June 6 marks the 72nd anniversary of D-Day, when the Allies invaded France in World War II. Seaborne invasions against a heavily fortified enemy are fraught with peril. The Allies had achieved air superiority. They had kept secret their invasion plans so that the Germans didn’t know where to concentrate their forces. The Allies also had one other advantage that is little remembered today: better weather forecasting. Because of the dominance of the Allied Navies in the North Atlantic and their ability to observe and report weather conditions, Allied meteorologists were able to foresee a break in the wretched pre-invasion weather—information to which the Germans were not privy.
Based on the forecast, General Eisenhower made the gutsy decision to proceed with the already once-delayed landings, rather than keep his troops—and his secret plans—bottled up for another month waiting on another coincidence of favorable moon and tides.
The forecasters were correct. The weather was good enough for the airborne troops to launch and parachute or glide silently into the German rear areas. The weather was good enough for the seaborne forces to put ashore on the invasion beaches. The weather was good enough for the air forces to fly thousands of sorties in support of the ground troops.
By the time darkness fell on June 6, more than 150,000 American, British, Canadian and French troops had landed in France. They were spread across a front of fifty miles. There were nearly 5,000 Allied casualties.
D-Day was the opening of the long-awaited “second front” and spelled the doom of Hitler’s Third Reich. Eleven months later, Hitler would be dead, as would Goebbels and Himmler. The surviving leaders of the Third Reich would end the next year, 1945, on trial for their lives at the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg.
Thanks for the heroes who floated into combat beneath their silk canopies, who flew through the treacherous skies to attack enemy targets, who waded ashore under murderous fire. Thanks for those heroes who risked their lives that freedom might triumph over tyranny.