by Michael Mandaville
The Invasion of Hitler’s Fortress Europe began.

June 6th, 1944. The Invasion of Normandy when World War II hung in the balance. By the end of this day – “The Longest Day” – over four thousand lay dead on the cold beaches of France in Hitler’s “Festung Europa” – Fortress Europe. The gallantry of this day is etched forever on my mind since I was a child. In movies, in conversations with men who landed with the Rangers, on the beaches of Sword, Gold, Juno, Omaha, Utah. And those brave souls who climbed up Pointe du Hoc and were immortalized in Ronald Reagan’s timeless speech on the heights of Normandy in celebration. 

May be an image of map
The Tyranny of Hitler’s German National Socialist Workers Party (Nazi) had plundered Europe, Russia and North Africa. The socialist and racist utopia-seeking nightmare of Hitler had crushed democracy and freedom.
The price was clear.
The operation, led by Supreme Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower, was the largest amphibious invasion in world history and was executed by land, sea and air elements under direct British-American command with over 160,000 soldiers landing on 6 June 1944: 73,000 Americans, 61,715 British and 21,400 Canadians. 195,700 Allied naval and merchant navy personnel in over 5,000 ships were also involved.  Men from America, Britain, Canada and some occupied European territories would land on the beaches and many would die before noon. The mighty task of the invasion is rarely remembered today. Its secrecy was probably the grandest and boldest military deception the world has ever known. Two years of planning – all the while deceiving German intelligence as to the real landing point. And then the sheer logistics of ships, men, training, landing craft, coordination among it all.
Twenty years ago, working on a documentary, I interviewed an elderly gentleman, Joe Schroeder, at the Riverside National Cemetery. I asked his branch of service. “Army” came the reply. Theater of operations? “Europe.” Year. “1944.” Okay, I thought. A particular area? “Normandy.” The first chill went up the back of my neck. Any place specific? “Point du Hoc.” My eyes welled up. Really? And how old were you? “Well, I turned 18 in May and we invaded in June.” He was a diminutive man, elderly and apologized for not speaking well with his new dentures. When I pressed him, he said that he had received a Silver Star, four purple hearts and some ‘other stuff’. “Point du Hoc” were sheer cliffs where the Germans fired down, throwing grenades, as men fought up those very cliffs with hooks and rappelling gear. By his account, he was the third American on Nazi-Occupied Europe.
Eisenhower who deftly navigated the demands of eccentric generals, who visited the Airborne troops to wish them luck – knowing that their casualties would be even higher than others that Fateful Day. Eisenhower who had written out his resignation and accepted complete responsibility for the probable debacle and severe defeat which odds dictated would ensue.
Yet the Fates smiled. The Germans were deceived. The landings, even on the wrong beaches, took hold. And men steeled their hearts and souls and pushed inland. They held. They gritted their teeth from wounds and blood. They held on. For the loss would be not only theirs, but the civilizations of English law which held that Individual Rights held sway over the Rights of the State like National Socialism and even the International Socialism of Soviet Russia, our erstwhile ally. Free men, fighting for a cause and dying for a cause, lay dead in the swells of a cruel sea.
Our Future would indeed be grim with a Normandy defeat. I shudder to think of a war going on years further. Of an uneasy peace struck with the National Socialists due to losses which would make Stalingrad almost bearable.  So this day, The Longest Day, is when I remember Joe Shroeder. One of the unrecognized soldiers who did their duty to erase Hitler’s Socialist Tyranny.
On this Day, General Eisenhower withheld his resignation accepting full and complete blame for a bold invasion that never became the disaster that caused him many sleepless nights.
On this Day, God gave a window in the weather to the men who waited on land, ship and aircraft for the signal to fight.
On this Day, thousands died, more were wounded and other men damaged for the rest of their lives to restore Freedom.
But today I look to the past and thank those men whose very lives gave me and my family a better life. Yes, it is a reach far into the past, but in the rhythm of History, they do not ever lie far from my thoughts. Remember them.
I am forever grateful. God Bless America.