UTAH. OMAHA. GOLD. SWORD. JUNO.
It was so bad at Omaha beach it was referred to as “bloody Omaha.”
The Boys of Pointe Du Hoc. US Army Rangers who climbed cliffs straight into the teeth of blazing machine guns.
The PIRs of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions. The 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, famous for being called The band Of Brothers, and their text book assault of
Brecourt Manor led by Lt. Dick Winters. To this day, the operation is taught and studied at military academies.
There would tough days ahead. The winter of 1944 would test our citizen soldiers like no other. But tyranny’s grip on Europe would be wrested away starting June 6, 1944.
In 1984, at Normandy, President Reagan gave his famous “Boys of Pointe Du Hoc” Speech:
Forty summers have passed since the battle that you fought here. You were young the day you took these cliffs; some of you were hardly more than boys, with the deepest joys of life before you. Yet, you risked everything here. Why? Why did you do it? What impelled you to put aside the instinct for self-preservation and risk your lives to take these cliffs? What inspired all the men of the armies that met here? We look at you, and somehow we know the answer. It was faith and belief; it was loyalty and love.
The men of Normandy had faith that what they were doing was right, faith that they fought for all humanity, faith that a just God would grant them mercy on this beachhead or on the next. It was the deep knowledge--and pray God we have not lost it--that there is a profound, moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest. You were here to liberate, not to conquer, and so you and those others did not doubt your cause. And you were right not to doubt.
You all knew that some things are worth dying for. One's country is worth dying for, and democracy is worth dying for, because it's the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man. All of you loved liberty. All of you were willing to fight tyranny, and you knew the people of your countries were behind you.
The Americans who fought here that morning knew word of the invasion was spreading through the darkness back home. They thought--or felt in their hearts, though they couldn't know in fact, that in Georgia they were filling the churches at 4 a.m., in Kansas they were kneeling on their porches and praying, and in Philadelphia they were ringing the Liberty Bell.
Something else helped the men of D-Day: their rock-hard belief that Providence would have a great hand in the events that would unfold here; that God was an ally in this great cause.
And so, the night before the invasion, when Colonel Wolverton asked his parachute troops to kneel with him in prayer he told them: Do not bow your heads, but look up so you can see God and ask His blessing in what we're about to do. Also that night, General Matthew Ridgway on his cot, listening in the darkness for the promise God made to Joshua: "I will not fail thee nor forsake thee.''
These are the things that impelled them; these are the things that shaped the unity of the Allies. ..
And these are the men we remember today.
“Thank you” just doesn’t seem to begin to express the debt we all owe.