Tonight 70 years ago, at the very early hours of June 6, 1944, over 150,000 men were deployed on a mission that to this day is considered the largest seaborne invasion in history. And despite the hardships before and after that date, the powers of the free world liberated Europe within less than a year after the Normandy landings.
Operaton Neptune, as this part of the larger-scale Operation Overlord was called, began at 12:15 AM local time with the American airborne landings deep inside the enemy’s territory. Over 13,000 men of the 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions dropped behind the enemy lines, tasked with with controlling the causeways behind Utah Beach and destroying road and rail bridges over the Douve River. A few hours later, around 6:30 in the morning, the first Infantry regiment arrived by sea at the shore of Utah Beach. The battle for Europe had begun.
On the first day, at least 4,414 allied servicemen died at the shores of Northern France. These brave soldiers are buried at the countless military cemeteries across Normandy. A few years ago, I had the honor to visit these cemeteries and pay my respects to the ones who made the ultimate sacrifice for peace and liberty of Europe.
Today, exactly 70 years after the liberation of Europe began, let us again remember these and other brave soldiers and thank them in our thoughts and prayers for their selfless work for the benefit of others. And let’s raise a glass in memory of the fallen.