BRAD STAMAN: Remembering and honoring heroes

FILE - In this June 5, 1944, file photo, U.S. serviceman attend a Protestant service aboard a landing craft before the D-Day invasion on the coast of France. June 6, 2019, marks the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the assault that began the liberation of France and Europe from German occupation, leading to the end World War II. Unit patches were scratched out by military censors at the time.

June 6 is a day no one should ever forget. It is a day that changed the course of our world. A day of great losses and victory against all odds.

It is the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the invasion of Normandy, France, by Allied troops during World War II.

The German army under the command of the cruel dictator, Adolf Hitler, controlled most of Europe.

Under the leadership of Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Allied forces planned the largest seaborne invasion in history. Allied soldiers would attack five beaches; Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword, along the coast of France.

“As our boat touched sand and the ramp went down I became a visitor to hell,” Pvt. Harry Parley recalled his landing on Omaha Beach in Stephen Ambrose’s book “D-Day.” “I shut everything out and concentrated on following the man in front of me down the ramp and into the water.”

Pvt. Parley was one of 156,000 Allied troops to take part in what was code named Operation Overlord.

The Germans looked down on the beaches from their heavily fortified positions and as the landing craft moved in, they opened fire.

“We hit the sandbar, dropped the ramp, and then all hell broke loose on us,” Electrician’s Mate Alfred Sears told Ambrose as he recalled his arrival on Omaha Beach.

Unlike in the movies, the battle was fierce, slow moving and very costly. Many men — good soldiers — sacrificed their lives without ever reaching the beach.

It is estimated that about 10,000 Allied soldiers either lost their lives, were wounded or went missing on June 6, 1944, in Operation Overlord — about 6,603 Americans, some 2,700 British and about 946 Canadians.

The reports making it back to Allied command, especially from Omaha Beach, was not good. However, there was no turning back.

Years later, in a report titled “Battle Lessons and Conclusions” from D-Day Major Gen. Charles Gerhardt summarized the lessons learned and they are great lessons for today as people struggle and consider giving up. He wrote, “No reports of disaster should be allowed. THEY ARE NEVER TRUE.”

Despite the reports of disaster, Allied troops slowly fought their way onto the beaches, up the cliffs and somehow by day’s end they had pushed the Germans back and established five beachheads.

What these American, British and Canadian soldiers accomplished on June 6, 1944, through raw grit and perseverance turned the tide. Their determination and sacrifices would lead to the ultimate fall of the Third Reich, the freeing of the concentration camps and the liberation of much of Western Europe.

The men who fought and died, along with those who lived to carry the day, should never be forgotten. Without their sacrifices the world we live in today could be completely different and not in a good way.

Each of those who fought in the invasion of Normandy, D-Day, are heroes whose sacrifices should never be forgotten or taken for granted. If not for them, our world would be much different today.

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