As Kansas wheat ripens and is ready to harvest, weather is the topic of conversation and concern.
Sixty-eight years ago June 4, the weather was an even greater challenge to the plan for "Operation Overlord," the decisive battle of World War II. Better known today as D-Day, it originally was planned for June 5. But as the day of the invasion approached, the weather in the English Channel became stormy with heavy winds, intense waves at sea, and darkening skies. This compelled Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander in charge of the D-Day invasion, to move the invasion to June 6 in hopes of weather more conducive for success of the invasion. "Overlord" would be the largest air, land and sea operation ever attempted before or since June 6, 1944.
Conditions remained poor, but when weathermen predicted the winds would abate and the cloud cover rise enough on the scheduled day of the attack to permit a go-ahead on June 6, Eisenhower gave the order to proceed as planned.
While delivering the D-Day order, Eisenhower said:
"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. ... 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."
A newsman later told friends he had seen tears in the general's eyes as Eisenhower reluctantly gave the command.
The invasion of Normandy, known as D-Day, is probably one of the most well-known dates of World War II. The Allied forces invaded and reclaimed Normandy, France. They arrived via the sea through the English Channel from the United Kingdom. The United States, United Kingdom, Canada and free French commandos, along with a few other allies, participated in the storming of Normandy from June 6 until mid-July that same year and changed the course of the war.
The battle began with glider and parachute landings during the night. Air attacks, and naval bombardments were followed by an early morning amphibious landing of troops rushing to the beaches from boats a short distance from the shore. The landing included more than 5,000 ships, 11,000 airplanes and more than 150,000 service men. (These numbers vary depending on the source.)
For the Americans, the landing on Omaha Beach was a near-disaster averted only by the courage of unrecognized sailors and soldiers. It was written, "The days had been filled with mud, heartache and pain for the Allies as well. From the very beginning, little had seemed to go right. The airborne assault on the night before the landing had sown confusion among the enemy and had provided an important diversion, but too many of the men had landed too far from their targets. As a result, the effort had only a marginal effect on the developing battle."
Allied losses were high and uncertain: 2,500 men at Omaha alone, another 2,500 among the American airborne divisions, almost 1,100 for the Canadians, and some 3,000 for the British. More than 9,000 men in all perished, one-third of whom were killed in action. The number was less than expected; however, the exact number of casualties suffered in the invasion of Normandy never will be known. The campaign succeeded even though it had been impossible to foresee every circumstance that would occur on the battlefield.
As we remember this day, we must reflect on the great sacrifices of the men and women who helped restore France and eventually brought down the Nazi regime, ending the war in Europe. Eisenhower's confidence in the armed services can be echoed well, and even shouted, today as our military men and women continue to strive to keep our world safe. As citizens of our great United States, we all must be involved.
The following lyrics by Sy Miller and Jill Jackson sum up what might help us achieve that elusive peace we truly desire.
"Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me.
Let there be peace on earth
The peace that was meant to be.
With God as our father
Brothers all are we.
Let me walk with my brother
In perfect harmony.
Let peace begin with me
Let this be the moment now.
With every step I take
Let this be my solemn vow.
To take each moment
And live each moment
With peace eternally.
Let there be peace on earth,
And let it begin with me."
Ruth Moriarity is a member of the Generations Advisory Committee.