Author Alex Kershaw, a Friends of the National World War II Memorial board member, provides remarks during a virtual ceremony to mark the 76th anniversary of the D-Day invasion on the beaches of Normandy, France. A wreath-laying ceremony will take place following the virtual memorial ceremony at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, June 6, 2020.
Good morning. I am Alex Kershaw, a member of the board of directors of the National World War two Memorial and the author of several books about World War two, including the First Wave, the D Day Warriors who led the worth victory in World War Two, and the Bedford Boys. Thank you for joining us virtually to commemorate the Septics anniversary off the June 6th 1944 D Day invasion, when the Allies launched Operation Overlord by invading German occupied France along the coast of Normandy, the largest amphibious invasion in history. The Friends of the National World War Two Memorial, Your host for this morning ceremony is a small, nonprofit organization whose mission is to honor and preserve the national memory of World War Two and to create the next greatest generation of tomorrow. To meet this mission, Friends sponsors an annual public rep shirt serious between prominent historians, hosts an annual teachers conference in Washington, D. C. And collects and archives video interviews of World War two veterans on other members of the greatest generation. Also, Friends is the only organization housing a full four years 75th anniversary commemoration, marking every major battle in which American troops participated during World War Two Friends is crucially also charged with the immense and honored responsibility of designing and funding the addition of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Did a prayer to the World War two Memorial Friends is leading the effort to raise the estimated $2 million needed for this most important undertaking. As a non profit organization, Friends relies on contributions large and small, to renew and reinvigorate the spirit of unity and shared purpose that define the character of our country during the Warriors in the hopes of creating the next greatest generation off Tomorrow I want to celebrate, in particular one individual from the over 150,000 Allied troops who landed on D Day, June 6th, 1944 with tenant John Scolding. He was a platoon commander in E company at the 16th Infantry Regiment of the Big Red One. You’ve never seen combat, so D Day was his first day in action, so to speak. Hey was very, very afraid of what might happen to him on D Day because he knew that he was going to land in the first wave. In fact, he did land in the first wave, as with e company, landed on Easy red sector of Omaha Beach, which is one of eight sectors on Omaha Beach. It unfortunately, proved to be the second deadliest place that you could land on Omar Beach. Over 900 Americans were killed on Bloody Omaha are in the first hours off the invasion, when the ramp came down on his landing craft. He went into the water very rough water 56 feet high. His head went under the water. He had a very heavy pack on his back. He managed to get rid of the pack, and then when his head finally kept got above water and he could breathe, he said, his uniforms felt like lead. It was dragging him down so much he managed to wait under enormous fire towards easy red sector of the beach, the sand off Omaha Beach itself. Unfortunately, he had a run all, and he where there are many very deep Runnels running along. I’m a hobby. He hit a run on, went under the water and was about two or three feet under the water. He struggled somehow, he said, to get back to the surface marriage to take a breath of air on men waited to the shore. He and e company were pinned down on Omaha Beach, suffering high casualties and very, very intense machine gun fire for runabout. Huffing out, finally, scolding realized that the only way that he stood a chance of living and the only way that his men stood a chance of surviving this incredibly intense fire was to actually get up from the beach, walk into, will rather run into the line of fire and try and get off the beach. And this is very, very important If e company were to have any survivors and in fact, if the entire operation on Omaha Beach was to be a success, men tend under murderous fire, have to get off that beach pushing land and destroy German defenses. But it took enormous courage when you are seeing your friends being killed around you, when you are under such incredibly accurate fire that even if you move your head a few inches, you could be killed by a sniper or machine gun bullet. It took enormous courage to be able to stand up and leave men off that up from out of that slaughterhouse. Basically, that’s what Lieutenant John Swollen did. 29 years old, never been in combat before sports writer from Innsbruck, Kentucky, before the war, hadn’t seen his child for a couple of years. A man who had never seen war before. He led his men, he shouted at them. He screamed at them, and he led his men off garbage. And then up around about 150 yards of buffs. The bluffs above Oma Harbor, about 90 to 100 feet on. All along those bluffs along the 5.5 miles of Omaha Beach. There were many, many machine guns. 88 millimeter artillery, mortars, you name it. But the machine guns were the ones that caused most of the death on Omaha along the 150 yards or so off the bluff that you have to climb were was a minefield. John’s folding led his men through a minefield under enormous, very intense fire, and finally, having landed at 6:30 a.m. On Omaha Beach around about eight o’clock in the morning. After an hour and 1/2 of hell, he managed to lead 18 men from the First Opportunity company, 16 invigoration of the big Red one off Omaha Beach and through the bluffs on into the open ground at the top of Omar Beach, which today is the cold Bill Samir graveyard, where 9.5 1000 Americans rest in eternal peace. So the reason why I have picked John Spalding is because he was the first American officer to lead Americans off the bloodiest speech on D Day and his courage, his integrity, his guts made a big difference along back toe. Very, very intense and bloody battlefield, which was Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944. It took men like John’s phone in. People had never been in war before. It took them to be able to turn what looked like a disaster into ultimately an important victory for the Allies on D Day. Perhaps three or four dozen young Americans junior officers science made all the difference on that beach on June 6, 1944 point being that courage sometimes matters. It matters a great, great deal. He miraculously survived the war. In March of 1945 he was interviewed at great length in one of the first great orchestras before by the US military during the war itself. And he said that he believed that he was immortal after he’d survived the carnage on Omaha Beach. Because only someone who is immortal but miraculously have survived what he went through in the early hours of June 6 1944. And he said, as he went through that minefield, he had an angel literally on its shoulder, looking after him on the 18 men that went through that minefield. None of them were wounded by mines and, in fact, a few hours later, when another group of Americans went along the very same path. And you’ve just seen the shot of that what’s now known as the scolding path? Several men were killed. The mood it so for 18 men to get off that beach and then not be killed by mines and finally break out with stuff was indeed a miracle on D Day, folding carried on fighting with 16 Infantry Regiment through the bloodbath of norm. Indeed, over 20,000 Americans were killed in the bloodiest battle of World War two, about for Normandy, and finally, by the end of the battle, he had reached the outskirts of Paris in late August of 1944 Falling carried on with the first division he carried on through the September through September of 1944 in the very intense battles around, often on the on the German border. And then finally, he was wounded badly in the Hurtgen, and then later in the spring of 1945 he finally was pulled out the line. He had basically suffered exhaustion and men for breakdown After spending so long in combat holding like many veterans from World War Two, many of those who fought on D Day suffered severe PTSD for the rest of his life on Dnep ever got over what had happened to him during World War Two and in particular the trauma and carnage off D Day ? He did its beauty. He performed something of a miracle on D Day, and I think it’s his spirit and courage and endurance on the Theobald Iti to be able to sacrifice so much to give so much that we should celebrate today wasn’t just Spalding who gave his all. It was countless thousands of allied troops who gave everything, including their lives, to begin to liberate Western Europe on what was called the Longest Day, but certainly was perhaps the most important day of the 20th century. Thank you very much for joining the Friends. The National World War two Memorial this D Day Morning. Very important day in world history. Next June of 2021 I hope you’ll consider joining me and the Friends as I lead a tour of London Normandy in Paris and follow the Allied route from Portsmouth across the channel to Ouistreham and Dental Normandy to pay tribute to our brave Allied service. Members actually will be there on Omaha Beach in Normandy next June 6 2021 to celebrate those amazing men in the very place where they fought and died for our freedoms. But today we pause and join together, remembering the more than two million Allied service members who took part in Operation Overlord on the more than 225,000 allies who were killed, wounded or missing, including 10,000 Allied troops killed on D Day. They are not to be forgotten ever. Thank you for joining us