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Normandy Sacrifices Place Debt on All

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 4, 2004 – No matter how many military operations have been, or will be, launched: To Americans, D-Day will always be June 6, 1944.

D-Day was the "Greatest Generation's" ultimate operation and represents a lasting legacy.

The invasion at Normandy code-named Operation Overlord was the largest amphibious operation in history. Planning took years and required massive amounts of shipping, aircraft, equipment, supplies and, most of all, personnel.

As we look back on the invasion, it can seem that the invasion was pre-ordained for success. Nothing could be further from the truth. It was a daring operation into the teeth of a well-entrenched enemy.

Many "what-ifs" could have doomed the Allied invasion. What if Hitler had realized early that the landings in Normandy were the main Allied efforts? What if German Field Marshall Erwin Rommel had the time to perfect the defenses on the beaches? What if Panzer divisions had arrived at the beaches the day of the invasion? What if the men of the 1st and 29th Infantry divisions hadn't fought and clawed their way off "Bloody Omaha" Beach?

These what-ifs-turned-into-certainty could have changed the course of history. Even with these what-ifs not being factors, the invasion's success was still not a sure thing. At nightfall on June 6, Allied commander Army Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower could only say that his forces had established a beachhead. Holding it was another story.

But the men of the American, British, Canadian and French forces fought tenaciously. Other men landed more supplies, more tanks, more artillery pieces and more fighting men. Thousands of those fighting men paid the ultimate price.

It is now 60 years later, and those young men that defeated the Nazi menace are now old. This anniversary could be their last large-scale celebration and remembrance.

As we look to the years ahead, D-Day June 6 is a date that later generations need to remember. The cause our fathers and grandfathers fought for needs to live on. And we need to celebrate the world they made and left for us to maintain.

The American cemetery above Omaha Beach is freedom's sacred ground. More than 5,300 Americans lie in honored glory in that graveyard and that's just a small portion of those killed in battle.

The row upon row of crosses and Stars of David should give every American an idea of the sacrifice that an earlier generation made on our behalf. They should also inspire this generation and all future ones to maintain the light of freedom handed to us.

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