CACI Commemorates the 70th Anniversary of D-Day
- the Allied Invasion of Normandy
"Here, where we stand today, the new world came back to liberate the old. A bond was formed of shared trial and shared victory. And a light that scattered darkness from these shores and across France would spread to all of Europe - in time, turning enemies into friends, and the pursuits of war into the pursuits of peace. Our security is still bound up together in a transatlantic alliance, with soldiers in many uniforms defending the world from terrorists at this very hour."
Memorial Day at the Normandy American Cemetery, May 27, 2002
June 6th marks 70 years since Allied troops stormed the beaches of Normandy, France and began the process of taking back the European continent from Adolph Hitler and his Nazi occupiers.
The Seaborne Assault
Code-named Operation Overlord, the D-Day assault involved 160,000 troops from 5,000 ships, representing the largest seaborne invasion the world had ever seen.
The USS Laffey was one in the enormous fleet of magnificent Navy vessels that transported the troops, landing craft, and other equipment close to the beaches and supported the ensuing battle. The Laffey patrolled the ocean side of the invasion fleet for the first two days, and started targeting enemy positions with her guns on June 8. After heading to England on June 10 for fuel, the Laffey quickly returned to the scene to chase off German patrol boats that had torpedoed the destroyer USS Nelson.
As is common in the Navy, the Laffey that participated in D-Day was named for an earlier ship, one which had been sunk at the Battle of Guadalcanal in November 1942. The resilient second incarnation of the Laffey survived World War II, the Korean War, and other Cold War conflicts until retiring in the 1960s. Today it is a national historic landmark and a living reminder of D-Day, serving as a museum ship in South Carolina.
The USS Laffey gives visitors to the Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum a look into its World War II battle past with an audiovisual presentation in its 5" 38-caliber gun mount.
The Airborne Assault
The seaborne assault occurred after an attack force of American, British, Canadian, and Free French troops undertook dangerous night jumps behind enemy lines in preparation for the invasion from the sea. With 24,000 troops involved, the size of the airborne assault was also unprecedented in world history. Paratroopers from the U.S. 82nd and 101st Airborne divisions, the British 6th Airborne Division, the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion, and other attached Allied units flew from bases from southern England to the Cotentin Peninsula in approximately 925 C-47 Skytrain airplanes. An additional 4,000 men later arrived in approximately 500 gliders to reinforce the paratroopers.
Once on the beaches of Normandy, the men faced over 200 yards of beach before any natural feature could offer protection beyond their small arms and artillery.
While the beach skirmishes capture most of the D-Day imagination, battles also took place in occupied French coastal villages to liberate the citizens from the grip of the Nazis. The stucco villages were the scene of C-47s dropping troops onto the landscape, which soon became bullet-riddled battlegrounds.
While the overall D-Day victory turned the tide in the European front, the price was high, with over 4,000 dead and almost 10,000 casualties. Throughout the bloody battles, the Allied troops demonstrated outstanding character, with stories of courage and sacrifice abounding.
Visiting sites such as the Airborne & Special Operations Museum in Fayetteville, N.C., with its representation of a Normandy village as it might have appeared on D-Day, provides a visceral reminder of the great sacrifices and accomplishments made by both the Allies and our Armed Forces in securing a D-Day victory.
Still Bound in Struggle Against Oppression
The ties forged in the transatlantic alliance at Normandy and throughout World War II are still evident today. Coalitions of like-minded nations are currently bound together in the fight against global terrorism, ignited by the 9/11 attacks and subsequent attacks in London, Madrid, and other bastions of democracy.
The missions today are no less daunting and audacious than the huge amphibious assault in France. For example, we will always remember how Navy SEAL Team Six flew a helicopter undetected in the dead of night to carry out a raid to target a single enemy - Osama Bin Laden.
Thanking Those to Whom We Owe So Much
The great accomplishments of the U.S. military and its Allies are especially remembered on milestones like the 70th anniversary of D-Day. While most of the brave men from the D-Day assault have since passed on, we can still carry on their legacy by saying "Thank you" to the veterans of all wars who are still with us and to the servicemen and women who protect our freedoms now.
Commenting on D-Day, Dr. J.P. (Jack) London, CACI Executive Chairman and Chairman of the Board, remarked, "On this, the 70th anniversary of D-Day, I would like to join the throngs of others over the past seven decades in calling this 'a job well done.' The courage shown by our troops should never be forgotten."
Dr. London also notes that the Friends of the National World War II Memorial, together with the National Park Service, is holding a commemoration of the 70th anniversary of D-Day at 11 a.m. on June 6 at the memorial on the Mall in Washington, D.C. Dr. London serves on the Friends Board of Directors.