“The noise was deafening. The black smoke and the acrid smell of cordite, which was coming from the battleships firing the big shells. They are the outstanding things in my memory coming from that day.”
That’s how former British Royal Marine Les Budding, now ninety-three, remembers what history calls D-Day. On June 6, 1944, more than five thousand ships, eleven thousand warplanes, and over 150,000 servicemen took part in the largest air, land, and sea operation ever undertaken.
When it was over, the Allied Forces had suffered nearly ten thousand casualties; 4,414 were confirmed dead. But a foothold against Nazi Germany had been established in Europe.
INFLATABLE DECOYS AND DUMMY PARATROOPERS
Normandy is a region in northern France. It was selected the year before as the location for an Allied invasion under General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s command. Code-named Operation Overlord, the invasion was preceded by a massive deception campaign.
Known as Operation Fortitude, this campaign involved a “dummy army” commanded by Lt. Gen. George Patton that pretended to target Calais, to the east of Normandy. German spy planes flying over southeast England reported the buildup of a massive invasion force, but the regiments of tanks and landing craft were mostly inflatable decoys.
Double agents and phony Allied radio traffic intended for the Germans confirmed the Calais strategy. The Allies also dropped hundreds of dummy paratroopers well inland of the eventual targets along the Normandy beaches.
As a result, Hitler was convinced that the actual invasion was merely a diversion. He was asleep when the invasion began; when he woke up, he refused initially to send reinforcements to Normandy.
AN ARTICLE EVERY AMERICAN SHOULD READ
While the Allies made brilliant preparations for the invasion, D-Day was nonetheless horrific.
Imagine yourself on a flat-bottomed landing craft approaching Omaha Beach. German artillery shells destroy boats all around you. You finally make it to shore and jump into the water while carrying eighty pounds of gear. German snipers atop the high cliff then begin strafing your lines.
One American unit landing at Omaha lost 90 percent of its men.
“First Wave at Omaha Beach,” an article in the November 1960 issue of The Atlantic, tells the story in detail. It should be required reading for all Americans as we pay tribute to the indescribable courage and sacrifice of those who fought for our freedom.
I once spent a day at the National WWII Museum in New Orleans. While I focused primarily on the war in the South Pacific where my father served, I also spent time at the D-Day exhibits. I was astounded by the complexity of the largest amphibious assault in history and humbled by the stories of the soldiers who risked—and many of whom gave—their lives for us.
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Source: Christian Headlines