The Normandy landings codenamed Operation Neptune was the largest amphibious operation in history. Today marks the 75th anniversary of that invasion, and while 75 years is at least two generations ago, it also seems like yesterday to some.
More than 150,000 soldiers from the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada took part in the invasion, hoping to push the Germans out of France. Military leaders knew that casualties would be high, but that didn’t stop the planned attack.
History.com recalls “because of bad weather and fierce German resistance, the D-Day beach landings were chaotic and bloody, with the first waves of landing forces suffering terrible losses, particularly the U.S. troops at Omaha beach and the Canadian divisions at Juno beach. But thanks to raw perseverance and grit, the Allies overcame those grave initial setbacks and took all five Normandy beaches by nightfall on June 6.”
A definitive count of Allied D-Day deaths of those who made that ultimate sacrifice is not known. Military records show that thousands of troops perished during the initial phases of the Normandy Campaign. The best figures recorded by the National D-Day Memorial Foundation is 4,414 Allied deaths – 2,501 were Americans and 1,913 were other Allies. The highest casualties occurred on Omaha beach, where 2,000 U.S. troops were killed, wounded or went missing.
The number of veterans alive who participated in World War II, especially in the Normandy invasion, are dwindling. Those who are still with us are a constant reminder of June 6, 1944. They lost comrades and some lost family members on that dreadful day.
Charles Oliver, an Avon Park High School alumni and West Point Academy graduate, was in Normandy, France on Wednesday. He is part of the Veterans Parachute Battalion, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the history of American paratroopers. The VPB took part in a commemorative jump into Normandy, marking the historic event.
The jump of more than 300 veterans took place on June 5, which was the original planned date of the D-Day invasion. French airspace is closed today for VIP traffic. The jump commemorated the sacrifices of those who willingly risked their lives to ensure freedom in Europe.
While not all of us can be in Normandy taking part in the commemoration events there, we should all take a moment this day to remember those who sacrificed all 75 years ago. Their efforts continued freedom back then and allow us our freedoms today.