On June 5, 1944, Supreme Allied Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower, privately and quietly prepared two personal communiques.
One communique announced a successful landing by the combined Allied forces on the coasts at Normandy, the establishment of a solid beachhead, and the start of the long drive to Berlin.
The second announced that Allied forces had been driven off the beaches at Normandy and flatly stated that the long-awaited invasion of Nazi Europe had failed: that communique placed all the blame for the disaster squarely on Eisenhower’s own shoulders.
Pre-dawn, June 6, 1944, under far from ideal weather conditions, the greatest military gamble of all time – an amphibious assault at five sites along 50 miles of the Normandy coast – began.
Operation Overlord would attempt to end five years of murderous Nazi control over much of Europe. Despite months of meticulous planning and top level security, no one, including the man commanding it, had any clear idea of whether this massive invasion would work or not.
Ultimately, it would take several gruelling days of vicious fighting before General Eisenhower finally knew which communique he could release to the waiting free world.
The United States forces went in at Omaha and Utah beaches. The British attacked at Sword and Gold. And Canadian troops fought their way ashore at Juno.
In the end, nearly one million troops took part in the invasion. Allied casualties were at least 10,000, with 4,414 confirmed dead. The Germans were dug in, and under the command of General Erwin Rommel, they did not give an inch.
The D-Day landing occurred 75 years ago this week. The free world took on the tyranny and viciousness of the Nazi regime under Adolf Hitler – and ended it.
It took courage, and dogged determination to ride those fragile landing craft on to fortified beaches, raked with machine fire and under murderous artillery barrages. Young Canadians did it. They never flagged or wavered. Honour our heroes of D-Day, the living and the fallen, on the 75th anniversary of the start of the liberation of Europe.
“The Canadians were the equal as fighting men of any I saw on the battlefields anywhere. The part they played was magnificent and it was an honour to have them under my command.” Gen. Dwight Eisenhower.