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79th anniversary of D-Day: The largest seaborne invasion in history

Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s D-Day Message | U.S. Army Website Videos

Codename Operation Neptune, Tuesday, June 6, 1944, commenced the largest known seaborne invasion in world history that took place at the beaches of Normandy to liberate Nazi-occupied France in World War II — D-Day. The seaborne operation followed a 1,200-plane airborne assault, codenamed Operation Overlord, that ended on August 30, 1944, and involved the countries of the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, France, Australia, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Belgium, Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, Greece, and South Africa.

“The troops who stormed the shores of Normandy 79 years ago represent the greatest generation in our history,” U.S. President Joe Biden wrote in a twitter statement today regarding D-Day, “They answered the free world’s call at its greatest hour of need.”

Operation Neptune involved more than 5,000 vessels and nearly 160,000 troops—132,000 men transported by sea alone—crossing the English Channel on 6 June. The decision to cross the English Channel was taken at the Trident Conference in Washington in May 1943. General Dwight D. Eisenhower was appointed commander of Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force, and General Bernard Montgomery led the 21st Army Group, which comprised all the land forces in the invasion.

An estimated 4,000 to 9,000 German men were killed, with allied casualties estimated at least 10,000, with 4,414 confirmed deaths on D-Day alone. For the entire 2-month, 3-week and 3-day operation, American armies suffered 124,394 casualties, of whom 20,668 were killed, and 10,128 were missing. Casualties within the First Canadian and Second British Armies were estimated at 83,045: 15,995 killed, 57,996 wounded, and 9,054 missing. Between 13,632 and 19,890 French civilians were killed during the liberation of Normandy.

German forces in France reported losses of 158,930 men and by the end of the Normandy campaign, 55 German divisions (42 infantry and 13 panzer) had been rendered combat ineffective; seven of these were disbanded. 

On May 8, 1945, the European Theatre of World War II ended with the surrender of Nazi Germany to the Allies in Karlshorst, Berlin. Many consider D-Day as the beginning of the end of European Theatre of World War II. Adolf Hitler, the man who lead the Nazi’s to the brink of a Nazi World Order, is alleged to have committed suicide on 30 April 1945.

With the defeat of Nazi Germany, the world saw the horrors of war — Nazi concentration camps, the attempted genocide of the Jewish people and others the Nazi’s considered “unworthy of life,” unprecedented unethical medical experiments, slavery, mass unmarks graves, and countless cases of rapes and torture by occupied Nazi forces.

The Nuremberg trials were held in 1945 and 1946 in the aftermath of WWII.  Source: U.S. National Archives

Known as the Nuremberg Trials, Allied powers—United States, Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union—form the International Military Tribunal (IMT) where Nazi leaders stood trial for crimes against peace, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. Of the 199 defendants tried, 161 were convicted, and 37 were sentenced to death.

Resulting from the aftermath of the Nuremberg Trials, the Nuremberg Code is essentially a code of ethics regarding medical experimentation.

The first clause of the code states that “The voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential” in medical experiments. The clause continues by saying that any person involved must have a legal capacity to give consent “without the intervention of any element of force, fraud, deceit, duress, over-reaching, or other ulterior form of constraint or coercion.” 

The European Theater which started on September 1, 1939, with the invasion of Poland, resulted in tens of millions of civilian and military deaths, a majority of which were Russian; and the fall of the European powers with the rise of a bi-polar geopolitical world divided between the communists led by the former Soviet Union, and the democracies led by the Republic of the United States of America.

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