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Recognizing 60th Anniversary of Allied Landing at Normandy During World War II

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


RECOGNIZING 60TH ANNIVERSARY OF ALLIED LANDING AT NORMANDY DURING WORLD WAR II -- (House of Representatives - June 01, 2004)

Mr. RYUN of Kansas. Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and pass the Senate joint resolution (S.J. Res. 28) recognizing the 60th anniversary of the Allied landing at Normandy during World War II.

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Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, I thank my good friend for yielding me time.

Mr. Speaker, I rise to urge all of my colleagues to support S.J. Res. 28, a resolution recognizing the sixtieth anniversary of the Allied landing at Normandy.

Mr. Speaker, like many of my colleagues, this past weekend both my wife Marie and I joined with President Bush, former Senator Bob Dole and tens of thousands of veterans, many of them from the Second World War, as the new National World War II Memorial was dedicated.

As Marie and I stood on the Mall, we were reminded of the valor and sacrifice of millions of American men and women who wore our Nation's uniform during this war, including my father, a combat Army veteran who saw horrific combat that began in New Guinea and ended in the Philippines, and my wife's father, who served with honor and distinction on the USS Canberra in the South Pacific.

Several of our relatives saw combat during the Second World War, including Marie's uncle, Joseph Hahn, of the 29th Division, 116th Regiment, 121st Engineering Battalion, who hit the beaches on that historic day when the tides of war were turned in our favor. Corporal Hahn hit the beach on Omaha Beach on June 6, and he was part of that very courageous group of men who bravely fought their way through one of the most treacherous battlefields in history and made it to St. Lo on July 18th. Six weeks to advance about 30 miles underscores how bad that battle really was and how vociferous were the forces that were arrayed against them. But they prevailed!

It occurred to me at the monument dedication Saturday, Mr. Speaker, that World War II could have had a different outcome and could have turned out differently. Nowhere is this more evident than the D-Day landings on June 6 of 1944.

Many Americans look back upon D-Day and think that it was the inevitable beginning of Europe's liberation from the clutches of Nazi Germany. Yet, on June 6, 1944, failure was still possible. In fact, when we pause and consider the magnitude and the scale of such an enormously complicated military operation waged by multiple nations, it sometimes seems amazing that the operation ever succeeded.

Historian Stephen Ambrose put the significance of this operation into perspective. He said, "You can't exaggerate it. You can't overstate it. D-Day was the pivot point of the 20th century. It was the day on which the decision was made as to who was going to rule this world in the second half of the 20th century. Is it going to be Nazism, is it going to be Communism, or are the democracies going to prevail?" He goes on to say, "If we would have failed on Omaha Beach and on the other beaches on the 6th of June in 1944, the struggle for Europe would have been a struggle between Hitler and Stalin, and we would have been out of it."

Mr. Speaker, it is worth noting that even General Dwight D. Eisenhower himself was not completely confident of victory. Prior to the launch of the great amphibious assault, he scribbled a note, a brief note about what he would say to the press in the event that the invasion failed, and he kept it in his wallet. While General Eisenhower had reasonable faith in his war plan, he was also fully cognizant of just how badly things could go awry in the fog of war, even if everything else had gone perfectly and went out on schedule.

As we all know now, Mr. Speaker, as dawn broke on June 6, 1944, a great invasion force stood off the coast of Normandy awaiting the commencement of Operation Overlord. In all, there were nine battleships, 23 cruisers, 104 destroyers, and 71 large landing craft of various descriptions, as well as troop transports, mine sweepers, and merchantmen. Combined, these forces constituted nearly 5,000 ships of every type, the largest armada ever assembled. Allied air forces flew 11,000 sorties to provide air cover, bomb fortifications, and, most importantly, to pin down German tanks poised to drive any Allied beachhead back into the sea.

As Operation Overlord continued, several of the Allied beach landings went relatively smoothly and according to plan. But at the beach code-named Omaha, many things seemed to go wrong all at once for the primarily American force. According to some estimates, barely one-third of the first wave of attackers ever reached dry land. Only sheer bravery and the monumental effort of human will posed against impossible odds carried the day at Omaha Beach. About 2,500 men were killed or wounded at Omaha Beach alone.

By the end of D-Day, the total of dead and injured topped 9,000. The American share was about 6,500. Among the American airborne divisions, about 2,500 became casualties. Canadian forces experienced about 1,100 casualties, and another 3,000 British soldiers were killed or wounded. Approximately one-third of the casualties were killed in action.

Despite the losses and the unspeakable hardship endured by so many, the invasion succeeded. More than 100,000 men and 10,000 vehicles came ashore that day, the first of millions who would join them and finally put an end to Nazi Germany.

Mr. Speaker, our Nation must never take for granted the sacrifices that were made to liberate Europe and to preserve freedom. We must never forget the veterans who scaled the cliffs and stormed the beaches of Normandy against overwhelming odds.

I urge all Members to strongly support this resolution.

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