This week as we celebrate Independence Day, the birthday of our nation, we can’t help but think about the thousands of servicemen and women who have fought and died to keep it free for 237 years. When we learned that David and Patti Berry were in Normandy, France on the 69th Anniversary of the D-Day Invasion, and that Dave had taken photographs, we were eager to share his pictures and experiences with you. All of the photographs on these pages were taken by Dave. All in all, he shot 1,500 photos that day. To see the complete collection, go to: http://davidberry.500px.com.
The Invasion of Normandy was the invasion and establishment of Allied forces in Normandy, France, during Operation Overlord in 1944 during World War II. At the time it was the largest amphibious invasion to ever take place.
Allied land forces that saw combat in Normandy on June 6th came from Canada, the Free French Forces, the United Kingdom, and the United States. In the weeks following the invasion, Polish forces also participated, as well as contingents from Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Greece, and the Netherlands. Most of the above countries also provided air and naval support, as did the Royal Australian Air Force, the Royal New Zealand Air Force, and the Royal Norwegian Navy.
The Normandy invasion began with overnight parachute and glider landings, massive air attacks and naval bombardments. In the early morning, amphibious landings on five beaches codenamed Juno, Gold, Omaha, Utah, and Sword began and during the evening the remaining elements of the parachute divisions landed. The "D-Day" forces deployed from bases along the south coast of England, the most important being Portsmouth.
Commemorations of the 69th anniversary of D-Day in France this year began with a flag-raising at an American cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach. Tourists, many from the U.S. and Britain, gathered in the still morning under a brilliant spring sky to witness the flag-raising amid the neat rows of thousands of white marble crosses and stars of David marking the graves of U.S. servicemen and women killed during the Allied invasion of Normandy that began June 6, 1944.
A full day of ceremonies including fireworks, concerts and marches was planned across Normandy in honor of the 150,000 troops, mainly US, British and Canadian, who risked or gave their lives in the liberation of German-occupied western Europe during World War II.
Around two dozen US veterans, some in their old uniforms pinned with medals, stood and saluted during a wreath-laying ceremony at the memorial overlooking Omaha Beach, where a U.S. cemetery holds the remains of over 9,000 Americans who died during the vicious battle to storm the French beach under withering Nazi fire.
General Dwight D. Eisenhower when giving the D-Day order on June 6, 1944 said to the troops, “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 well trained, well equipped, and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely....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 all beseech the blessings of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking."
The invasion moved through four stages. In rapid succession came the landings, the fight to secure the beachhead, the struggle to open a corridor across Normandy, and the storming of Cherbourg. Allied air power deployed parachute troops as the ships were on their way across the English Channel. The parachutists, placed behind the German defenses, were in position to undermine resistance. Two crack American Airborne divisions, the 82nd and 101st, were flown into action by troop carriers. The 4th Division came ashore and marched up the causeways. Other American troops collided head on with every kind of beach defense. Many landing craft were wrecked by mines, underwater obstructions and cannon fire.
After the beach was secured, heavy armor was brought ashore. The Allies then fought their way inland, securing roads. Allied air power blasted out bridges on all German supply lines. A path was cleared across Normandy. It was General Omar Bradley, by land, who led the storming of Cherbourg securing the seaport.
“Someone asked if I enjoyed the day. I can’t say that ‘enjoyed’ is the right word. But as another visitor explained, ‘It was stirring.’ I also found myself asking, ‘What am I doing to honor their memory and to make the best possible use of the gifts of life, liberty and freedom that they helped secure for all Americans that day?’” - David Berry