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Marking the 80th Anniversary of D-Day

On June 6, 1944, more than 150,000 Allied troops crossed the English Channel and landed on the beaches of German-occupied Normandy, France in the largest amphibious assault in world history, now known as “D-Day.”

Codenamed “Operation Overlord,” Allied forces coordinated for months to create a plan on how to break through the Nazi entrenchment known as the Atlantic Wall, a line of defenses that spanned across France and all the way up to the northernmost point of Norway. Allied forces kept the plans secret and went as far to create a fake invasion plan titled “Operation Bodyguard” in order to mislead Nazi forces on where they would land. The United States and her allies intended to land on five different positions of Normandy’s coast, labeled Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword.

Despite careful planning, Operation Overlord was marred by problems from the start. Though originally planned to take place on June 5, poor weather conditions forced the Allies to delay the assault until the following day when many vessels were still pushed off course by the turbulent waters. The troops that did make it ashore were immediately pinned down by fortified German machine gunners and mortar teams who had seen through the well-coordinated Allied attack and fake plans listed within the secretive Operation Bodyguard. Splashing through the waters of northwestern France, American and other Allied troops made their way to the beaches of Normandy and began to fight for control of the strategic battleground. Over the course of the battle, more than 4,400 Allied troops lost their lives, 2,500 of whom were American.

Thanks to well-coordinated strategy, naval and aerial support, and collaborative efforts by the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and other nations, the beachhead of Normandy was eventually captured after a long-fought battle with the German Army. In the face of adversity, Allied troops made their way across hundreds of yards of poorly covered beaches in order to eliminate Axis forces and defend the honor and freedoms they so deeply cherished.

The successful operation is widely considered to be the turning point in the European theater and began the Allied Powers’ liberation campaign across the continent, marking the beginning of the end for the Third Reich. Eight decades later, the skill, determination, and unwavering bravery demonstrated by the 73,000 U.S. troops that stepped onto French sand during Operation Overlord stand as solemn examples of what it means to be a hero, and more importantly, an American. The efforts made on that fateful day continue to inspire future generations.

As we continue to cherish the liberties we enjoy in our country, let us honor and remember the history of those who courageously sacrificed their lives in the name of freedom on the beaches of Normandy 80 years ago today.

The Illinoisans who paid the ultimate price on the hallowed grounds of Normandy are now commemorated at the WWII Illinois Veterans Memorial in Springfield.


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