"You are about to embark upon the great crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you….Your task will not be an easy one. I have full confidence in your courage, your devotion to duty, and skill in battle."
-GEN Dwight D Eisenhower
50,000 Americans hit Omaha and Utah beaches before dawn.
Three infantry divisions, Regular Army 1st "Big Red One" from Ft Riley, Regular Army 4th "Ivy Leaf" from Ft Carson, National Guard 29th "Blue & Grey" from Maryland, Virginia, and DC. Each reinforced with a battalion of combat engineers and one of tanks. 24 hours later 25,000 men had survived to advance across those beaches to the bocage beyond.
They were joined by 50,000 Brits and Canadians from the 3rd "Iron Division" and 50th "Northumbrian" (Territorial, like our National Guard) UK and 3rd "Water Rats" Canadian Infantry Divisions, similarly reinforced with elements of the 79th UK Armored Division "The Funnies" and the Royal Marines, landed on Gold, Juno, & Sword beaches.
Inland of that 30,000 paratroopers of the US 82nd "All American" and 101st "Screaming Eagles", and British 6th "Pegasus" Airborne Divisions were dropped to block and secure the reinforcement routes the Germans would need to defeat the landings.
Ike wrote in his memoirs (Crusade in Europe) that he honestly thought he was sending the paratroopers to their deaths. But that it was imperative to give the men on the beacheads time to make a firm lodgment. As a hallmark of a truly great leader, he did not hide in his headquarters (like some ‘perfumed princes of the pentagon’), but went directly to one of the Airborne units before their jump…and deaths… to speak with them and shake those mens’ hands.
Some Notable D-Day Veterans:
James Doohan – ‘Mr Scott’ of Star Trek (Combat Engineer 3rd Canadian Infantry Division)
Sumner Redstone – Media Mogul, CBS CEO (codebreaker with ‘ASA’- Army Security Agency)
Don Rickles – Comedian (Cox’un on a Landing Craft)
Rocky Marciano – Heavyweight Champion (150th Combat Engineer Battalion)
You’ve heard of the Navajo Code talkers of the Marines in the Pacific, the Army used members of the Cherokee Nation in the same role during and after the D-Day Landings.