Lest we forget....

Memorial Day

The morning of June 6 dawned much clearer that the previous day, which was predicted to be cloudy and windy. The young man, known by friends and family as Bill, checked his gear including his jump bag and boots, sat nervously, listening to the chatter of his friends and many he didn't know.

Other young men sat miles below their brothers, listening to the water lap at the sides of a boat that carried 36 men. 36 men who had trained together and bound together by their commitment to family, friends and country.

Bill C. Buchanan shared the same story as so many men in those boats and planes. He haled from a little town in Wyoming called Thermopolis and was part of that 156,000. Some would return home and some would not. Bill was a paratrooper. Part of the group of brave men that would begin their attack in the darkness between midnight and 0600.

Another man, Jimmy, was an infantryman, one of the many who would be part of Operation Neptune, he would return home to Wyoming, but without Bill. He would be listed as "KIA" on the archival lists for WWII, Killed in action. His body was never recovered.

As the sun began to lighten the water from black, endless depths 5,000 amphibious boats backed by 1,213 war ships churned the water of the English Channel. Arial support of 4,000 bombers and nearly 3,700 fighter-bombers were in route to hammer the enemy's coastal defenses. In whole, 156,000 men were poised to enact the largest coordinated war action in history.

Armored allied divisions began landing on the coast of France at 0630. The target 50-mile stretch of the Normandy coast was divided into five sectors: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword. Strong winds blew the landing craft east of their intended positions, particularly at Utah and Omaha.

The aircraft support had already been doing their job since midnight. Over 17,000 allied paratroopers would end up assisting with the land-seige.

Overnight, General Eisenhower has already penned a communication announcing the failure of the attack, should failure occur, in the minds of those on the ships and in the aircraft, failure was not an option.

The Allied battleships stop firing as their landing boats approach the shore at 0630, dubbed “H-Hour” for the designated moment of the invasion. Amphibious tanks are deployed by 0700 and at Omaha beach alone 2,500 American soldiers fall.

Allied soldiers continue the seige. As soldiers fall to German machine guns and then in hand-to-hand combat with bayonets another one takes his place. President Eisenhower has communicated to these troops, "You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world. Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped, and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely....I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty, and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory."

At least 4,000 Allied soldiers are killed in the initial attack, including 359 Canadians. However, the invasion ultimately prevails, and the German forces are either killed, captured or forced to withdraw to Caen.

The Allies have won the day and taken their first step toward liberating Europe. They continue to ferry troops and equipment across the Channel, and by the end of June, the Allies have more than 850,000 men, 148,000 vehicles and 570,000 tonnes of supplies in France. These forces allow them to march across western Europe, freeing Allied nations and driving the Germans back to Berlin, while the Soviets do the same from the east.

This victory came at a huge cost to the allies and America but the day now known as D-Day should be celebrated as the day the Allied forces in Europe literally "turned the tide" of WWII.

This last weekend we remembered the fallen, including my grandmother’s brother Bill. These men died to turn the tides in the fight against racism, genocide and unspeakable human cruelty. Please do not forget that even if you disagree with the politics behind our military actions and wars, the men, women and animals that have fallen in combat or succumbed to mental illness resulting in suicide due to their service deserve to be remembered with respect and gratefulness. While you may celebrate the freedoms we have due to our military, recall that this is a time for reflection and remembrance.

1 World War II 1941–45 291,557

2 American Civil War 1861–65 212,938

3 World War I 1917–18 53,402

4 Vietnam War 1955–75 47,424

5 Korean War 1950–53 33,746

6 American Revolutionary War 1775–83 8,000

7 Iraq War/Afghanistan Wars 2001–2014 5,650 [91]

8 War of 1812 1812–15 2,260

9 Mexican–American War 1846–48 1,733

10 Second Seminole War 1835–1842 1,500+