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Remembering D-Day
What took place was far greater than the defeat of evil: it was the spreading of liberty.

Approaching the beach at Normandy: June 6, 1944

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Marco Rubio

When we think about American freedom, we don’t always think about the price that was paid for it. When we think about the advancement of liberty around the world, we don’t always think about the achievements of great men and women before us that made it possible.

The fight for human freedom is as old as mankind itself, and many who have fought so desperately for it have failed to attain it. Yet today we remember a day that stands as one of the greatest triumphs of freedom over oppression, liberty over tyranny, and good over evil in the history of the world.

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Seventy years ago today, on June 6, 1944, the Allied Expeditionary Forces, under the command of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, crept across the English Channel in the dark of night, stormed through fog and sand and heavy artillery fire, overtook the beaches of Normandy, and began the work of peeling back the shroud of Nazi control that was stretched over Europe.

The evening before the assault was launched, General Eisenhower distributed a letter to the troops outlining the vastness of the next day’s mission: “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.”

Never before had the line between good and evil been so bold, the stakes of a battle so high, or the decisiveness of a victory so clear.

Today we reflect on what was accomplished that day, as well as on the great loss of life that was required to accomplish it. More than 5,000 Allied troops are estimated to have been killed on D-Day, and nearly half of them were American.

It was the defining battle in what was truly a global war, and America can say with pride that our nation’s heroes played a vital role. The shadow of Nazi terror stretched all across the world, but it took the perseverance and sacrifice of America, working with our allies, to overtake it.

A number of the American soldiers who stormed the beaches of Normandy now live in Florida. Some of them plan to visit Washington this month as part of the Honor Flight program, while others are currently in France to participate in the commemoration ceremonies taking place there. My office was honored to help some of them get their tickets.

As they revisit the land that was once their battlefield, these veterans will look out over many who have come to honor them, only some of whom will be Americans. Before them will be a powerful illustration of the fact that they and their comrades fought not just for their loved ones back home, but for what General Eisenhower called “a free world.”


D-Day: June 6, 1944
On June 6, 1944, over 195,000 troops of the Allied Expeditionary Force landed along a 50-mile stretch of heavily fortified French coastline in the largest amphibious assault in history, preceded by a massive airborne operation to pave the way. Here’s a look back at that fateful day.
The Allied invasion force crossed the English channel on more than 1,200 combat ships and went ashore aboard some 4,100 landing craft. The bloody fighting on that first day took a heavy toll, with more than 9,000 casualties. But with the breakout from the beaches, the liberation of Europe had begun.
As the massive invasion force made final preparations in England, Supreme Allied Commander Europe General Dwight D. Eisenhower delivered a stirring message exhorting the troops to victory. Here are General Eisenhower's words on the eve of the momentous battle.
“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.”
The fleet of C-47s that would carry American paratroopers with the 82nd Airborne and 101st Airborne division.
Paratroopers receive final instructions before boarding their C-47.
Preparing part of the invasion flotilla at an English port.
A sign outside of Trinity Church in New York City.
THE INVASION: Part of the massive convoy drives across the English Channel towards Normandy.
Another view of the convoy.
An American B-25 Mitchell bomber flies over the invasion fleet.
Troops and equipment aboard a ship during the channel crossing.
American paratroopers en route to Normandy. 
Paratroopers prepare to jump into occupied France before dawn.
Troops board their landing craft for the perilous journey to the beach.
Allied landing craft near Omaha Beach throw smoke as camouflage.
Pushing toward Omaha Beach.
American troops crouch inside a landing craft as they approach Omaha Beach.
Huddling for cover from German guns inside a landing craft.
The first wave hits the beaches.
The first wave hits the beaches.
Wading ashore at Utah Beach.
American infantry wade ashore under the cover of naval gunfire.
American troops huddle for protection as an artillery shell explodes on Utah Beach.
Approaching Obama Beach.
Approaching Obama Beach.
U.S. Army rangers at the heavily defended Pointe du Hoc.
Royal Canadian Navy troops approach Juno Beach.
A Canadian landing craft approaches Juno Beach.
Canadian troops rush ashore at Courseulles.
British 48th Royal Marines come ashore at Saint-Aubin-sur-mer.
British troops on the beach.
French commandos disembark from their landing craft.
Soldiers with the Eighth Infantry Regiment, Fourth Infantry Division, move over the seawall onto Utah Beach.
More landing craft approach the beach as smoke billows from German positions.
Infantry of the British Second Army prepare to move off Sword Beach under enemy fire.
American troops pull wounded comrades ashore on Omaha Beach.
Tending to the casualties at Omaha Beach.
Wounded American troops on Omaha Beach.
Soldiers take cover in foxholes after the beach is secured.
British armor moves inland from Gold Beach.
American reinforcement come ashore near Vierville sur Mer.
Cargo and transport ships move men and materiel onto the beaches.
British tanks and trucks disembark onto a “Rhino” barge.
101st Airborne paratroopers in Carentan.
Canadian troops move through a devastated street in Caen.
Aircraft fly over Utah Beach bringing reinforcements on D-Day+1.
Operation Overlord presses on as reinforcements march inland.
Updated: Jun. 06, 2014

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