the 101st Airborne had neutralized three huge artillery pieces which meant that as bad as things were, they could have been worse.
One particular beachhead in the broad assault, a critical one, was so difficult that as the day progressed it remained in doubt. It was Omaha Beach with its massive bluffs and cliffs, highly fortified at the top with built in concrete bunkers like a fortress. Omaha had to be taken since it was the linchpin for a pincer movement which would force the German troops to retreat inland. On the first wave of troops storming Omaha, few if any survived, but wave after wave continued and the Germans began to show concern that they would be outlasted. Finally, after many bloody hours, openings were made in the obstacle-covered pathway using bangalore torpedoes and they reached the base of the cliffs. Many died that first made the climb but as time went on the Germans, realizing the inevitable by the sheer numbers coming, began to pull back. And so, after all the nail biting of the military command, Omaha was also secured and the beachhead was open to arrival of the much needed equipment and supplies to begin the push toward Germany and Berlin. They now controlled the beachhead and the first two miles of territory into France. It took nearly a full year to accomplish the ultimate task of defeating Germany, but had the invasion at Normandy not succeeded, history could have turned out much different.
At the end of "The Longest Day" over 4400 Allied soldiers lay dead, including over 2500 Americans. German casualties were more than double that number and over 200,000 German soldiers were captured. Most important, the cocky Third Reich was beginning to realize that their reign of terror over Europe would soon end though they would never admit it until the bitter end. Every soldier in America's quest for freedom participating in this event was and is a hero and so, I hope all of us will take the time to remember what they did for all Americans, then and now, to save the world from Hitler. And for those of us who know the story well, kindly pass it on to the younger generations that no longer receives education in American history. It's one way of explaining why sometimes we must fight, but that we can learn from history when that time is appropriate. We should never take war lightly.
Let's commemorate the brave heroes of Normandy, living or dead, and thank God for delivering us from tyranny. And may America always be free, with the flag flying proudly and God in our hearts. That is the real message of "The Longest Day."