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Remembering D-Day

06 June 2014 [14:57] - TODAY.AZ
Let's take a moment today and remember those valiant men who waded ashore on the beaches of Normandy, in France, 70 years ago today.

Many of them were boys really, 18 years old and even younger as some lied about their age in order to enlist.

They were met by heavy fire from German troops trying to prevent the Allies from establishing a beachhead from where they would eventually push inland and drive the German forces all the way to Berlin and defeat the evil that was Nazism.

We owe our freedom today to the bravery, the courage and the sacrifice of these real heroes.

With today's instant technology, with smart phones allowing us to Tweet and Skype news stories nano-seconds after they happen, imagine how Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the brains behind Operation Overlord, as was code-named the D-Day landings -- must have felt when it took about nine hours for the news from the front to reach him.

News correspondents had to use carrier pigeons to send messages back to their London offices.

As the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe, Eisenhower was responsible for the lives of hundreds of thousands of men and women under his command.

The assault had to be properly choreographed as an advance force of paratroopers and special forces had to be dropped behind enemy lines ahead of the main landing force, in order to hold strategic bridges that the Germans would try to destroy to delay the advance by the Allies.

The first wave of Americans, British, Canadian and Free French soldiers hit the French coast at round 0400 hours as they fought their way up the beaches at Coleville, Viereville sur Mer, Arromanches, etc., or as they were known to the Allies, Omaha Beach and Utah Beach where the Americans landed and Sword, Gold, and Juneau where the British and Canadians landed.

From his headquarter outside London, Gen. Eisenhower did not learn if his operation - the largest amphibious assault in the history of mankind -- was a success or failure until around noon, some eight nail-biting hours after giving the green light for the invasion of Europe to begin.

The decision Eisenhower had to make whether to go or not to go on June 6, 1944 given the bad weather conditions was simply mind boggling. A severe storm was making it difficult for the Allies. A delay of D-Day on account of the weather would have meant waiting another month until the required low tides would present the same condition as those of June 6. The Allies had more than 300,000 men and their equipment already on ships. It was the largest armada in history ready to sail.

Calling off the invasion would have also increased the risk of Nazi spies finding out that the invasion would begin in Normandy, and not in the Pas de Calais, the narrowest point between England and France, and therefore the most logical target. Adolf Hitler was convinced that the invasion would begin in the Pas de Calais and held back a crack Panzer Division, convinced that Normandy was merely a diversion.

Many never made it off the beaches of Normandy and rest today in their final resting place in the well manicured cemetery a few dozen yards from where they fell 70 years ago. To those men and others who paid the ultimate price, we will not forget.


Claude Salhani is senior editor at Trend Agency in Baku and a political analyst specializing in the Middle East, Central Asia and terrorism. You can follow him on Twitter @claudesalhani

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