By The Editorial Board | Jun 06, 2019

It was the day.

The hope for nations that would be free from fascist tyranny and for prisoners who needed to be saved from genocide rested on young soldiers praying in landing craft rushing toward the beaches of Normandy, and on paratroopers, sailors, pilots and others engaged in the most significant military operation of the 20th century.

June 6, 1944, was D-Day. It was the day that allied forces crossed the English channel with 6,000 landing craft, ships and other vessels carrying 176,000 troops destined for French beaches code-named Juno, Sword, Utah and Omaha. They faced highly fortified Nazi forces protected by concrete bunkers and walls, pouring machine gun fire on soldiers, killing many before they could even cross the beach. (Vehicle and troop figures are from History.com).

Allied aircraft taking heavy fire had brought in 18,000 paratroopers, who had to improvise once they landed as most had arrived off-course from their target and some were separated from their groups.

Despite the setbacks and the terrible sacrifices many had to make that day, they did their jobs and they did no less than save the world. There was no plan B, no thought of losing. The plan was for victory. Failure was not an option.

“The American citizen soldiers knew the difference between right and wrong, and they didn’t want to live in a world in which wrong prevailed," said historian Stephen Ambrose. "So they fought, and won, and all of us, living and yet to be born, must be profoundly grateful.”

"The eyes of the world are upon you," Gen. Dwight Eisenhower said in his message to the troops that day. "The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world."

We know now that the allies won that day, though it was no easy victory. They established a beach head in Nazi-occupied France, and from there marched across France and into Germany where they, along with Russian forces, laid waste to the Nazi regime, achieving complete victory. D-Day was the tipping point.

It is worth meditating on the honor and sacrifice of those young men and women, many of them our grandparents or great grandparents. They have been called the greatest generation. If they were that, it was due to that understanding of right and wrong that Ambrose speaks of.

How do we honor what they did? We do that as we remember their values of hard work, putting others first and leaving the world a better place for those who come after us. We do that by standing strong against tyranny and authoritarianism.

In the war effort, not only our nation was united, but many nations united to fight for common values and a shared vision, and so we must look to our leaders to help unite us rather than spread division.

That would be one way to honor the memory of D-Day.

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