There are few Americans alive today, other than the dwindling number of World War II veterans, who comprehend the magnitude of the Normandy invasion on June 6, 1944.
Never in history has such a force been assembled to save the world and its people from rule under a military dictator.
Hundreds of thousands of young men from America, England, Canada, Australia and other Allied countries jumped off their landing craft into the icy waters of the English Channel to assault the beaches of Normandy. Airborne units jumped from aircraft or landed in gliders to attack the enemy from the rear. Good Americans died on the beaches in the first few hours.
Every man who participated in this attack was a hero - he faced a well-trained enemy using the finest weapons the Fatherland could produce. It was unlike our recent military misadventures in the Middle East, initiated by George W. Bush, based on bad intelligence.
Our World War II soldiers knew who the enemy was, where the enemy was, and what we were fighting for.
Infantrymen who saw their comrades slaughtered around them stayed on the attack. "Above and beyond the call of duty" does not adequately describe their actions. D-Day changed the face of the world and its peoples more than any other military operation in recent history
Next, consider pivotal events that preceded D-Day.
First, the evacuation of more than 200,000 British troops under siege, after they had failed to push German troops out of France and back into their homeland. The rescue of these troops, aptly called the "Miracle at Dunkirk," saved men and supplies for future battles. Somehow the Panzers and the Luftwaffe failed to stop this escape.
Second, Hitler's options, after Dunkirk, included suggestions from his excellent staff officers to launch an immediate land, sea and air invasion of England - which very likely would have succeeded. Instead, Hitler listened to Herman Goering, Luftwaffe chief, who assured Hitler that his forces could bomb England into submission. Indeed, at that time, he was launching up to 900 aircraft almost daily against Britain.
Third came the spoilers: About 740 young Royal Air Force pilots who had recently graduated from old biplane types into high-performance Hurricanes and Spitfires. With the assistance of radar (Welles 1936), these pilots were able to attack the invaders with such effective ferocity that Goering had to call off his almost daily raids on British targets. The Luftwaffe had lost the Battle of Britain.
Hitler was slow to accept the ME 262 jet fighter, which could have dominated the skies over Western Europe and England, and he was running low on pilots and fuel.
We don't realize how close we came to living with a German-dominated Europe, and there never would have been a D-Day. Jawohl?
Chet Bowers, of Boise, is a World War II veteran.