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.
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.”