Seventy years ago this morning, the largest armada ever assembled gathered off the beaches of Normandy, France.
It was a Tuesday and the weather was overcast and lousy, portending the meat grinder that was to take place below over the span of that day and the days to follow inland.
It was the day the free world put all of its resources into retaking Europe from the grip of Nazism.
The sheer numbers attached to the D-Day invasion are almost mind boggling:
Nearly 150,000 troops, about half American, and the rest from Britain and Free France, hit the beaches almost simultaneously. Five days later, that number had doubled, along with 54,186 vehicles and more than 100,000 tons of supplies. By the Fourth of July a million men were had been landed.
The grim statistics are these:
Allied casualties on the first day were about 12,000, with 4,414 confirmed dead, more than half of them Americans.
Today, the leaders of the progeny of the Greatest Generation will gather at Normandy to pay homage to what their fathers and grandfathers did there so many years ago. They will be eloquent in their speeches, of course, but words can't describe the sacrifice or the determination that was expended there.
Perhaps some of them will be reminded of the words of an American president who stood on a battlefield a little more than 150 years ago to dedicate a cemetery:
"The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us-that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion-that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain..."
The blood and the honor of those men is still mingled in the sand of the now-tranquil beaches of Normandy, where they set about liberating not just a single nation, but a continent, and ultimately, the world.