The men who crowded into small landing craft to assault the beaches of Normandy on this day 75 years ago didn’t deserve the hell they encountered as they disembarked and made their way toward the cliffs. Despite the munitions racing toward them from Nazi machine gunners manning Hitler’s Atlantic Wall, they endured, and won the battle that would turn the tide of World War II.
Five years ago, Victor Davis Hanson paid tribute to the veterans of D-Day, writing at The National Review:
Seventy years ago this June 6, the Americans, British, and Canadians stormed the beaches of Normandy in the largest amphibious invasion of Europe since the Persian king Xerxes invaded Greece in 480 b.c.
About 160,000 troops landed on five Normandy beaches and linked up with airborne troops in a masterly display of planning and courage. Within a month, almost a million Allied troops had landed in France and were heading eastward toward the German border. Within eleven months the war with Germany was over.
The western front required the diversion of hundreds of thousands of German troops. It weakened Nazi resistance to the Russians while robbing the Third Reich of its valuable occupied European territory.
The impatient and long-suffering Russians had demanded of their allies a second front commensurate with their own sacrifices. Their Herculean efforts by war’s end would account for two out of every three dead German soldiers — at a cost of 20 million Russian civilian and military casualties.
Yet for all the sacrifices of the Soviet Union, Joseph Stalin was largely responsible for his war with Nazi Germany. In 1939, he signed a foolish non-aggression pact with Hitler that allowed the Nazis to gobble up Western democracies. Hitler’s Panzers were aided by Russians in Poland and overran Western Europe fueled by supplies from the Soviets.
The Western Allies had hardly been idle before D-Day. They had taken North Africa and Sicily from the Germans and Italians. They were bogged down in brutal fighting in Italy. The Western Allies and China fought the Japanese in the Pacific, Burma, and China.
The U.S. and the British Empire fought almost everywhere. They waged a multiform war on and under the seas. They eventually destroyed Japanese and German heavy industry with a costly and controversial strategic-bombing campaign.
The Allies sent friends such as the Russians and Chinese billions of dollars worth of food and war matériel.
In sum, while Russia bore the brunt of the German land war, the Western Allies fought all three Axis powers everywhere else and in every conceivable fashion.
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