‘God bless greatest generation’
Today’s the 75th anniversary of the D-Day Invasion of Normandy, France in World War II — codenamed Operation Overlord, the largest amphibious assault and the largest sea, air and land operation in history.
On Tuesday June 6, 1944, 150,000 American, British and Canadian troops supported by over 5,000 ships and 11,000 airplanes landed at Normandy, France on five landing beaches codenamed Omaha, Utah, Juno, Gold and Sword.
After years of meticulous planning and seemingly endless training, for the allied forces, it all came down to this: The boat ramp goes down, then jump, swim, run and crawl to the cliffs.
Many of the first young men, most of whom were not yet 20 years old, entered the surf carrying 80 pounds of equipment. They faced over 200 yards of beach before reaching the first natural feature offering any protection.
Blanketed by small-arms fire, machine gun fire and bracketed by artillery, they found themselves in hell. When it was over, the allied forces had suffered nearly 10,000 casualties; more than 4,000 were dead.
Yet somehow, due to planning and preparation, and due to the valor, fidelity, fortitude and sacrifice of the allied forces, fortress Europe and Hitler’s Atlantic Wall had been breached.
Of the five landing beaches, the worst was Omaha, which included the Cliffs at Point Du Hoc. One reason why was because in the first 15 minutes, America suffered 85 percent casualties.
Several hours prior to troops landing on the beaches, over 13,000 elite paratroopers of the American 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions, as well as several thousand from the British 6th Airborne Division were dropped at night by over 1,200 aircraft.
Almost 4,000 more paratroopers would later be brought in by gliders, known as Waco Gliders, during daylight hours. In total, 23,000 paratroopers and glider troops would be used in Normandy. They were all to land inland, behind the main line of German defenders on the beach and were given the job of taking the town of St. Mere Eglise and securing key approaches to the Allied beachhead.
Despite heavy casualties, when it was all over, the operation was a success. And the liberation of Europe from Hitler’s Nazi tyranny had begun.
One of my seven great uncles, who was one of three brothers, Francis J. Martin, U.S. Army, was at Omaha Beach.
Thank you to all those of the greatest generation who served, sacrificed and made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation — and to their families.
And to those who lost loved ones, friends and brothers in arms, I pray that our heavenly father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost.
And the solemn pride which must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.
God bless the greatest generation.
Rupp resides in Altoona.