D-Day: The 70th anniversary of a day that changed the world
They made up the greatest armada the world has ever seen — nearly 156,000 troops, about 5,000 ships and more than 11,000 airplanes — all headed to a 50-mile stretch of beach in northern France. (Click on the highlighted text for the Trib's special presentation on D-Day.)
Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower told Allied forces in World War II they had embarked on a “great and noble undertaking,” a “crusade,” but one in which the enemy would fight savagely.
“I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle,” he told them.
The first Allied troops to see action were British and American airborne divisions. They dropped behind landing sites to seize exits, capture key locations and block German counterattacks. Then assault troops hit the beaches.
More than 9,000 Allied troops were killed or wounded on D-Day, June 6, 1944 , according to Army figures, with the Americans on Omaha Beach suffering the heaviest losses — roughly 6,600 dead or wounded. But by June 7, the Allies established a foothold in France. Within a year, the Third Reich would be in ruins.
Seventy years later, survivors of that day still can hear artillery fire and see the bodies of their fallen comrades. They remember fear and bravery, courage and loss.
DID YOU KNOW?
• The “D” in D-Day doesn't stand for anything. It's just a designation for whichever day a military operation begins.
• Total Allied casualties are estimated at more than 9,000 for the day. Total German casualties are not known, but estimated at 4,000 to 9,000.
• Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower gave the go-ahead for the invasion with the words, “OK, let's go.” He wrote an apology to the American people in case it failed and put it in his wallet.
• Twenty-seven war cemeteries hold the remains of more than 110,000 dead from both sides from D-Day through the end of August 1944.
• John J. Pinder Jr. of Burgettstown, born in McKees Rocks and a graduate of Butler High School, posthumously received the Medal of Honor for his actions to deliver crucial communications equipment on Omaha Beach. He was killed by enemy fire.
Sources: McClatchy-Tribune; National World War II Museum; U.S. Army Center of Military History