Seventy years on: Remembering D-Day

STORMING THE BEACH: Friday marks the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion. Photo by the National Archives.

By Rob Nikolewski │ New Mexico Watchdog

It was the largest land, air and sea operation before or since June 6, 1944. Its success hinged on a weather forecast.

Friday marks the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the historic assault by Allied forces on the windswept beaches of Normandy.

Anyone with a cursory knowledge of history understands the significance of the operation. The remarkably well-coordinated transporting of soldiers and military vehicles under intense German fire eventually led to victory in the European Theater and World War II.

But the passage of time often obscures the risks involved.

Had D-Day had failed and the element of surprise been lost, the Nazi war effort would have been given new life. The result, as author John Ross argues, might have been the Soviet Union eventually taking control of the European continent.

It almost certainly would have meant more dying in concentration camps like Buchenwald and Auschwitz.

The weather on the French coastline in early June was terrible.

With rain pouring down for days, Dwight Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander, agonized over the decision to go ahead with Operation Overlord, the code name for the invasion.

Any delay would have pushed the invasion back to at least June 19, due to tides and logistics. Eisenhower might have been forced to call things off until the following year.

It was his chief weatherman, predicting a break in the weather that would last about 36 hours, who spurred Eisenhower to tell his generals and admirals, “Okay, let’s go.”

Eleven years after Normandy, Eisenhower’s brother, Milton, invited the president of the United States to give a graduation speech.

“In the spring of 1955, when I was president of Penn State, Ike was the commencement speaker. As the time for the outdoor ceremony approached, storm clouds formed.

“I was distressed at the possibility of moving the commencement to an indoor facility that was too small to accommodate all of the guests.

“When I asked my brother for advice, he said, ‘Milton, I haven’t worried about the weather since June 6, 1944.’ ”

Contact Rob Nikolewski at rnikolewski@watchdog.org and follow him on Twitter @robnikolewski

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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