June 6, 1944, should be a date that all Americans know, the most massive sea invasion in history. Of course, every military operation must have a code-name, or in the case of something this important, nine different code-names (Desta, 2014). Operation Overlord was the main code-name given to the Battle of Normandy, and this year marks the 75th anniversary to that fateful day that helped end WWII. There were five Normandy landings or five beaches of D-day, each with their unique aliases; they were Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword (Greenspan, 2019). Omaha beach was the deadliest landing zone, with roughly 2,000 of the 2,499 American fatalities that day. Let's take a more in-depth look at those beach landings.
Of course, we learn about these critical historical milestones while coming up through grade school. How much do you remember now? I know I learned enough to get the grades, pass, and then I data dumped as much as possible. These Americans deserve more than that; they made the ultimate sacrifices so that we all can daydream in school if that is what we choose, but let’s honor them through reflection a moment. The year 1944 was 75 years ago, way before many of our parents were even born. The United States and its Allies didn’t have the same aircraft, destroyers, artillery, or even intelligence as we do now. One thing the U.S. Navy does still have and use are the Landing crafts that were so pivotal in the WWII turning point.
There were a few different versions of these Landing Craft Vessels used during WWII. The main vessel was called Landing Craft Vehicle and Personnel (LCVP) (The National WWII Museum, n.d.). These crafts had the mission of being transport vessels, and whether it was men or weapons, these crafts saved the "day". These vessels, once called “Higgins Boats” were able to carry around 200 troops, mortars, guns, and weapons. If you ever had the chance to see the movie 'Saving Private Ryan,' then you would have seen how the troops were packed in the well deck of these small crafts like sardines, on a ride to a 25% chance of survival. Yep, I said 25% chance of survival, if I were a betting man or woman, I would not take those odds!
The weather conditions on that momentous morning were atrocious; the seas were very rough, causing some of the crafts to overturn (Klein, 2019). Unlike many Americans, I have had the chance to ride in a version of one of these Landing Craft boats. Imagine if you will, being in a small steel boat with a flat steel haul. This boat has no chairs, no restrooms, no handrails, no galley (that's the kitchen for you civilians), no roof over your head to keep out the elements, deafening engines so you cannot hear anything, and you can feel even the smallest of waves. Are you feeling seasick yet? When the weather is terrible, you are confident the next swell is going to be the one will cause you to tip over. How about some Dramamine for that seasickness? Oh sorry, that was not invented until 1949, so our D-day heroes could not have any of that! (Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d.). When you are moving as fast as the craft can go, you hit the waves so hard you knock into the person next to you, or even more embarrassing you are knocked to your butt. That is how it feels being in a Landing Craft Boat in today's Navy. I wonder how much worse it was 75 years ago.
Operation Neptune, the assault phase of Operation Overlord, used 4,126 landing ships (Portsmouth City Council, 2019). As mentioned before, these crafts were called “Higgins Boats”, named after the man that developed them, Andrew Jackson Higgins (Hendee, 2014). General Eisenhower called Mr. Higgins, "The man that won the war for us" (Hendee, 2014). I would say the boats, the man that built the boats, the soldiers, American leaders, and our Allies won the war for us.
On this 75th anniversary, we ask that you take a moment to reflect on what these men went through to give us the lives we have today. Thank you to all men and women that serve in our military, but today we want to honor those that gave so much to end World War II. From us at OutofRegz, Thank you!