Seventy years ago Operation Overlord brought more aircraft, ships and soldiers together than any other battle before or after.
American, British, French and Canadian forces met on the beaches of Normandy, France on June 6, 1944: D-Day.
My tour bus parked in its designated spot, and I began to make my way to the historic beach with 20 other high school students.
It was quiet.
Quiet was the antithesis of the beach on D-Day.
Before dawn 20,000 airborne troops descended upon Normandy, starting off the day of carnage.
Allied ships pounded the coast, unloading 5,000 artillery rounds and 10,000 tons of bombs within 35 minutes. The 6,939 vessels stretched across the horizon, an imposing picture for the Germans to look upon.
Allied troops numbered 156,000 as they landed upon the five beaches targeted in the operation.
Roaring overhead were the 11,590 bombers, transport planes and other aircraft. They led the troops to the beach and rang in the sound of battle.
When I was on the cliff overlooking the Utah Beach I saw the scars of the battle that had taken place. The land was pockmarked with craters every few yards, memorializing the spot where each bomb met the earth.
Bunkers made of cinder block where German soldiers sought refuge still stood. They were eerie reminders of the reality of the prevalent evils existing at that time. A reminder that people can be hypnotized by seductive speeches and deceitful dogmas. A reminder we are fallible.
It was a sunny day, just a few clouds hanging in the sky.
D-Day was dark.
Eisenhower debated the night before the operation about postponing the assault due to the rough weather in the English Channel. Strong winds were blowing, and men were seasick from the violent waves.
The sky was overcast when the planes moved toward the coast. Many couldn’t see, and paratroopers were dropped off course.
While the conditions were not ideal for the Allies, they proved to be a strategic advantage. The Germans had not expected the invasion to occur on a day with such poor weather.
The Germans, nonetheless, were still present and waiting. Those positioned on top of the bluffs fired directly into Omaha Beach, taking advantage of the traffic created by the many tanks and troops trying to cross the sand.
Omaha Beach became an altar that fateful day. The sand was covered in sacrificial blood, spilled to free millions of people who were forcibly living under Nazi rule.
After D-Day, there was finally a second front the Nazis would have to fight.
Our group travelled down the road to Omaha Beach. The sand was clean save for a stray candy bar wrapper or soda can.
I quickly finished off the water in my water bottle and filled it with some of the sand. Just as the bunkers symbolized a downfall, though fully intact, the sand reminded me of goodness, though many had fallen upon it.
The men who had perished on this sand freely gave themselves for the cause of freedom. Although they were subject to the evils of this world, they chose to fight with everything they had, even their very lives, against it.
At the American Cemetery in Caen I looked upon the rows of crosses. Some crosses had names, others didn’t, but they all represented a note played in the beautiful chord of freedom.
It was a touching moment, and I cannot even begin to imagine how history might have been altered had those men chosen not to fight.
[email protected] | 817-573-7066, ext. 251