Hi, there, Dear Reader. It’s late morning here in Lithia, Florida, on Monday, June 6, 2022. It is a hot early summer day in the Tampa Bay area. Currently, the temperature is 80°F (27°C) under mostly sunny skies. With humidity at 92% and the wind barely blowing from the east-southeast at 1 MPH (4 KM/H) the feels-like temperature is 78°F (26°C). It’s going to be hotter and rainier later, though. Today’s forecast calls for thunderstorms to pass through the area, and the high will be 92°F (33°C). Tonight, light rain will persist throughout the county. The low will be 70°F (21°C).
As you probably know, today is the 78th anniversary of the D-Day landings on the coast of Normandy, France, which marked the beginning of the Allied invasion to liberate Western Europe from the yoke of Hitler’s Nazi Germany. It is also the 80th anniversary of the third day of the Battle of Midway, a naval battle that took place near Midway Island (actually, a two-island coral atoll) at the far end of the Hawaiian Islands between June 4 and 7 in 1942.
Although these were vastly different engagements – Operation Neptune, the amphibious operation that kicked off the larger Operation Overlord on D-Day was a combined arms/multinational assault from ship-to-shore and involved parachute drops and glider landings, whilst Operation MI (the Japanese codename for the invasion of Midway) was a sea-and-air battle that involved mainly ships and aircraft – they were “red-letter” events that led to the ultimate Allied victory that ended World War II.
Midway, which occurred before Operation Neptune, was a decisive battle not only because when it ended Japan’s carrier force had lost four fleet aircraft carriers (Akagi, Kaga, Soryu, and Hiryu) in the space of a single day – June 4, 1942 – and lost a heavy cruiser a few days later, but also because after Midway, the Japanese Empire stopped expanding and its military forces were restricted to a purely defensive strategy.
The Normandy invasion that began on June 6, 1944, marked the beginning of the end for Hitler’s Third Reich. Although a multinational force led by American, British, Canadian, and French forces was making its way up the Italian peninsula and liberated Rome, the first Axis capital to fall in the war, the Mediterranean theater had proved to not be a strategic threat to the Nazi homeland. The terrain in Italy was too mountainous, and the Alps – which the Allies would not reach until the spring of 1945 – shielded southern Germany from an incursion by the 15th Army Group.
France, of course, was another matter. If the Anglo-American forces led by Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower established a lodgment area in northern France and then broke out to liberate the entire country, they could then cross into western Germany, bound over the Rhine River, and capture the Reich’s all-important industrial heartland in the Saar and Ruhr Valleys. Combined with the Soviet Union’s summer offensive on the Eastern Front, an Allied victory in Normandy and, ultimately, France would be the death knell for the Nazis’ “Thousand Year Reich.”
Victory did not come cheap or easily. On D-Day itself, the initial assault force of three airborne divisions (two American, one British) and six infantry divisions (three American, two British, and one Canadian) suffered 9,000 casualties, of which 3,000 or so were killed in action. Over the next 77 days of the Normandy campaign that officially ended with the liberation of Paris on August 25, 1944, the Allies – including the French 2nd Armored Division – lost 209,000 ground troops and over 16,000 airmen as a result of enemy action and war-related accidents. (The Germans, of course, lost far more men in Normandy; no one really knows the exact tally of Wehrmacht losses, but an estimated 200,000 German soldiers were killed in France between June 6 and August 25, 1944, and over 700,000 were taken prisoner.)
Remember. Always remember.
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