70th anniversary of D-Day | IN OUR OPINION

  - Bainbridge Island Review photo
— image credit: Bainbridge Island Review photo

Much of what the world is today is because of what happened on those beaches in France 70 years ago.

On June 6, 1944, more than 150,000 troops poured onto the beaches of Normandy, France, to wrest control of the country from German forces, who were entrenched there in their steady march to take over Europe.

The National D-Day Museum website explains the day this way: “After years of meticulous planning and seemingly endless training, for the Allied Forces, it all came down to this: The boat ramp goes down, then jump, swim, run, and crawl to the cliffs. Many of the first young men (most not yet 20 years old) entered the surf carrying eighty pounds of equipment. They faced over 200 yards of beach before reaching the first natural feature offering any protection. Blanketed by small-arms fire and bracketed by artillery, they found themselves in hell.”

When it was over, the Allied Forces had suffered nearly 10,000 casualties; more than 4,000 were dead. Yet, due to planning and preparation, and to the valor and sacrifice of those troops, Fortress Europe was breached.

“More than 5,000 ships and 13,000 aircraft supported the D-Day invasion, and by day’s end, on June 6th, the Allies gained a foothold in Normandy,” Under Secretary of the Army Joseph W. Westphal said in 2012. “The D-Day cost was high. More than 9,000 Allied soldiers were killed and wounded. But more than 100,000 soldiers began to march across Europe to defeat Hitler and Nazi Germany.”

On June 6 between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., a formation of vintage World War II P-51 Mustangs will fly over more than 30 Puget Sound communities — including Bainbridge, Poulsbo and Kingston — in recognition of the anniversary of D-Day and to raise awareness for a daylong series of commemorative events and activities the following day at the Historic Flight Foundation in Mukilteo. The lead Mustang in the formation flew four sorties on June 6, 1944 over the beaches of Normandy.

On June 6 at noon, look to the skies. Listen for the sound of P-51s. Those planes are saying that the events of June 6, 1944 are relevant on June 6, 2014. And that we can’t forget.

“It is important that [young people] recognize that the freedoms they enjoy today are a result of the sacrifice of millions of people from all over the world that ensured their liberty,” Westphal said in 2012. “No greater act of bravery was ever carried out than that of millions of citizen soldiers and civilians who faced and defeated tyranny and rebuilt this country and the world.”

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