D-Day still fresh 70 years later
Monday, Jun 09, 2014 10:18 am
Seventy years ago this week, the greatest seaborne invasion in history took place along the beaches of Normandy. British, American and Canadian Allied Forces targeted and seized 80 kilometres of coastline, using this toehold on the continent to open a second front in the European theatre of the Second World War.
After intense naval and aerial bombardment, Canadian soldiers stormed Juno Beach on June 6, 1944. Under intense fire from German infantry, thousands of Canadian soldiers also had to contend with heavy seas, which forced commanders into modifying attack plans minute to minute.
Over a span of two bloody hours, under direct German fire, the Canadians seized and secured their immediate objective.
Then, with reinforcements from the 9th Infantry, tanks, and artillery, our soldiers moved inland to link up with fellow Allied divisions and begin the arduous process of crushing Hitler’s mechanized war machine.
Over the next month-and-a-half, Allied soldiers fought the Battle of Normandy, helping reduce Germany’s fighting force by 400,000 soldiers, destroying hundreds of enemy tanks, and drawing troops away from the Eastern front.
Perhaps the battle most pivotal in securing Allied victory in Europe, the Normandy invasion also proved to be one of the most costly; more than 18,000 Canadians were among the casualties, over 5,000 of whom would never see their homes again.
Several years ago, I visited Juno Beach with my son. He was 14 at the time.
We had the opportunity to view the battlefield from several vantage points, including the position of German fortifications overlooking the beach.
What struck me, as I looked down on the battlefield, was the bravery of these Canadian soldiers.
These young men, some not much older than my son, charged into a wall of enemy fire. Some did it to protect us from Hitler’s aggression.
Some did it to liberate people they had never met. Some did it to end the war earlier, and spare future soldiers the horrors of war. They all had one thing in common; each and every one of them made a conscious decision to risk their lives for others.
It has been 70 years since D-Day. To this day, I can tell you that Canadian flags still fly proudly on the soil liberated by these young men.
On this solemn anniversary, may we continue to keep the faith with those who came before us; may we dutifully pass the torch to those who follow; and may we always – always - fly the Canadian flag with pride.