Today is the seventy-fifth anniversary of D-Day. I can’t do any justice to the sacrifices, guts, and perseverance of the Allied Forces on this day. All I can say is: Thank You.
But I can talk about a couple things. First, the role of airpower. We hear the stories of veterans about the wall of machine gun fire they faced when the platforms of the amphib troop carriers dropped. We hear about the mines that crippled those same vessels before they were in the shallows. We hear about the artillery pounding on the troops pinned down by the machine guns and hindered by the beach obstacles.
We don’t hear about the strafing and bombing by German aircraft of Allied forces while storming the beaches. Why? Because the Allied Forces had Air Superiority, a term that means we’d seized control of the airspace and denied the enemy’s air forces from supporting their objectives. For months before the landing, Allied bombers had concentrated efforts deep within German-controlled lands to cripple airstrips, disrupt aircraft manufacturing, and hinder resupply rail lines. When the Germans decided to respond, they had little to respond with.
My point is not to detract from the sacrifice and supremely dangerous mission of the ground forces in Normandy, but to show that it was a team effort the whole way. I’m fairly certain that the pilots who’d spent months bombing or who’d just returned from their airdrop mission were just as anxious to hear how the Allied forces fared on those beaches in those early hours of June 6th. And I can also bet they were suited up, and the aircraft readied, to head over there to support the ground forces in a moment’s notice. In fact, for a majority of the rest of the war, they did just that, supporting the push of the ground forces as well as the deep bombing runs into the German heartland.
Finally, for those who wonder what the D in D-Day stands for, as a former military planner, I can say it really doesn’t stand for anything. D means the day an operation begins, just like C means the day a deployment begins. Who came up with those alpha-designations, and why, we’ll never know. Some things just stick, sometimes. When planning, you don’t always know the exact date something will start, so you lay out day-by-day force movements and objectives based on a fictional day, which starts on D+0, or D-Day. Twenty-four hours after that is D+1, forty-eight is D+2, and so on. Every operation has a D-Day.
It’s just that D-Day of June 6th, 1944, changed the world. And for all who participated in the planning, preparation, execution, and support, I’m grateful to them.