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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Sixty-nine years tomorrow, the largest amphibious/air invasion took place on the coast of France. Dwight Eisenhower stared out his window thinking of the troops that were about to embark on the greatest military/engineering feat ever attempted by man. He watched the rain slamming against his window, hoping the forecasters were correct in their calculations, that the current storm would subside on the 6th. He thought of the paratroopers and pilots who would brave the elements as their payloads clawed into the think bank of clouds surrounding the airfields. He contemplated the statistics of mid-air collisions, pathfinders not finding their targets and men dropped into a hostile territory in total darkness. But if he didn't give the order, the next available date for a landing would be at least a week off. In the end, Eisenhower, made the call. "We go." The landings were successful. The Germans were caught completely off guard.

Omaha is the most discussed beach based on the extreme casualties which occurred. If if could go wrong, it did. The rocket barrage fell short creating unseen craters below sea level. The majority of the D-D tanks were swamped and sank. The naval/air bombardment failed to knock out the bunkers. It was a tragic culmination of events. Despite all of these failings, the American troops were able to open a small crack in the defenses and pour through, ensuring a successful invasion for all beaches. But was it these landings that decided the downfall of Nazi Germany, or was there a battle almost a year earlier that allowed "Operation Overlord" to succeed?

For those of us who have studied this War, in my opinion, the seven days in July of 1943 sealed the fate of Germany: Kursk. During this time frame, Hitler, Guderian, and Manstein threw in the last of their replenished armored forces into seven well developed lines of defense. The cream of the crop of Germanys vaunted Panzer Armies met their maker during this battle. Even though they only lost 450 tanks, unlike their counterparts, they could not recover and repair them or replace the crews.

I'm not down playing what Eisenhower and the allies achieved on this historic date, but we must realize that without the Russians breaking the back of the Panzer Corps, "Overlord" could have become a dismal failure. To all veterans, I salute you for your service and sacrifice.

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