June 06, 2019

Remembering D-Day

As we reflect today on the sacrifice of our Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines during WWII, the 75th anniversary of D-Day offers all of us the opportunity, if not obligation, to pause and recommit that we will never forget those who gave their lives for the enduring freedom of others, from Europe to the Pacific to our American homeland – in the 20th century and today.

More than 4,000 US Soldiers died in the first horrific hours of D-Day during the allied invasion and amphibious assault of German-occupied France on 6 June, 1944. An unstoppable force, by the end of the day approximately 50,000 US, British and Canadian forces had landed on the beaches of Normandy. Their courage and undaunted advances into France were the beginning of the end of the Nazi war machine.

Within a week, the beaches were fully secured and over 326,000 troops, more than 50,000 vehicles and some 100,000 tons of equipment had landed at Normandy.

In less than a year following D-Day, and adding to the numbers lost in North Africa earlier in the war, more than 275,000 US Soldiers were killed during WWII.
 
The selfless sacrifice, loss of life, and courage of our American forces during WWII may be beyond comprehension today. We must never forget them.
 
For more than two years prior to the D-Day landings, US Army Air Corp B-17 and B-24 crews conducted bombing missions into Germany and against German-occupied targets in France and across Western Europe. During those operations, tens of thousands of American Airmen were killed in action. Their courage ensured that the US and allied D-Day invasion force would see no attacks by German bombers or fighters, and that the industrial capacity of Germany to support combat operations against US and allied forces was significantly depleted.
 
In the month before the invasion, Our Airmen flew more than 17,000 bomber sorties and 15,000 fighter sorties to destroy the German transportation network—roads, trains and railroad tracks—that could reinforce the coast, while killing the Luftwaffe to ensure air superiority.    
 
By May 1945, all German military forces surrendered. By August 1945 Japan had also surrendered. In the Pacific Theater, our US Marines suffered more than 24,000 killed in action. In our US Navy, we record that more than 60,000 of our Sailors died in combat actions during WWII. From April 1942 and the Doolittle raid on Tokyo to the end of WWII, America lost more than 80,000 Airmen.
 
In closing, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt shared a prayer on June 6, 1944, over the radio and across America. The closing paragraph is offered here as we never forget the ultimate sacrifice of those American Warriors who gave their lives for others on D-Day and in the deadly combat operations of WWII.
 
“Let not the keenness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose.” 
 
Orville Wright
President
Air Force Association