My uncle "got" to visit the French beach at Normandy on June 6, 1944. He and his brother both got a walking tour of Europe that year, and were in the Ardennes Forest in December of that year (Battle of the Bulge.) My father was in Korea in the early 1950's (Korean War) and my nephew was in Iraq last year (very front of the "spear") and has had his tour extended and is scheduled to return in two months. So many forget the high cost of our freedoms.
The Norman Invasion began at 6:30 am, June 6, 1944 after a brief Naval bombardment. By 9:00 am both the Germans and Omar Bradley (in charge of the invasion) believed the Germans had won. In the first 5 minutes over 1000 men went down. By the time the Norman coast was secured six weeks later the US alone had over 100,000 casualties. It was the single greatest invasion and the largest battle in history. Counter intelligence and Hitler's insistence on control of the reserves kept additional forces away long enough to allowed the Alied forces to establish a beachhead. Even still, in the end it was the men on the beach that had the courage to charge against machine guns in pill boxes that won the day. On Omaha Beach there was a point where it was impossible to run forward without stepping on a fallen comrade, but they still pressed on. 900 men were lost when German torpedo boats found and sunk a group of loaded landing craft in the English Channel training for the invasion. Rescue efforts were withheld in fear of giving away the invasion plans.
Through the fog of history many people forget how close the war really way. Without a bad decision by Hitler at Dunkirk, his decision to redirect air raids from military targets to cities in the Battle of Britain, and another bad decision to redirect his troops from Moscow to Stalingrad, the Germans very well may have won the war in Europe. They were the first with a ballistic missile (V-2), a cruise missile (V-1), a jet fighter, a jet bomber, a rocket powered fighter, a super tank (King Tiger), and were getting close to nuclear capabilities.
In the Pacific the Japanese missing the fuel storage at Pearl Harbor, and the brilliance of Nimitz at Midway were the critical events that turned the tide. With the loss of all four full sized carriers at Midway the Japanese were unable to provide necessary Naval air support at Guadalcanal and, with Naval air and gunnery support, the US Marines were able to scrape and claw their way to the victory which help break the Japanese.
The US alone had over 1 million casualties in WW II. There were an estimated 50 million killed in that war.
In 1994 President Clinton stood on the dais with two Medal of Honor recipients. He did not acknowledge either of them. This point sits between Omaha and Utah beaches and the Rangers were tasked with mounting these cliffs and neutralizing the large guns which commanded both beaches. They succeeded. Here is a link to a picture of those cliffs:http://www.itinerairesbis.com/choix_...plages/hoc.htm
In the 1994 commemoration a C-47 flew over with surviving members of the 82nd and 101st Airborne who had dropped on D-Day and liberated Sainte-MÃ¨re-Ã‰glise, one of the few first day objectives actually liberated on June 6th. These 80 year old men parachuted again into the nearby French countryside. The people of the town welcomed their returning heroes with tears and open arms. Their town hall still proudly displays the American Flag raised on June 6, 1944. This is one of the few places in France where Americans are openly and gladly welcomed - particularly American service personnel.
Germans I know believe they were liberated by the Alied forces. For the first time in history the victor paid and helped to rebuild the defeated foe. Through the Marshal Plan the US spent billions to rebuild Europe, and rebuilt Japan, Korea, and other parts of Asia as well.
I for one am happy the Germans have been invited to the this commemoration. During WW II the world saw the Nazi Concentration camps, the rise of the Russian camps, the Rape of Nanching, the Bataan March, the seige at Stalingrad, and many other horendous events. May we never again see such horror and tragedy.