In the early morning of June 6, 1944, American, British and Canadian troops began landing on the beaches of Normandy to start wresting Europe from Adolf Hitler and his fascist forces.
About 153,000 men and boys tumbled out of transports into the cold waters or dropped from the sky that day. Ahead lay battlefields strewn with obstacles, protected by German machine guns.
Behind these soldiers stood the might and pride and love of Americans and our Allies, fighting the most terrible evil our nation and those who shared our ideals had ever faced.
The assault that day had to work, and it did, at a cost of about 4,000 Allied lives. Once these lead forces secured the area, troops and equipment supplied by a herculean effort on the home front were dispersed through western Europe to fight the Axis powers. The war in Europe ended in May 1945, but it was won 75 years ago Thursday through brave acts undertaken in a noble cause.
The end of World War II seemed to signal the dawning of an enlightened age. Believing that the grinding punishments imposed on the nations that lost World War I were a direct cause of the second one, the United States helped Germany and Japan rebuild, just as it did France and Britain. The Allied victory renewed a trend toward democratic freedoms that we thought would be embraced by all.
This did happen in many places and at many times, but the evils of the world also persisted.
In the Soviet Union after World War II, Josef Stalin and the Communists killed as many as 50 million people. In China, Mao Zedong did much the same. More wars followed for the United States and our European Allies, and these nations struggled with racial and gender equality. More than seven decades later, furious nationalism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism are on the rise in the countries where American blood was shed to stop them. The arc of history may bend toward justice, but that progress is always uneven and never assured.
Today, we remember the brave men and boys who fought evil under terrifying circumstances, but we also must honor them by continuing to fight for a free and prosperous nation, and a world of democracy and equality.
It would be a betrayal to let what they won be undone.