Friday, June 5, 2009

June 6, 1944: D-Day (65 Years Ago)

Sixty-five years ago, on June 6, 1944, the allied nations invaded France on D-Day to begin taking Europe back from the Nazis.

(Americans in England waiting for D-Day).

The Allied forces involved in D-Day mostly were Americans, English, and Canadians. The men, weapons, tanks, and ships were all gathered in England in anticipation of crossing the English Channel and landing on the coast of France. The Germans knew that the Allies would come by ship, and knew they would come across the English Channel. They did not know when the attack would take place, and did not know exactly where it would take place.

There were months of decoy operations by the British to try to fool the Germans into thinking the landing would come from the North. Once the preparations were completed, the Allies waited on a day by day basis, controlled by the weather. They could not launch the attack if the seas were too rough, or if there were major storms anticipated. So they waited. And the Germans waited on the coast of France, which they had fortified with concrete and steel bunkers and cannons.

The Landing forces included gliders that were flown to France then released, gliding to the ground; paratroopers who were flown into France then dropped into areas where the Allies hoped the German presence would not be too concentrated. These airborne drops were made to have people in France in advance of the coastal landing. The Allies knew it was imperative to quickly take out the communications lines as well as blow up some bridges and prevent the Germans from communicating to Berlin that the invasion had begun and reinforcements were needed.

On June 6, 1944, the public was briefly advised that the invasion had begun: "Under command of General Eisenhower, Allied naval forces, supported by strong air forces, began landing Allied armies this morning on the northern coast of France." The first ships and men hit the beaches of Normandy at 6:30 a.m. on June 6, 1944.

There were 156,000 troops landed in France on D-Day, 73,000 from the U.S.. In addition to the airborne troops who landed by gliders and parachutes, the seaborne troops landed on the beaches in Normandy whose names became familiar to generations who followed: Utah Beach, Omaha Beach, Gold Beach, Juno, and Sword Beach. The allied aircraft flew almost 15,000 sorties that day.

The name of the naval part of the operation on D-Day was Operation Neptune. It included almost 7000 vessels consisting of naval combat ships, landing ships and landing craft, ancillary craft, and merchant vessels. Almost 200,000 personnel worked in the Operation Neptune part of the D-Day operation.

There is no "official" casualty number for D-Day because of the chaos of the invasion. But the unofficial figure is that 10,000 members of the allied invading forces died on D-Day. However, recent studies suggest the numbers may have been much higher. In addition, 24 warships and 35 merchant or auxiliary ships were sunk in June of 1944 in connection with D-Day.

From June 6, 1944 through the end of August, over 425,000 Allied and German troops were killed, wounded or went missing in connection with the Allied advances after D-Day. This figure includes over 200,000 Allied casualties. Roughly 200,000 German troops were killed or wounded, and 200,000 Germans were taken as prisoners of war.

Between 15,000 and 20,000 French civilians were also killed on D-Day in the Allied bombing.

Seventy (70) Million people were killed during World War II.

When you look at photos of World War II, or newsreels, there is an obvious respect for the common men and women working and fighting to stop the Nazis, working together, as allies, to protect our world. Not worship, not the nonsense that we hear from the politicians about the military -- just respect for the simple men and women making sacrifices and putting their lives on their line out of a sense of duty to others.

It seems like this may have been the last time that we all were part of a team, working together, united against the clear evil of the Fascist governments of Germany, Japan and Italy. There was a very brief period after World War II when it seemed like our politicians and business leaders acknowledged that American men and women deserve to have jobs, education for their kids, nice communities and homes, living wages, so they created programs and policies to make sure tha happened. No more.

We don't have a team anymore. We have an elite group of incredibly rich people who would steal a lollipop out of the mouth of a child if they thought they could sell it on e-bay, people who see most of us as chumps, clearly not on the same team. These wealthy people have their own team which is made up of the richest people in the world. That's why Daddy Bush was hanging out with the bin Ladens and the Saudi Princes on the morning of 9/11 -- because they're on the same team, and it's not our team. As are Gates and Buffett and the Clintons -- not on our team. As are the CEOs of the major corporations, and all the management insiders of Wall Street and the politicians they own.

They're on one team which is not tied to the U.S. or to its people. The entry fee for their team is that you must have hundreds of millions of dollars. We, the working people of the U.S., are on our own team -- but somebody stole our equipment and uniforms, sold our field and the lights, took all the food from our snack bar, stole our cars while we were waiting on the field for the game to start. Now what do we do?


  1. French honor D-Day vet from all-black unit
    By SUE LINDSEY – 19 hours ago

    ROANOKE, Va. (AP) — As a soldier in World War II, William Dabney was used to the military's segregated quarters. An African-American, he had no contact with his white counterparts.

    Until D-Day.

    Black and white soldiers stormed Omaha Beach together on June 6, 1944, Dabney recalled.

    "When I landed, quite a few white guys were on the landing barge," he said. "There wasn't any segregation there."

    But until now Dabney's all-black unit, the 320th, has received little recognition for its service that day.

    Dabney, the 320th's last known survivor, is in France this weekend to receive that nation's highest award: the Legion of Honor. The Roanoke resident will be in Normandy for ceremonies commemorating D-Day's 65th anniversary on Saturday that President Barack Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy will attend.

    Dabney's participation in the event was arranged hastily after the executive director of a federal agency that honors war casualties learned last week that the 320th had gone largely unrecognized.

    Carmella LaSpada, of the White House Commission on Remembrance, contacted the French Embassy as soon as she found out that one member — Dabney — was still alive.

    "They were very accommodating," LaSpada said Friday. "I said 'He has to go.'"

    Dabney, who turns 85 later this month, signed up with the Army when he was 17 1/2 after his buddies were drafted.

    "After they left I was kind of lonesome," he said.

    After the war, Dabney started a flooring business in Roanoke. His son accompanied him to France this week.

    Dabney was the leader of a barrage balloon battalion that protected anti-aircraft guns. Barrage balloons were like small blimps filled with helium, he said, and were used to interfere with enemy strafings.

    The troops were under fire when they hit the beach, he said.

    Dabney said he didn't have much interaction with the white soldiers on D-Day.

    "We were going in to battle," he said. "Nobody had much to say

  2. Wow! What a great story, and how awful that this unit has not been properly recognized for their contributions. Thanks for posting this.