“OK, let’s go.”
With that simple, typically understated command belying the enormity of the decision he had just made, Gen. Dwight Eisenhower set in motion what he called “the Great Crusade” — the liberation of Western Europe from Nazi tyranny.
The next day, June 6, 1944, the first of about 156,000 American, British, Canadian and other allied soldiers began fighting their way onto the beaches of Normandy, France. More than 4,400 of them, including 2,500 Americans, would die on those beaches.
But by the end of the day, they had a foothold in France. Over the next five days, another 170,000 allied troops would land in Normandy. The beginning of the end of World War II in Western Europe was under way.
To those of us who know of D-Day only from news articles, books and films — which is most of us, since few of the men who fought on those beaches in Normandy 70 years ago remain alive, and most of those who are still with us are in their 90s now — the invasion’s success seems inevitable. Yet the allies struggled to meet key objectives on June 6, and Eisenhower was fully aware of the potential for failure. As a precaution, he famously wrote a tentative news release that stated: “Our landings … have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops … If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.”
For more on this story, read this week’s print and online editions of the Fredericksburg Standard-Radio Post. If you are a print subscriber, your full online subscription is free. All you need to do is call 830-997-2155 to get a password. If you are not a subscriber, call 997-2155 or click on the ‘Subscribe’ button on the left side of the home page and sign up today!