CACI Commemorates the 68th Anniversary of D-Day – the Allied Invasion of Normandy
"These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc. These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. And these are the heroes who helped end a war. Gentlemen, I look at you and I think of the words of Stephen Spender's poem. You are men who in your 'lives fought for life and left the vivid air signed with your honor.'"
- Remarks delivered by President Ronald Reagan on June 6, 1984, commemorating the 40th Anniversary of the Invasion of Normandy
It's been nearly seven decades since Allied troops stormed Hitler's Fortress Europe to take back the continent from its Nazi occupiers. First, an assault of 24,000 American, British, Canadian, and Free French airborne troops filled the night skies above southern France. Then, on five wind-swept Normandy beaches code-named Sword, Juno, Gold, Utah, and Omaha, over 160,000 troops came ashore. Involving more than 5,000 ships, it was the largest amphibious invasion in world history.
Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress
In the months ahead, as the Allies gradually ground down enemy resistance, the tide of battle shifted from initial successes such as the liberation of France to the brutal Battle of the Bulge in Belgium, where American troops fought and won the largest and bloodiest battle of the entire war.
But that was all in the future. On the beaches of Normandy, the minds of so many brave men were simply occupied by thoughts of staying alive, looking out for buddies, and moving inland. And of the countless stories of courage and sacrifice that we remember today, perhaps the most compelling involves the "boys of Pont du Hoc" – the U.S Army Rangers to whom President Reagan so eloquently paid tribute 28 years ago.
Rangers Take the Top
What was the mission that united the 2nd Ranger Battalion in their heroic endeavor? To destroy a fortified battery of 155mm guns emplaced atop a 100-foot cliff between the Utah and Omaha beaches that could severely delay the landings and cause severe casualties.
As the Rangers scaled the cliff using ropes, ladders, and grapples, the German defenders fired down at them. When they finally took the top, the Rangers discovered that the artillery battery had been moved to avoid air attacks. The guns were found nearby, captured, and destroyed, but the Rangers then faced the task of holding the position, losing more than 60 percent of their men in the process. At the end of the two-day action, the initial Ranger landing force of 225+ was reduced to about 90 men who could still fight.
Photo courtesy of the U.S. National Archives
This was just one event in the huge canvas that was D-Day ... just a single series of actions among the unfolding narrative that eventually led to the end of the war in Europe. But in this shining example of courage, we have the essence of what the Normandy landings were all about.
Thanking Those to Whom We Owe So Much
Today, we can think back and marvel at what happened on that day in June, 68 years ago. And we can say "Thank you" to those veterans of World War II who are still with us and to the servicemen and women who protect our freedoms now.
Commenting on the anniversary of D-Day, Dr. J.P. (Jack) London, CACI Executive Chairman and Chairman of the Board, remarked, "It's hard for us to even comprehend the challenges faced by those who landed at Normandy. It's equally difficult to imagine the incredible burden of responsibility they bore with such fortitude and grace as they took the beaches and moved on to retake Europe. But today, let us never forget that the men and women in our nation's Armed Forces also face adversities that are unique in the modern battlefield. And they, too, persevere with all the qualities of those who have defended America in the past."
You can watch President Reagan’s historic speech at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eEIqdcHbc8I