June 4, 1940: Newly appointed Prime Minister Winston Churchill faced a free world under siege. Nazis had already invaded Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and France. Britain was their next target.
Only days earlier Britain managed to evacuate 338,226 Allied troops cornered in Dunkirk, but defeat was knocking at the door across the Strait of Dover. German forces remained in France, waiting.
Still, Churchill promised the House of Commons, “We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”
His unyielding resolve proved prophetic. Four years and two days later, 75 years ago today, 160,000 fresh-faced American troops and Allied forces landed on the beaches of Normandy. The start of Operation Overlord, or D-Day as we know it, marked the beginning of a sea change in modernity’s greatest war.
More than 4,000 Allied soldiers died in the first 24 hours. They achieved none of their first-day objectives. Thousands more would not survive the ensuing battles, yet within 15 months of the largest sea invasion in history, freedom would win.
True to Churchill’s word, Allied forces fought in France and in the streets, on the sea and in the air. They never surrendered.
The strength of their character is what we honor today. The magnitude of their courage to fight the enemy of truth and liberty, to pledge their lives, fortunes and sacred honor in defense of a free people has no rival.
Every generation since has drawn inspiration from their resolve, and the country is right to venerate their sacrifices. Americans should make every effort to seek out the stories and let them soak in, to talk to a veteran and listen with reverence.
But among the messages leaders will share this anniversary, let this one lesson not be forgotten: Success often hangs on the strength of a friendship.
Seventy-five years on, the geopolitical tensions around the globe look markedly different than they did on D-Day, but not all threats to liberty have been quelled. Just as allies aligned in purpose to defeat fascists of the 20th century, alliances with like-minded nations are the best, and perhaps only, way to ensure principles of democracy persist today.4 comments on this story
A well-cultivated friendship is among the greatest assets a country has in times of peril, and it’s worth every cost to develop mutual respect built on foundations of shared principle. Though domestic interests may vary, allies are friends and should be treated as such. Without them, no house can stand for long in times of division.
So let history teach its students today, and may everyone honor the “blood, toil, tears and sweat” of Americans and friends who served their countrymen such that others would never forget.