Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force!
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. The hope and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts, 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 will-trained, well-equipped and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely.
But this is the year 1944! Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of 1940-41. The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats, in open battle, man-to-man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our Home Fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men. The tide has turned! 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 beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking. – General Dwight D. Eisenhower, D-Day 1944
It’s been seventy-five years since the Allies embarked on this Great Crusade to save the world.
They weren’t Superheroes. They were ordinary men.
And yet they changed the world.
Four thousand, four hundred and thirteen men gave their lives in this Great Crusade.
As I said in my column “When Ordinary Men did Extraordinary Things,” we are losing the Greatest Generation to the passing of time. So it is up to us to remember them, to honor them, and to keep them alive in our memories.
What these men did turned the tide of World War Two. But they did more than that. They shaped the second half of the Twentieth Century.
We owe them so much – these men who embarked on that Great Crusade. Let us never stop honoring their memories. Let us never forget.
And, as I do every June 6, I encourage all of you to plan a visit to the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia.
It is the only Memorial to this Great Crusade that includes the names of every soldier who sacrificed his life on D-Day.
I visited the National D-Day Memorial back in 2002 shortly after it opened. And let me tell you, it is an experience you will never forget.
The small town of Bedford paid a steep price on June 6, 1944. This town of about thirty-two hundred people lost nineteen men in this Great Crusade. Four other Bedford Boys perished after the invasion itself.
Twenty-three men lost from one small town.
And in honor of their sacrifice, the National D-Day Memorial was placed up in the Blue Ridge Mountains in this small town of Bedford.
For the men who stormed the beaches to those men who parachuted behind enemy lines – we honor you for your bravery, your sacrifice and for the freedom you ensured for the generations that followed.
The eyes of the world are still on you seventy-five years after you embarked on this Great Crusade.
Let me close with this amazing video of 97-year-old Tom Rice – one of the 101st Airborne paratroopers who dropped into Normandy in the wee hours before the invasion. Well, this week, this paratrooper got to do it again.
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