NORMANDY, France — In our day of drones, satellites and smart bombs, it’s hard to imagine the human cost of D-Day. Each attacking allied force knew it -- death was possible, if not probable. What drove those Americans forward?
In Normandy, France, you can sense it on the drive in, feel it on the wind-swept beaches and without question see it in the American cemetery, that’s the sacrifice.
Museums and memorials tell the story from every angle. That’s the flood of men, bullets and blood on Utah and Omaha beaches. That’s just two of five beaches US, British and Canadian troops rushed and died on that day.
Elite Army paratroopers from the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions shelled and shot at in the skies, landing in and around Nazis in the night.
John Steele hung from a church steeple, played dead, was captured, but later escaped to fight again. Who does any or all of that? Nearly 160,000 Americans and other Allied forces who knew more grim than death itself was a world ruled by Adolf Hitler.
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There was some element of surprise, but the Nazis were ready. Remnants of their Atlantic wall show coastal guns and fortifications were locked and loaded for the allies.
Nazi Field Marshal Erwin Rommel inspected the Atlantic wall. Many walk that same path today. That’s down into the concrete bunkers where they peer out the same gun ports that fired on American soldiers.
D-Day really wasn’t a day. It was a season of killing and conquest.
And there was no other way. No diplomacy. No compromise. No safety for civilians or soldiers.
It was world domination by a dictator or fight for freedom. Each of these fought to the end. There was an abundance of sacrifice. Men knew death was all but certain. They would never go home.
No one who made that sacrifice in Normandy 75 years ago will ever be forgotten. And no one who comes to see it will ever forget. But given the cost and what was given to us, let’s hope no one ever does forget.
It is this near-tangible sense of why we are free that keeps each D-Day story alive, even 75 years later.