D-Day, a time to reflect

Sixty-six years ago today, the history of the world changed forever. It was June 6, 1944 and the largest invasion of any war in history was taking place. After one of the most violent, lengthy battles in U.S. (possibly world) history, the Allied Forces began to push back the Nazi army and the momentum of the World War II European Theatre changed completely during the ensuing days.

The operation was the largest amphibious invasion of all time, with over 160,000 troops landing. 195,700 Allied naval and merchant navy personnel in over 5,000 ships were involved. The invasion required the transport of soldiers and materiel from the United Kingdom by troop-laden aircraft and ships, the assault landings, air support, naval interdiction of the English Channel and naval fire-support.

Many historians say that it was the largest coordinated movement of people of all time - and that doesn’t just include war history.

“It was amazing how back in those days . . . days when the forms of communication we take for granted didn’t exist, that this massive attack was organized,” said LSU History Professor Rob Outland. “Now the beach (Normandy) the Allies invaded was only about a 50 mile stretch and was broken into five (Omaha, Gold, Utah, Juno and Sword) landing points. They met very heavy resistance. However, the Germans eventually were simply overpowered by the sheer number of soldiers who took part in the invasion.”

Those are the historic facts of D-Day, also known as Operation Overlord. The bravery of the men who took part in the battle and the challenges they faced is what made the battle legendary enough to be remembered for centuries. In these days of drone attacks and long range missiles, gunfights and hand-to-hand combat are slowly being replaced as secondary military options.

“I have to say that I really don’t care much for movies depicting historical events,” said Outland. “But the first half hour of ‘Saving Private Ryan’ is pretty much what those soldiers faced. If you were one of those on the first wave of boats that landed I’d say you’re chance of survival was about 25%.”

“Don’t think these guys didn’t know that,” he said. “And they charged those beaches anyway.”

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