“The Men Who Saved the World”

There are a handful of men on this planet who can recall from their youth the day they saved the world, but there are precious few D-Day veterans still with us on this 80th anniversary of what has become known as “The Longest Day.”

The D-Day invasion was a singular feat unmatched in all of human history. In the early hours of that morning, as the invasion force crossed the English Channel, Army Sgt. Carwood Lipton looked down at the Channel from one of the C-47s. What he saw that night was described by Stephen Ambrose as “a sight no one had ever seen before, nor would anyone ever see again.” A flotilla of 6,000 boats—the largest armada ever assembled.

On that day, along with the allied powers, over 160,000 troops invaded Normandy. That’s roughly equivalent to the population of Milledgeville, GA times ten! Most of those men were members of the 1st, 4th, and 29th Infantry Divisions who stormed the beaches to create a beachhead. Meanwhile, more than 13,000 paratroopers from the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions dropped behind enemy lines.

On June 5, a one-front war was being waged on the Axis powers who controlled essentially all of Europe. The D-Day Invasion, a masterpiece of military strategy, created a second front in the war and dealt an enormous psychological blow to Germany. The mission succeeded because of the courage, commitment, and sacrifice of those stout-hearted young men, most of whom were college aged. It’s astonishing to think that a great many of the men who saved the world that June day couldn’t buy a pack of cigarettes or a beer in 2024 America.

While the fight was being waged thousands of miles away in France, President Franklin Roosevelt was writing a prayer which he read to the nation over the radio that night and asked every American to pray along with him:

“Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity… some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into thy kingdom. And for us at home—fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters and brothers of brave men overseas, whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them—help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice.”

H-Hour truly was an hour of sacrifice and the sunrise of The Longest Day. It was a turning point in the war, and the spectacular beginning of the end of the hatred and tyranny which had metastasized across Europe.

With each passing year, there are fewer and fewer people with us who actually experienced this world-changing event. Whether they fought in France or prayed at home, their direct connection to the event has kept it alive in the minds of subsequent generations. Now, the responsibility of remembering the men who saved the world falls upon us. We must not allow time to corrode and destroy the importance of what was accomplished by courageous troops upon the beaches of France on June 6, 1944.

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