June 6, 2019 marks the 75th anniversary of D-Day: the greatest invasion in the history of mankind; the greatest military force ever unleashed in the cause of liberation.
From our vantage point seven and a half decades later, it’s hard to comprehend the magnitude of that day: the danger the soldiers faced; the misery they endured; the valor they showed in storming Normandy Beach, exposed in the heat of enemy fire.
The stakes involved in the invasion, the cost to the world should it fail, were impossibly high—as were the sacrifices required to see it through. Vintage photographs, showing the beach littered with the bodies of the fallen, still have the power to stop one’s breath, and move the heart to feelings of pity, sorrow—and finally gratitude to those who gave their lives so that we might live in peace.
Most remarkable of all is the fact that all of this was accomplished by men from the most ordinary walks of life—most of them in the bloom of youth—who nevertheless managed to turn the tide of history.
One of the most beautiful tributes to those soldiers was spoken on the 40th anniversary of D-Day by President Ronald Reagan, before an audience that included some of the surviving U.S. Rangers whose determination and courage were so crucial to the victory.
“These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc,” he said. “These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. These are the heroes who helped end a war.”
The entire, deeply moving speech can be seen here—and it is well worth the expenditure of 13 minutes, as a way of honoring the heroes of D-Day, and as a remembrance of the late U.S. President, who passed away 15 years ago this week.
May they all rest in peace, and may the memory and effects of their achievements long endure.
By Christopher H. Zakian