NORFOLK (NNS) -- In the cover of darkness, thousands of allied paratroopers landed silently behind the heavily fortified beaches of Nazi Germany.
These troops cut communication and supply lines from the Nazi's front lines; it was a preemptive strike for the larger assault soon to occur on the beaches. At dawn on June 6, 1944, 175,000 men stormed the beaches (codenamed Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword) of Normandy, France.
Five thousand ships and landing craft, 50,000 vehicles and 11,000 planes stood ready in southern England to make one of the most daring assaults in history. Thanks to deception plans, Hitler believed the assault would be coming at Pas-de-Calais, the most narrow crossing between Great Britain and France.
Operation Overlord, which would come to be commonly referred to as "D-Day," was a necessary risk of hundreds of thousands of lives that were needed to break Hitler's strongly fortified Atlantic Wall. Just 50 miles separated the coasts of Great Britain and France, a narrow channel of water soon to be stained red with the blood of the largest joint-strike force in the world. American, Australian, British, Canadian and French soldiers, not yet fully aware of the horrors on the beaches, would soon storm out of landing craft and be met with heavy machine gun fire, mortars, barbed wire, concrete bunkers, tank ditches, landmines and underwater obstacles.
On the Omaha beach alone, more than 2,000 American lives were lost in the chaotic assault to take the beach. By nightfall, nearly all Allied soldiers made it ashore, with a cost of 10,000 lives. The assault was an operational success, but it would be many more weeks before the allied forces could fight out of the heavily defended Normandy countryside. It would take another year before the Third Reich would be defeated.
D-Day was the turning point of World War II in Eastern Europe. The invasion at Normandy allowed the allies to pressure Hitler's army, putting him on the defensive from both the allies in the east, and the Soviets from the west. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower prepared two letters before the invasion happened. One letter, for the success of the invasion, and another letter, taking full responsibility for the failure of the assault on Normandy.
Capt. Craig Sicola, executive officer of USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) (Ike), spoke about the dedication of the men that stormed the beaches of Normandy and how it relates to our Sailors today.
"If the call came out, and we were all asked would you do this for our country, I firmly believe that with the dedication and commitment I see in our Sailors around the ship, we would answer that call," said Sicola. "While it would be an excruciating and painful decision to make, and you may not go home to your loved ones, I have no doubts that we would all answer that call as they did on June 6, 1944."
Ike is pier side during the sustainment phase of the Optimized Fleet Response Plan (OFRP).
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