Seventy-five years later, it remains difficult to comprehend the pivotal World War II military operation known as D-Day. It was an extraordinary feat that remains the largest military operation by sea and was the largest use of airborne troops up to that time. On this day, June 6, 2019, we honor those courageous men who fought so bravely as they stormed the beaches at Normandy in northern France in 1944, where enemy troops were well-armed and ready for battle, and we salute the paratroopers who jumped into dire circumstances behind enemy lines.
For those who may not know what the “D” in D-Day stands for, it’s not doomsday or destruction. The D simply means day; the designation was traditionally used for the date of any significant military invasion or operation, according to the National World War II Museum. But it was a day like no other.
D-Day is considered the most significant victory of the Western allies during World War II because it allowed the allies to ultimately defeat Germany. More than 150,000 soldiers from the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom came ashore on those beaches, and thousands perished.
Historians are still trying to determine the exact number of allied troops who died on D-Day. The estimates range from 5,000 to 12,000.
At an average age of 95 or older, there are few remaining D-Day survivors. Some are participating in commemorative D-Day anniversary events that have been taking place in France over the past several days. One 97-year-old veteran parachuted into Normandy, marking 75 years to the day of his first landing there in 1944.
The Associated Press published photos of D-Day veterans saluting as they posed with school children at the Normandy American Cemetery in France. There was a special poignancy as young children and old soldiers came together, and there was an urgency to pass on those memories and explain the significance of D-Day.
There will soon come a day when all of the witnesses of that fateful, bloody day will be gone. Their stories must live on with generations to come as an eternal reminder of the ultimate cost of war.