When you go home,
Tell them of us and say,
For your tomorrow,
We gave our today.
Inscription, British War Memorial, Kohima, India. (Attributed to John Maxwell Edmonds, Times Literary Supplement[London], 4 July 1918).
63 years ago today, the allies returned to the European continent: the Normandy landings signaling the beginning of the end of Hitler's Germany. The invasion, Operation Overlord, with 15,000 vessels, over ten divisions of troops (from the US, UK and Canada as well as Free-French contingents) and thousands of aircraft, is still the largest amphibious assault ever attempted, only approached in size by the invasion of Okinawa in 1945.
Neither D-Day nor the ensuing Normandy Campaign decided the war -- in retrospect, the Germans had lost the war by August 1941. But the allied armies delivered the western half of the continent from Nazi bondage and barbarism, and by their victory bought liberty and freedom for much of Europe. In the fullness of time, eastern Europe too, would be delivered from tyranny: and the foundation for that outcome was laid in particular by the sacrifices of the Americans, Canadians, Britons, Poles and Frenchmen who died on Normandy beaches, and in the hedgerow country (bocage) in the summer of 1944.
The greatest American President of the postwar era, Ronald Reagan, visited Normandy in 1984, on the 40th anniversary of the landings. His brief speech on that occasion is probably his finest, and his tribute to those he called, "the boys of Pointe du Hoc" (via Real Clear Politics), is as timely now, as then.