Archie P. McDonald, PhD
years ago on June 6 the forces of Allied Supreme Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower
hit the beaches of Normandy in northwestern France.|
Churchill from another context, it was the beginning of the end for Nazi Germany's
Fortress Europa and the iron grip of Hitlerism that had controlled the continent
since the summer of 1940.
For months Allied bombers had pounded German
defenses and industrial sites while literally millions of men and their logistical
support for the invasion mustered in southern England. Operation Overlord, code
name for the invasion, was no secret to German defenders, but they failed to pin-point
the exact site where it would come, partly because the German high command would
not heed the advice of field commanders. And when the invasion came, many of those
commanders were absent, also slowing an effective response.
complaints that so many American GIs were "over paid, over sexed, and over here,"
preparations proceeded smoothly because of the common goal of defeating Hitler,
and because of Eisenhower's diplomatic skills in keeping the coalition together.
Ike remarked later that victory in Europe resulted from his having better weathermen.
He meant that in addition to worrying about men, ships, and supplies, only a narrow
window of time was available when tides and other variables would work for the
invasion. He scheduled D-Day for June 5, and then storm clouds covered the channel
and beaches, forcing postponement.
In a tense headquarters, Ike's meteorologists
predicted acceptable weather if he ordered the invasion the next day, June 6.
With sea-sick men already aboard transports, Ike elected to go rather than disembark
them on the wrong shore and wait another month. It was a grand gamble, and he
knew it; in his pocket were two messages, one announcing success and the other
failure. Fortune and the weather smiled, so Ike got to use the first message.
Newspapers in East Texas and elsewhere in America got out "extra" editions to
announce the invasion, and home front families waited anxiously for news of family
members and friends. Then word came: over 50,000 Allied troops, mostly American,
British, and Canadian, made it ashore at Normandy on June 6. Despite suffering
about 6,000 casualties, they had begun the long march to end the reign of the
Sixty years later, it is still appropriate to ask, as did
Private Ryan, if we, as a nation, have been worthy of the sacrifice of those 6,000
and the other thousands of casualties of World War II?
June 6-12, 2004
column in over 40 East Texas newspapers
Published with permission
service of the East Texas Historical Association. Archie McDonald, of Nacogdoches,
is the Associationšs executive director and the author of more than twenty books.