The Normandy Invasion that opened the Allies great crusade in Europe happened 68 years ago today

By John Keller
"And then as the last formation flew over,
an amber light blinked down through the clouds
on the fleet below. Slowly it flashed out
in Morse code three dots and a dash:
V for Victory."


-- Cornelius Ryan
   The Longest Day


Posted by John Keller

THE MIL & AERO BLOG, 6 June 2012. The invasion of Europe 68 years ago today began with the turning of an airplane propeller. Then the engine of that Douglas C-47 coughed to life, followed by another, and another ...

Soon the engines of thousands of aircraft roared all over England, ready to carry airborne soldiers, tow gliders, haul ammunition and food, drop bombs and shoot bullets to support the Allied invasion of Normandy -- still to this day the largest amphibious military landing in history.

The Normandy invasions of five beaches in Western France on June 6, 1944, opened a western front in Europe during World War II, which not only relieved soldiers of the Soviet Union, who had been slugging it out with forces of Nazi Germany for three years, but also hastened an end to World War II's chapter in Europe. Germany would surrender 11 months later.

More than 550,000 soldiers were killed, wounded, or missing in the Normandy Invasion -- 320,000 Germans, 135,000 Americans, 65,000 British, 18,000 Canadians, and 12,200 French.
Just that number of CASUALTIES is more than three times the total number of soldiers -- Union and Confederate -- who were involved in the Battle of Gettysburg. In one cataclysmic battle, it's almost 90 percent of the total number of American casualties in the entire Civil War.

It was a big battle, as the silent rows of white headstones in Allied military cemeteries around Normandy will attest. No need here to recount the details or emotional impact of the battle. We've seen numerous accounts in books and movies to give us an idea of what those soldiers went through 68 years ago today.

The books The Longest Day by Cornelius Ryan and The Steel Wave by Jeff Shaara come to mind, as do Steven Spielberg's movie Saving Private Ryan, and his TV series Band of Brothers, based on the book of the same name by Stephen Ambrose.

In my life I've met and written about veterans of the Normandy Invasion. I sat one afternoon with a former paratrooper from the 101st Airborne Division who parachuted behind the lines early the morning before the first soldiers hit the beaches.

He described such a scene of crying, vomiting, praying paratroopers waiting their turns to jump that morning, flak bursting around them, their faces lit by burning and exploding aircraft close by, that my interview concluded when this brave veteran simply couldn't go on describing the scene.

Another Normandy veteran who went ashore after the first wave showed me a mutilated wallet wrapped in plastic. The wallet was his, and it was mangled by a piece of shrapnel that sliced open his chest during the fighting. He said he could look down and see his beating heart before he lost consciousness.

All of us reading this column will see a day in the not-too-distant future when all the veterans of World War II will be gone. I remember growing up when these veterans seemed like they were on every street corner.

I lost touch with those guys I met who fought at Normandy, and I suspect they have passed on by now; I did those interviews 28 years ago, yet I still think of them from time to time.

Today I'm thinking about them a lot.

Easily post a comment below using your Linkedin, Twitter, Google or Facebook account.

Previous Blog Posts

Capital Hill budget deal could restore tens of billions of dollars to the Pentagon

Tue Dec 17 13:15:00 CST 2013

Hacker drone story a cautionary tale about the need for unmanned vehicle data security

Tue Dec 10 09:46:00 CST 2013

Lack of money for systems upgrades threatens to maintain wind-farm radar dead spots

Tue Dec 03 10:36:00 CST 2013

Engineering support contracts indicate the Pentagon is sinking into the Mothball Strategy

Tue Nov 26 06:57:00 CST 2013

The revenge of COTS: an ageing commercial technology base complicates military supply chain

Tue Nov 19 08:53:00 CST 2013

Navy's newest destroyers evolve to fill traditional battleship roles

Tue Nov 12 11:54:00 CST 2013

International suspicions of U.S. encryption technology putting defense companies in a bind

Tue Nov 05 11:24:00 CST 2013

Defense industry left guessing as Army struggles forward with an unclear mission

Tue Oct 29 09:45:00 CDT 2013

These are tough times for the combat vehicle and vetronics industries

Tue Oct 22 04:22:00 CDT 2013

Is the government shutdown a harbinger of more ominous things to come?

Tue Oct 15 11:21:00 CDT 2013

Government shutdown reduces military contracting, increasing pressure on U.S. defense industry

Mon Oct 07 12:17:00 CDT 2013

Potential good news: has U.S. defense spending finally bottomed-out?

Tue Oct 01 13:02:00 CDT 2013

Is robotics revolution the first glimpse of a fundamental change in human evolution?

Tue Sep 24 09:46:00 CDT 2013

Obsolescent parts: are we enhancing military readiness or creating a hollow force?

Tue Sep 17 15:46:00 CDT 2013

For the high-tech warfighter, the future of electronics-laden uniforms is here

Tue Sep 10 11:26:00 CDT 2013

New generation of embedded computing thermal management in development at GE

Tue Sep 03 09:44:00 CDT 2013

Trading bus stops for credit cards: how far embedded computing has come in three decades

Tue Aug 27 10:59:00 CDT 2013

Unmanned vehicle industry stands at the doorstep of a fundamental transformation

Tue Aug 20 11:09:00 CDT 2013

AUVSI 2013, one of the biggest unmanned vehicles shows in the world, opens this week in Washington

Tue Aug 13 05:35:00 CDT 2013

The Washington Post, under Jeff Bezos, could lead the way for media in the 21st Century

Tue Aug 06 09:47:00 CDT 2013

Are costs and vulnerabilities making military leaders nervous about satellite communications?

Tue Jul 30 11:07:00 CDT 2013

Unmanned aircraft carrier that travels beneath the waves may be in the Navy's future

Tue Jul 23 05:20:00 CDT 2013

Electronic warfare programs kick into high gear with a flurry of contract activity

Tue Jul 16 08:03:00 CDT 2013

How vulnerable are U.S. Navy vessels to advanced anti-ship cruise missiles?

Tue Jul 09 07:03:00 CDT 2013

First came VHSIC, then came MIMIC, and now comes ACE to push electronics technology

Tue Jul 02 09:16:00 CDT 2013

The Mil & Aero Bloggers

John Keller is editor-in-chief of Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine, which provides extensive coverage and analysis of enabling electronic and optoelectronic technologies in military, space, and commercial aviation applications. A member of the Military & Aerospace Electronics staff since the magazine's founding in 1989, Mr. Keller took over as chief editor in 1995.

Ernesto Burden is the publisher of PennWell’s Aerospace & Defense Media Group, including Military & Aerospace Electronics, Avionics Intelligence and Avionics Europe.  He’s a father of four, a runner, and an avid digital media enthusiast with a deep background in the intersection of media publishing, digital technology, and social media. He can be reached at ernestob@pennwell.com and on Twitter @aero_ernesto.

Courtney E. Howard, as executive editor, enjoys writing about all things electronics and avionics in PennWell’s burgeoning Aerospace and Defense Group, which encompasses Military & Aerospace Electronics, Avionics Intelligence, the Avionics Europe conference, and much more. She’s also a self-proclaimed social-media maven, mil-aero nerd, and avid avionics geek. Connect with Courtney at Courtney@Pennwell.com, @coho on Twitter, and on LinkedIn.

Mil & Aero Magazine

December 2013
Volume 24, Issue 12
file

All Access Sponsors


Download Our Apps



iPhone

iPad

Android

Connect with Us



Newsletters

Military & Aerospace Electronics

Weekly newsletter covering technical content, breaking news and product information
SUBSCRIBE

Defense Executive

Monthly newsletter covering business news and strategic insights for executive managers
SUBSCRIBE

Embedded Computing Report

Monthly newsletter covering news on embedded computing in aerospace, defense and industrial-rugged applications
SUBSCRIBE

Unmanned Vehicles

Monthly newsletter covering news updates for designers of unmanned vehicles
SUBSCRIBE