Seventy-Five Years Later: D-Day Remembered by Those Who Were There

D day
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Seventy-five years ago today, the United States joined with Great Britain, the free French forces, and Canada to mount a bold invasion of the beachhead in Normandy, France as a last-ditch effort to gain a foothold in Europe against the conquering forces of Hitler’s Germany.

To commemorate this significant event, President Donald Trump read the prayer President Franklin Delano Roosevelt read over the radio while the troops stormed the Normandy beaches during his Great Britain visit Wednesday.

Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.

They will need Thy blessings, for the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. But we shall return again and again.

And we know that by thy grace and the righteous of our cause our sons will triumph. Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.

And, O Lord, give us faith. Give us faith in Thee; faith in our sons; faith in each other; faith in our united crusade.

Thy will be done Almighty God

Amen

The almost 160,000-soldier seaborne operation would mark a massive pivot in the Allies’ defense against the Nazis and the bloodthirsty Axis.

At the time, it was not known the operation would be a success.

General Dwight Eisenhower:

This operation is not being planned with any alternatives. This operation is planned as a victory, and that’s the way it’s going to be. We’re going down there, and we’re throwing everything we have into it, and we’re going to make it a success.

Great Britain’s Prime Minister Winston Churchill:

This vast operation is undoubtedly the most complicated and difficult that has ever occurred.

Uncertainty about the largest amphibious military invasion in human history also came from the people who charged the Normandy beaches. Here are some first-hand accounts:

Robert Edlin, a member of 2nd Ranger Battalion, was part of the first assault on Omaha Beach. Here is some of his first-hand account of what he encountered.

“I began to run with my rifle in front of me. I went directly across the beach to try to get to the seaway. In front of me was part of the II6th Infantry, pinned down and lying behind beach obstacles. They hadn’t made it to the seaway. I kept screaming at them, ‘You have to get up and go! You gotta get up and go!’ But they didn’t. They were worn out and defeated completely. There wasn’t any time to help them.

I continued across the beach. There were mines and obstacles all up and down the beach. The air corps had missed it entirely. There were no shell holes in which to take cover. The mines had not been detonated. Absolutely nothing that had been planned for that part of the beach had worked. I knew that Vierville-sur-Mer was going to be a hellhole, and it was.

When I was about twenty yards from the seaway I was hit by what I assume was a sniper bullet. It shattered and broke my right leg. I thought, well, I’ve got a Purple Heart. I fell, and as I did, it was like a searing hot poker rammed into my leg. My rifle fell ten feet or so in front of me. I crawled forward to get to it, picked it up, and as I rose on my left leg, another burst of I think machine gun fire tore the muscles out of that leg, knocking me down again.”

Roy Arnn stepped foot on the Normandy beaches as a member of Boat Crew #8.

“I was trying to get the mine detector out of the box but couldn’t as the lid was jammed. There was no place to hide in the open and people in the house kept firing. As I got my rifle up to my shoulder to shoot, a tank came up out of the water. The gunner put a shell into the house. About the same time, a sniper shot at me. The bullet kicked sand in my face and passed under my left armpit, which caused me to flatten out.

At the same time a shell from a German 88 artillery piece exploded near my feet. Had I not been flattened out, the shrapnel from the artillery shell would have probably killed me. Instead the shrapnel hit my right shoulder and leg. The explosion and concussion seemed to push me into the ground and knocked the breath out of me.

The force of the explosion blew my helmet off and cut the corner of my left eye. I soon lost sight in my eye because blood was running into it. I turned to look back of me and tried to yell to Corporal Lee to get a medic. He looked at me with astonishment and started screaming for the medic as though he were hit. Max Norris was the medic and as he tried to get the rifle from my shoulder; it hurt something awful. I found out later that the scapula and clavicle were broken besides the deep wounds in my shoulder and leg.”

John G. Burkhalter described what he saw from the enemy when he was on Omaha Beach.

“When my part of the Division landed, there were impressions made on my mind that will never leave it. Just before landing we could see heavy artillery shells bursting all up and down the beach at the water’s edge under well directed fire. As I stood in line waiting to get off the LCI to a smaller craft to go into shore, I was looking toward land and saw a large shell fall right on a landing craft full of men. I had been praying quite a bit through the night as we approached the French coast but now I began praying more earnestly than ever. Danger was everywhere; death was not far off. I knew that God alone is the maker and preserver of life, who loves to hear and answer prayer. We finally landed and our assault craft was miraculously spared, for we landed with no shells hitting our boat.

Ernie Pyle came ashore the morning after the assault and after seeing the results of what took place the day before he wrote, ‘Now that it’s all over, it seems to me a pure miracle we ever took the beach at all.’

The enemy had a long time to fix up the beach. The beach was covered with large pebbles to prevent tank movements, and mines were everywhere. The enemy was well dug in and had set up well prepared positions for machine guns and had well chosen places for sniping.

Everything was to their advantage and to our disadvantage, except one thing, the righteous cause for which we are fighting – liberation and freedom.”

During this day, please remember the 14,000 allied casualties who lost their lives fighting for freedom.

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Zachery Schmidt is the digital editor of Battleground State News.

 

 

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