June 6, 2012
Ladies and Gentlemen, the President of the United States: Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.
Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.
They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest until victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and by flame. Men's souls will be shaken with the violences of war.
Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, thy heroic servants, into thy kingdom.
Oh Lord, give us faith. Give us faith in thee; faith in our sons; faith in each other; faith in our united crusade. Let not the keenness of our spirit ever be dulled.
With thy blessing we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogances.Thy will be done, Almighty God.
The nation listened at their radios. Many families gathered to hear Franklin D. Roosevelt's stirring words. The country had been at war two and a half years at that point. In World War II, one of every eleven Americans was in uniform. By contrast today, the Great Republic is defended by a volunteer force comprised of one in two hundred Americans.
President Roosevelt spoke from the White House. His heartfelt prayer was carried by everycommercial network and, of course, by Armed Forces radio. In England that morning, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower bore the awesome responsibility for the "go/no go" decision. He had already had to postpone the invasion of Normandy for bad weather. If he had to postpone it again, it could be disastrous for success. Eisenhower, too, used the word "crusade" to describe the liberating forces arrayed against the Nazi occupiers of Europe. (Ike's memoirs, Crusade in Europe, have never been out of print.) The night before the invasion, Gen. Eisenhower as Supreme Commander of Allied Forces Europe (SCAFE), had moved easily among the heavily armed soldiers of five nations--U.S., Britain, Canada, Free France, and Poland. (Recently, Defense Sec. Leon Panetta had to order all American soldiers disarmed for a joint meeting with Afghan and U.S. troops. We did not want our Afghan allies to feel disrespected. But war correspondent Michael Yonhas written that as many as 200 of our soldiers have been killed by uniformed Afghans whom we trained and armed.) There is no record of any U.S. soldier having been killed by our D-Day Allies.
My wife and I were proud to go to Normandy for our twenty-fifth anniversary. She is a retired Navy captain. Walking the beaches--Utah and Omaha for the Americans, Gold, Sword,and Juno for our steadfast Allies, we marveled at how the French have so lovingly and carefully preserved them. No souvenir stands dot the coastal towns. All is quiet and peaceful now.I strained to imagine the scene on D-Day. Ships and planes filled the sea and skies. The invasion fleet was the greatest in human history. Coast Guard boat coxswains drove the landing craftonto the shore, often under heavy German fire. I thanked God that I served with the Coasties.
Our French guide, Vincent, told us that France lost 50,000 lives in Normandy in the three months after D-Day, most of them peasants. "We had been warned of the Allied invasion by the BBC and by leaflets dropped by American and British planes, of course. But they could not tell us, obviously, exactly where or when the invasion would come. These are peasants. Their cattle and sheep are their livelihood. They had to take their chances."Eager to memorialize our visit in some special way, my wife asked me to scoop up a bucket of sand. For several years afterward, she gave small containers of that sand--for which our fathers fought and died--to retiring friends in the Navy. They never failed to tear up. Nor do I.