June 06, 2014

The 70th Anniversary of D-Day

Mr. CARDIN.  Mr. President, I rise today to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Normandy invasion by Allied Forces.  On June 6, 1944, a date known ever since as D-Day, a mighty armada crossed a narrow strip of sea from England to Normandy, France and broke the Nazi grip on Western Europe.  The day before – June 5, 1944 – a fleet of 3,000 landing craft, 500 naval vessels, and 2,500 miscellaneous ships left English ports bound for Normandy, France.  The amphibious landing was the largest effort ever in the history of mankind with the simultaneous landings of U.S., British, and Canadian forces on five separate beachheads in Normandy.  An additional 13,000 aircraft supported Allied Forces on D-Day.

General Dwight D. Eisenhower – the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe – addressed the troops immediately prior to the invasion, saying:

Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force!  You are about to embark upon a great crusade, toward which we have striven these many months.  The eyes of the world are upon you.  The hopes and prayers of liberty loving people everywhere march with you.  In company with our brave Allies and brothers in arms on other fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.

And by the end of August 1944, all of northern France was liberated and the invading forces were reorganized for the drive into Germany where they would eventually meet up with Soviet forces advancing from the east to bring an end to the Third Reich and its tyranny of terror.

The aftermath of World War II saw much of Europe devastated in a way that is now difficult to imagine.  Over 36 million Europeans died in the conflict; 19 million of them were civilians.  Millions more were left homeless, the European economy had collapsed, and much of the European industrial infrastructure was destroyed.

But from these ashes of war came the beginning of a new era for international cooperation and diplomacy.  In the wake of World War II, the United Nations agreed to outlaw wars of aggression in an attempt to prevent a third world war.  With the creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1949 and the institutionalization of the Helsinki Accords 25 years later, we committed ourselves to the work that began with the assault on those beachheads – Utah, Omaha, Juno, Sword, and Gold Beach – in June 1944.

The guiding principles of the Helsinki Final Act are the foundations of lasting peace.  These principles are worth enumerating:  sovereign equality, respect for the rights inherent in sovereignty, refraining from threat or use of force, inviolability of frontiers, territorial integrity of States, peaceful settlement of disputes, non-intervention in internal affairs, respect for human rights, self determination of peoples, co-operation among States, and fulfillment in good faith of obligations under international law.  Additionally, the Helsinki Final Act reaffirmed mankind’s fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief.

Today, we remember the tremendous efforts of Allied Forces as they signaled to the world that unprovoked aggression and genocide have no place in our international order and will be met with our greatest resolve.  I am reminded of the Maryland National Guard units who participated in the D-Day landings.  These brave Marylanders served with great distinction in the 29th Infantry Division, fighting their way across Western Europe and liberating France and Holland.  The 29th Division suffered one of the highest casualty rates of any American division during World War II.  We must honor those heroes by safeguarding all that they fought and sacrificed for.

Today, there are one million surviving World War II veterans in the U.S., and 17,346 of them are Marylanders.  These same heroes who landed on those beaches in Normandy and parachuted behind enemy lines 70 years ago are joined by veterans who have served in conflicts spanning from the Korean War to the War in Afghanistan.  Today, I call on each of my colleges to commit themselves to the work of meeting our obligations to all of these veterans.  The best way to honor their sacrifices is to ensure that we are unwavering in our support for them and their families.