The beaches are quiet now. The cliffs of Pointe-du-Hoc are green with life. The church bells at Sainte-Mere-Eglise toll only for church. The only ships visible on the horizon are pleasure crafts and merchant vessels. In Colleville-sur-Mer, the sounds of war have been replaced by the sounds of singing birds who alight on the headstones of the honored dead.
It was not so quiet back then.
75 years ago today, the greatest amphibious force ever known began its mission to finally free Europe and the world from a murderous regime that had terrorized and tortured millions. 75 years ago, the little boat chugged through the pounding surf, the withering gun fire, the explosions, to deliver their cargo of liberators. The boats were loaded with equipment, guns, ammunition and, most importantly, young men. Men from Omaha and Fresno and Minneapolis. From Christchurch and Prague. From London and Leeds and Bristol. From Toronto and Montreal. From Brussels and Krakow. And especially from Paris and Dieppe and Rouen, coming home to free those they had left behind.
And so they came. On the boats and dropped from the air.
Can you imagine being one of the men that day? Can you imagine just for a moment sitting on the boat, underneath a canopy of artillery shells lobbed to and fro, listening to bullets pinging off the landing ramp? Can you imagine the sheer terror as that ramp dropped, of seeing your comrades fall as they stepped into the surf, watching some sink to the bottom under the weight of their equipment, of seeing the carnage and hearing the screams of agony while all the while being asking to keep moving forward, onward, onto that beach and into the mouth of the enemy? Can you imagine drifting down through the air, knowing that the second you hit the ground, thousands of men would be surrounding you with one goal—that you did not return home.
And yet, they kept moving. Some of these boys had never seen a beach. Some of them had never had anyone shoot at them in anger or seen anyone die before. But they kept at it. They scaled those cliffs. They dropped through the air. They got on that beach. They moved inland. And within a year they ended the war.
Today is the 75th anniversary of D-Day. It is hard to fully fathom the heroism and courage demonstrated on that day. It is also hard to understate the debt we owe to those who were there. There are not many of them left but we must always be thankful that they were there. We are and will always be grateful for their sacrifices and the sacrifices of those who remained on those beaches, who stand silent watch under those headstones, and whose courage is and will always be an inspiration to all humanity.