Press Release

June 6, 2024
Cardin Recognizes 80th Anniversary of D-Day Invasion

WASHINGTON – On the 80th anniversary of the D-Day Invasion, U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) entered the following statement into the Senate record.

“I rise today in recognition of the 80th anniversary of D-Day. The size and scale of the amphibious landing at Normandy 80 years ago was simply amazing. The Allied forces, consisting of soldiers and sailors from 12 countries, numbered 156,115, nearly half of which were American service members. Over 11,500 aircraft and almost 7,000 naval vessels supported the largest amphibious assault in history. There were an estimated 10,000 casualties that day as the allies fought to liberate Europe from Nazi Germany. The amphibious landing and subsequent victory at Normandy was a testament of the Allies’ logistical and industrial power. D-Day opened another major front where the bulk of America’s Army could at last be brought to bear. D-Day also led to the liberation of France and denied the Nazis of key U-boat ports and V-weapons sites. By the end of June 1944, over 850,000 soldiers had arrived on the beaches of Normandy and were on the march across Europe. The Allied victory on those beaches not only meant the eventual defeat of the Nazis, but also kept the Soviet Iron Curtain at the German border instead of the English Channel.

“Beyond all the facts and figures involved with the landing are the individual stories of heroism and bravery. One such story is that of Leonard Schroeder, the first American to land on the beaches of Normandy at Utah Beach. Leonard Schroeder, then a 25-year old Army Captain, was in the first wave of 20 Higgins boats. In his boat were 32 men and they arrived at Utah Beach at 6:28 am that morning, two minutes ahead of the scheduled H-Hour and thus ahead of their air support. Captain Schroeder led his men ashore wadding the final 100 yards from their landing craft to the beach through barbed wire while under machine gun fire from the Nazis. Half of the men on Captain Schroeder’s boat suffered casualties, including 5 fatalities. Captain Schroeder himself was shot twice, but carried on leading his men into harm’s way. For his actions on D-Day, he earned the Silver Star and the Purple Heart. After the Normandy invasion, a Pentagon press release hailed him as “the first GI to invade Europe” and The Baltimore Sun wrote “when his boot touched French soil, it was a great moment in history.” Captain Schroeder’s story is one of thousands of examples of selfless bravery on the beaches of Normandy that day, but I chose to highlight his story as he is a native of Maryland. Leonard Schroeder was born in Linthicum Heights and attended the University of Maryland on a full athletic scholarship. While at UMD, he joined the Reserve Officer’s Training Corps (ROTC) and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army in June 1941, months before the attack at Pearl Harbor which led the U.S. to into World War II. After World War II, Leonard Schroeder continued to serve his country ultimately serving 30 years on active duty and retiring as a Colonel in 1971. On the 50th anniversary of D-Day, Leonard reflected upon that historic day stating “Today, I realize that to be the first man ashore is an immense honor, yet I do not merit it more than anyone else. Five of my men died down there at Normandy. They alone are the heroes.”

“There are innumerable lessons to be learned from World War II and countless stories to be told, but maybe the most relevant to us today is the power of allies and partners working together to defeat authoritarian regimes. Much like the years preceding World War II, there are countries challenging democratic institutions in order to expand their regimes and suppress freedom. I urge every American to not take our democracy for granted. Millions across the globe do not have the freedoms we enjoy in the United States, which have been hard earned across generations.

“The United States is the longest-standing democracy in the world, but our freedom has, does, and will come with a cost. Today is a day to remember what our American heroes accomplished on the beaches of Normandy 80 years ago; tomorrow is a day to write the next great chapter of American history, for when we come together for a common cause, we are unstoppable.”