June 6th 2013, is the 59th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy, France. We should all be familiar with the basic history – US and allied forces launched the largest amphibious assault in history against the massive “Atlantic Wall” of defensive positions that Hitler had spent years constructing. Overall, of course, the landing were successful – some were even relatively easy and bloodless, as far as amphibious assaults against heavily fortified coastlines go.
Many units, however, had anything but an easy go of it. Two of these units, the 116th Regimental Combat Team (RCT) of the 29th Infantry Division, and three companies (A, B, and C) of the 2nd Ranger Battalion, landed at the most strongly defended sector of Omaha Beach; itself the most strongly defended of all the beaches in the landing areas. Despite being untested in combat, and suffering tremendous casualties (A Company of the 116th RCT, for example, suffered 95% casualties withing the first 10 minutes of fighting) these units fought their way onto the beach, and established the toe hold that was the beginning of the end of the Third Reich.
Three other companies of the 2nd Ranger Bn scaled the cliffs of Pointe du Hoc, in one of the most famous and most dangerous missions of the Normandy landings. Climbing up the steep cliffs using ropes, grapnels, and their hands and feet, the Rangers secured the fortifications at the top of the cliffs – all while under heavy enemy fire.
I was privileged enough to serve in both the 2nd Ranger Battalion AND the 116th Infantry Regiment, and I ask you to join me today in remembering the courage and sacrifice of those men who braved the withering guns, who scaled the cliffs, and who spearheaded the assault that would lead to the downfall of Hitler and his regime.
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