D-Day lookback: A celebration of heroes

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(WWLP) – Thursday, we pause to remember the heroes of D-Day who changed the course of history on June 6, 1944.

They were mostly kids 18, 19, and 20-years-old.

Young Americans far from home, getting tossed around in landing crafts on the choppy waters of the English Channel or parachuting behind enemy lines in the dark of night into the farm fields of occupied France.

The Nazi regime had overtaken Europe in 1940 and now four years later Operation Overlord was taking place.

The coast of Normandy in northwestern France was chosen as the site of the invasion with the Americans assigned to land at beaches codenamed Utah and Omaha, the British at Sword and Gold, and the Canadians at Juno.

The invasion would be carried out by 160,000 men, 1200 aircraft, and 5,000 ships. The biggest assault ever attempted.

The Germans had fortifications all along the coast from Spain to Norway. There was heavy resistance on Omaha Beach, and Americans took the brunt of a brutal onslaught.

An estimated 6,600 Americans were killed, wounded, or missing in action on D-Day.

But a combination of courage determination and firepower allowed the Allies to gain a foothold on the continent that led to the liberation of Paris later that summer and the final Victory in Europe in May 1945.

Sixteen million Americans served in the military during World War II. It’s estimated that fewer than half a million of those veterans are still alive. More than 100 of them attended Thursday morning’s ceremony in Normandy.

They are known as the Greatest Generation and 75-years ago wasn’t just the most important day of the 20th Century, it was the day that all generations who follow them should never forget.

We pay tribute to those who “laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.”

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