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June 06, 2014

Normandy, 6:30 a.m., June 6, 1944: Our fathers and grandfathers. My heroes. The last American class.

Today marks the 70th anniversary of the Allied forces' invasion of Normandy. Although June 6, 1944 would be celebrated as the eventual end of the war in Europe, much (if not most) of the execution of the plan for the invasion's earliest hours was botched. Improvisation by the first American, British and Canadian soldiers to reach French soil won the day.

But before any of that success could be achieved, the men who were the first to arrive would experience, and eventually overcome, unexpected hell, horror and carnage that no training could have prepared them for.

This was especially true of the landing at Omaha beach. For too many--military historians think this was deliberate if strategic--Omaha was their first time in combat. At Omaha alone, there were nearly 2500 casualties, mostly in the first 2 hours, so that 34,000 could be landed on the beach by the end of the day.

It was our fathers and grandfathers, for the most part frightened but dutiful young men, who struggled onto Omaha and those five other Normandy beaches that day. These are the guys I think about more and more as I get older. We will never equal them in character, grit or resilience. That day and what they did? This is our real American class.

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16th Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, Easy Red Sector, Omaha Beach, June 6, 1944. © Robert Capa.

Posted by JD Hull at June 6, 2014 04:12 PM


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