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By FRANK DESORBO
“Soldiers, sailors and airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Forces: you are to embark up the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty loving people everywhere march with you.” General Eisenhower’s orders to the soldiers who took part in Operation Overlord on June 6, 1944 was inspiring and historic. The day primarily known as D Day was the beginning of the end of WW II. Through the struggles and tragedy of WW II came a generation of people that exemplified duty, sacrifice and integrity. The Normandy Invasion is the largest amphibious operation in our history.
Through the tragedy and horror of the invasion, courage and bravery unmatched in any human conflict emerged. The eleven month campaign that started in Normandy France and ended in May 1945 in Berlin, brought the greatest generation to the United States. We witnessed at the same time the brave soldiers who participated in the Island hoping to Japan that lead to a total end to WW II in August 1945.
The brave people of all branches, all battles and locations all over the world would bring home millions of memories, some to share, some to be tucked deep in their hearts. The year 1944 introduced to our history two major events unmatched in our history. The Battle of the Bulge had over a million troops from both sides. The Normandy Invasion consumed 160,000 troops, some 5,000 ships. Both events saw the herculean bravery of many men.
The Normandy Invasion succeeded with American, English, Canadian and French Resistance and lead to a foothold in France. Many more battles followed as the troops moved toward Germany. There were the hedge rows, nighttime was black, snipers and combat was brutal but the troops forged onward. As winter approached and “the boys thought they’d be going home for Christmas”, the Germans then made a bulge in the Allied lines. The Battle of the Bulge started on December 16, 1944 and became the largest battle of WW II. The largest in the terms of troops engaged on both sides and the casualties rose in the small towns and villages as they became battle fields. Many Veterans who had any role in the Battle of the Bulge remembers the worst winter on record in that 40 day campaign that ended on January 25, 1945. Not only was the enemies a major obstacle, so was the weather, the prisoners captured, and towns were destroyed and naturally the mounting casualties. The Battle of the Bulge conclusion opened the pathway to Germany as the fighting became more door to door.
Both historic events included the work of millions of people fighting on the battle fields and the many behind the lines. To every single one of them if they had one story to tell, so it there are millions of stories, millions of memories.
If you are so fortunate to talk to a WW II Veteran who was in the service in 1944, thank them deeply. They will tell you a story for the entire world knew the survival of our liberty and way of life was at stake. Ask a Veteran or Patriot what 1944 meant to them, if they do not recall, remind them.
Thank you Veterans of the Normandy Invasion and Battle of the Bulge, this is your time. Always remembered and forever grateful.