Today, more than seven decades after Allied forces dropped from the skies and hit the beaches of Normandy to free Europe from the Nazi invaders, we wanted to commemorate the service and sacrifice of those who fought and died for the cause of freedom with a sampling of stories devoted to and about Operation Overlord. Click on the links for stories, photo galleries, and video of the longest day.
Among the first to land in occupied France the night of June 5, paratrooper and future congressman Sam Gibbons commemorated his arrival on French soil with a beer.
Like many of his fellow paratroopers, Gibbons entered battle after exiting the door of a C-47 Skytrain, known by the British as the Dakota, and more affectionately and familiarly by its pilots and crew as the Gooney Bird.
Parachutes weren’t the only means of attacking from the sky. British 6th Airborne troopers took Pegasus Bridge by surprise arriving silently aboard gliders in a vital coup de main attack.
Today, we see the success of D-Day as being a foregone conclusion. Some area aware of Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s alternate message if the Allies had been thrown back into the sea, but other than those who were there, few remember President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s prayer for a day fraught with significance, when the future of the free world hung in the balance.
While paratroopers of the American 82nd and 101st Airborne and the British 6th Airborne were the first to go in, first to come from the sea were the Rangers.
In preparation for the invasion, a number of innovative technological solutions to various challenges were developed. Several sprang from the fertile mind of Maj. Gen. Sir Percy Hobart.
The D-Day invasion fleet comprised the greatest number of warships gathered to date to support an invasion, from battleships that softened up the defenses to destroyers that in some cases helped to repulse attacks against the invasion beaches, naval fire support was vital to the success of the invasion.
One of the “stars’ of Cornelius Ryan’s book The Longest Day, and the film that followed, was American paratrooper Pvt. Dutch Schultz. While Tom Brokaw and others have celebrated the “Greatest Generation,” Schultz’s daughter Carol Schultz Vento reminds us it’s important to remember the price they paid, especially in the decades before the recognition of post-traumatic stress disorder.