American soldiers resting at Pointe du Hoc – 6 June 1944. Public Doamin Image, via National Archives
Today is June 6.
On this day in 1944, some 156,000 Allied soldiers went over the beach at Normandy to begin the fight to liberate Europe from Nazi occupation.
The stories of heroism from that day are just too numerous to relate. The paratroopers who went into the black at shortly after midnight (a special shout out to the glider troops is in order who had as their unofficial motto: no flight pay, no jump pay, but never a dull moment). The Free French paratroopers and British SAS troopers of Operation SAMWEST. The line infantry and the armor battalions who came across the beach, often drowning under the weight of their equipment, and were killed in great numbers like A Company, 116th Infantry from Bedford County, VA, that was nearly wiped out in the early hours of the attack. The sailors of the USS Frankford (DD 497) who drove that ship into the very surf of Omaha Beach to provide fire support to the 1st Infantry Division and turn the tide of the battle for them. The men flying the RAF Typhoons and USAAF Thunderbolts that kept German armor from arriving on the battlefield. But the premier story, the one that epitomizes the spirit that won the day is that of the 2nd and 5th Ranger battalions who scaled the 100-ft. cliffs of Pointe du Hoc and took out a German coastal artillery battery. By the time they were relieved on June 8, only 90 of the 225 Rangers were left standing.
It was these men that President Ronald Reagan used as the focal point for his speech commemorating the 40th anniversary of D-Day.
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