Today’s 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion by the Allies of Nazi-held Western Europe in World War II provides a poignant and powerful reminder that a great and bloody conflict saved civilization from tyranny less than 100 years ago, and that U.S. participant-witnesses to those battles are passing at the rate of more than 400 every day.
The invasion of Normandy by approximately 160,000 soldiers from the United States, Great Britain, Canada and other allies was the largest seaborne military action in history. The vast majority of the invasion forces were young men in their late teens and 20s, and the youngest survivors now are in their late 80s.
The aging of those veterans and others from other World War II missions gives this anniversary added weight because in the U.S. only 1.25 million of the 16.1 million who served during the war survive.
The biggest U.S. commemoration will be in Bedford, Virginia, a town in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Roanoke, Virginia, that is home to the National D-Day Memorial.
The memorial was placed in Bedford because 19 of 37 Bedford men who took part in D-Day were killed when they landed on Omaha Beach in the face of German fire.
This year’s Bedford D-Day ceremony is scheduled to include the unveiling of a statue honoring them. About 10,000 people are expected to attend today and Saturday, organizers have said.
In Washington, D.C., a wreath-laying ceremony and speeches are on tap at the National World War II Memorial.
The National World War II Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana, is set to host a ceremony at 6:30 a.m., marking the moment the invasion began.
Operation Overlord, the code name for the invasion, marked a decisive moment in the war, which had raged in Europe and over England since 1939.
The operation required 288 days of planning and lasted 85 days, involved thousands of ships manned by 195,700 naval personnel, published articles have reported. Landing on the French coast were 73,000 troops from the U.S., 61,715 from Britain and thousands more from Canada and other Allied countries.
Mississippians were among the thousands killed or wounded in the invasion.
In seven weeks following D-Day the Allied invasion forces had climbed to about 900,000.
Many who invaded also fought through until the spring of 1945, when the Allies finally defeated the German Nazis, saving all of us from one insane threat, only to have it followed by the development of the Cold War and all that followed.