years ago on June 6 the forces of Allied Supreme Commander Dwight
D. Eisenhower hit the beaches of Normandy in northwestern France.
Paraphrasing Winston 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.
Despite British 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,
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 Third Reich.
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
June 6, 2004
A syndicated column in over 40 East Texas newspapers
Published with permission
A public service of the East Texas Historical Association. Archie
McDonald, of Nacogdoches, is the Associationšs executive director
and the author of more than twenty books.