Advocate Editorial Board opinion: 70 years later, America honors bravery of D-Day invasion

Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower's Message to the Troops Before landing

Soldiers, sailors and airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force: You are about to embark upon a 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 the 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.

But this is the year 1944. Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of 1940-41. The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats, in open battle, man to man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our home fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men. The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to victory!

I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory!

Good luck! And let us all beseech the blessings of almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.

Freedom is not free. We've all heard this phrase, and it rings true. On this day 70 years ago, more than 160,000 brave men proved that freedom must be defended.

On June 6, 1944, the Allied forces landed on a 50-mile stretch of beach in Normandy, France. The attack was coordinated between American, British and Canadian forces and was divided into five sections: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Sword and Juno. American troops landed at Utah and Omaha. The amphibious landing was coordinated using more than 5,000 ships from eight different navies and air support from 13,000 planes. The landings took place under heavy machine-gun fire and defenses. More than 9,000 soldiers lost their lives in the invasion that gave the Allies a foothold in Western Europe against the Nazi forces.

The D-Day invasion is one of the major, iconic moments in America's military history. It has been immortalized in multiple films, including the 1962 film "The Longest Day," which starred some of the top actors of the time and won two academy awards; and "Saving Private Ryan," the 1998 film directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tom Hanks that won five academy awards. This definitive battle fascinates Americans of all ages and points to what can be accomplished when differences are cast aside in the face of a common enemy.

Even now, 70 years later, after all of our technological advancements and as America tries yet again to disentangle itself from conflicts in the Middle East, we look back on this action with awe and respect. In 1944, when most of Europe was under the control of the Nazi regime controlled by Adolf Hitler, the leaders of the free world were able to come together and punch through German defenses to gain a foothold from which the long, difficult task of pushing back could begin.

The soldiers who landed at Normandy were the tip of the spear. They ran into the face of enemy fire from amphibious craft buffeted by rough seas. Most of us will never experience anything so immense and terrifying, and we honor the men who faced what must have seemed like certain death to defeat a foe on foreign soil.

Each piece of the puzzle - Navy ships, soldiers hitting the beaches, aircraft bombardments and paratroopers dropped behind enemy lines - came together with a single goal. We honor all of the warriors who died in this action and those who survived. As each year passes, fewer and fewer are with us. Now, on this 70th anniversary, we thank you all once again. Your bravery helped ensure freedom for millions across Europe and possibly billions across the world.

This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.