Our landings have failed and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based on the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that bravery could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.
- Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, undelivered statement in the event of the failure of Operation Overlord
On this day sixty-five years ago the armed forces of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, free France, Poland, and Norway invaded Nazi-held territory at the beaches of Normandy. Despite the unfathomable preparation and manpower brought to bear against the German defenses, final victory was far from certain and Eisenhower had good reason to write his militarily laconic but still poignant claim of sole responsibility for a possible failure.
In 1960, The Atlantic published an account of the landings at Omaha beach from the perspective of some of the units that are less well known in the subsequent accounts by virtue of being wiped out almost to the man. Some modern depictions of the war like Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers have done a remarkable service in managing to convey some fraction of the enormity of what the invasion force actually suffered – and what they accomplished. We owe it to them to learn their story and remember their sacrifice.
The soldiers who were eighteen years old on that June day are eighty-three now. For the service of those still with us and those who have passed away, we thank them. What they achieved will live forever.