In three days, we will celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Allied landings at Normandy, D-Day. In those landings, the Allies drove the first nails in Hitler’s coffin. Good began to triumph over evil. A year later, the war would be over in Europe and shortly thereafter in the Pacific.
It was a complex undertaking with the Americans, British, and the Canadians landing on the beaches and the Americans and British dropping paratroopers behind the landing beaches with American Rangers scaling the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc.
The Americans fought the toughest battle at Bloody Omaha whereat the US 1st Div and the 29th Div landed and almost were thrown back into the sea until American courage overcame the German opposition. It was a very close call and evacuating the Omaha landing force was considered.
All told there were 10,000 casualties that day — KIA, WIA, MIA, POW. Of that number, 2,500 were from the American 82nd and 101st Airborne units who jumped before dawn.
Today, going to the Normandy American Cemetery is like going to church. The majesty of that memorial is the fitting equal of the D-Day undertaking.
From this historic undertaking and the lives lost in that effort a question confronts us:
Have we earned this sacrifice?
As a young soldier, I visited Normandy and Omaha Beach, Point du Hoc, and the cemetery. I stood at the edge of the surf in front of a German bunker and wondered, “Could I have done what my countrymen did?”
I served in the combat engineers when I was in the Army. Our job in such a landing would be to go in with the first wave and blow the beach obstacles, breach the barbed wire with bangalore torpedoes, and go to work on the enemy bunkers with explosives like satchel charges. I participated in two landings with the Korean marines in training. We were training them in blowing beach obstacles. Spent a lot of time seasick, but we blew the obstacles. It was hard work.
I stood beneath the cliffs at Point du Hoc and asked myself (Ranger and paratrooper myself), “Could I have scaled those cliffs under fire?”
I walked the cemetery. I wanted to read every name on the white stone crosses. The lieutenants particularly gripped me. I asked myself, “Could I have made that sacrifice?”
I remember those who received awards for bravery, including the Medal of Honor.
We are a free people only because men stand ready to defend our country with their lives. We have an Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps who must be ready to fight every night.
“Ready to fight tonight!” is the underpinning of our freedom. Today, we have an army of less than 450,000 soldiers. During World War II, we had a military (all branches) of 13,500,000. I tell you that because that is all that stands between freedom and tyranny.
I wonder. Do we deserve the sacrifices that these men made? Do we?
God bless America. God bless us all. God bless the story of Normandy when American fighting men stormed out of the ocean and paratroopers jumped into the night so that their countrymen and our allies could be free.
Have we earned this? I want to live in a country in which we can all say, “Yes.” Let us all make it so.