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The Courage at D-Day Can Inspire Us Today

By Kiernan Michael Lalor, NYS Assemblyman

We’ve all seen photographs of young men huddled in landing crafts, approaching the shores of France on June 6, 1944, D-Day. In some photographs, the doors descend and the soldiers are standing still but ready to move. In other images, you can see them determinedly wading through waist-deep water, beyond the relative safety of those crafts.

Those men in the pictures were rushing into the unknown. Weeks before, on April 28, 1944, a mere D-Day rehearsal was beset by communication problems, friendly fire and attacks by German E-Boats costing 749 American servicemen their lives. Even Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower knew we might fail. He prepared a letter in case the Allies were not successful. He wrote, "Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do."

Thankfully, Ike’s letter is just a footnote in history. But what would have happened had we failed? Just what were the consequences of failure those men were facing as they boarded Higgins boats 75 years ago? Capture or more likely death. Likewise, the paratroopers who had jumped in at night would have been lost.

Had our troops and allies been pushed back into the sea, it may have been months or even a year before another landing would be attempted. The Nazis were fast-developing their advanced weapons. The Germans were well-ahead of the Allies in jet technology. That lead may have grown and become a major disadvantage for the Allies.

Allied failure on D-Day would have given the Nazis time to murder more Jews in the concentration camps. It’s possible they might have developed an atomic bomb if the war was prolonged. No doubt, had the Allies failed, World War II would have been bloodier. The 20th century would have been much darker.

In his D-Day message to the troops, Eisenhower was explicit about the mission and what was at stake. He said, “The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.”

With the fate of the world in the balance and nowhere to fall back, they charged ahead. They charged out of those landing crafts. They leapt from planes. They piloted engine-less gliders. They had no guarantee of success. But they did it, because it was their duty. They did it for their families back home. They did it for their buddies. They did it so they could return home and live in peace and enjoy the great blessings of the United States.

After the beaches were taken, a continent still had to be liberated. The heroism of American and Allied soldiers continued long past Normandy. The Allies faced 11 more months of fighting in Europe. From the beaches, they fought through Normandy’s thick hedgerows to push inland. They triumphed over intense German resistance. By late August, they had liberated Paris. In the fall, they had reached Germany. They persevered through the Nazis’ last gasps during the Battle of the Bulge. In fact, some of the same paratroopers who jumped on D-Day were surrounded by Germans during the siege of Bastogne. Intrepid, they brought the Third Reich to its knees on May 8, 1945, putting an end to one of history’s most brutal regimes less than a year after the invasion.

Seven decades ago, American troops confronted a challenge unlike any other in human history. Remembering the Greatest Generation’s unity of purpose, courage, selflessness and commitment to accomplishing the mission on D-Day, and throughout the war, should serve as an inspiration to our generation of Americans when confronting the challenges we face as a nation today.

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Assemblyman Kieran Michael Lalor, a former teacher at Our Lady of Lourdes in Poughkeepsie, is a Marine Corps veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and a frequent guest on the Fox News Channel. He is a graduate of John Jay High School, Providence College and Pace Law School and lives in Hopewell Jct. with his wife Mary Jo and their four children Katie, Riley, Mikey and Kieran Jr.

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