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Today is the 79th anniversary of the largest seaborne invasion in world history. June 6, 1944 is known as D-Day. Operation Neptune began the liberation of German-occupied France. And later Europe.

The results of this campaign made the Allied victory on the Western front possible. Without it, there is no telling how World War II would have progressed and ended.

The U.S. and its allies landed 160,000 troops in France on that first day of the operation. They were supported by tens of thousands from multinational armed forces who manned warships and aircraft.

The price paid by the Allies on that historic day was horrific. More than 4,400 killed and 10,000 casualties. Of course, the well-fortified Germans suffered thousands of deaths and casualties as well. And those numbers skyrocketed as the campaign continued. 

Roosevelt’s Prayer United Americans 

As nervous family members, friends, neighbors, and co-workers back in the U.S. awaited word of the battle and prayed that their loved ones abroad would survive, President Franklin Roosevelt offered up a powerful prayer that help unite Americans. 

Crackling on radios across the country, as well as to service members and occupied nations around the world, Roosevelt’s words carried great weight.

Heard by an estimated 100 million people, his prayer included, “Almighty God, our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our republic, our religion, and our civilization. And to set free a suffering humanity.”

My good friend, Frank Bates, has a direct connection with D-Day. He served on two U.S. Navy ships that were involved in the Normandy landings a couple of decades earlier.

I’m handing it over to Frank now to share some of his Vietnam wartime memories. As well as his thoughts about our active-duty troops and veterans.

Frank Shares His Thoughts

I was born exactly 370 days after American forces landed on Omaha Beach to commence the Normandy invasion.

That invasion ultimately liberated Europe from the Nazi menace. And led to an Allied victory in World War II.  

So, I was not there. However, 25 years later as a young naval officer, I found myself at the conn of a U.S. Navy ship that WAS there. Right in the middle of things.

Landing Ship Dock Delivery

It was an LSD (Landing Ship Dock). You may think of it as a huge seagoing dump truck that shows up at amphibious landings.

That’s for the purpose of delivering and operating the so-called landing craft. (In case you ever wondered how all those little death traps got there.) 

Each LSD carried 30 to 40 of these little motorized cheese boxes crammed into a well deck.

Which, as the fun was getting ready to start, could be submerged sufficiently to float the landing craft. And allow them to start their engines. 

Awaiting the Signal

When the signal was given, the LSD would open its tailgate and disgorge its swarm of landing craft to go alongside assigned troop ships.

There they would be filled to the brim with soldiers. They’d line up facing the beach, waiting for the signal to advance. 

You’ve all seen the film footage about what happened next. By 1969, so had I.  

In Vietnam, the LSD’s job was not so glorious. LSDs hauled assorted junk up and down the coast. And because of their shallow draft and flat bottoms, they could navigate a good way up the rivers to resupply equipment to remote bases.

I Was at the Wheel 

They’d also serve as mobile repair facilities for river patrol boats. And later on, they transported heavily armored and fortified barges full of U.S. Marines to raise hell in the jungle. While everybody else picked their seats… for the movie.  

The one I was on actually carried a couple of landing craft of the original type. Although I can hardly imagine they were original, since they were mostly in one piece. 

I drove one a time or two. Think of the landing craft as a big plywood shoebox with a flat, oversized steel ramp flipped up in front. And an elevated wheelhouse shielded by steel plate in the rear. With a sign that says “Aim Here.”  

Landing craft were underpowered and hard to maneuver. And they had no guns and no armor. Other than the front ramp and aforementioned wheelhouse. 

You Understand the Sacrifice 

When I returned from Vietnam, I thought about those guys on Omaha Beach. Not the ones who were cut to pieces while they were still in the boats. Or the ones who were blown to smithereens on the beach that day.

Or about those who drowned before they even got there. But rather the ones who made it back home after it was all over. I also thought about why I decided to go to Vietnam. There were many other avenues of escape open to me that I declined.

Well, I am pretty sure I went for the same reason those guys climbed down those cargo nets into those boats on D-Day. It was what people who wanted to be able to hold their heads up high were supposed to do. 

Today, many of our brave young men and women are doing the exact same thing in various places around the globe.

Some Americans today don’t have the slightest clue what kind of sacrifice was made for them on D-Day. Or what kind of sacrifices today’s soldiers are making on their behalf.

But fortunately, many do. I know you do. Thank you for being a vital part of the 4Patriots family. 

New Order
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