"Soldiers, sailors and airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force. You are about to embark upon the great crusade toward which we have striven these many months....In company with our brace allies and brother 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.....Good luck and let us all beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking."
- General Dwight D. Eisenhower 6/6/1944
According to Captain Hank Hangsterfer, the beach in Normandy “was not the place to be” on June 6, 1944, the day of the largest amphibious invasion to ever take place. When he landed, Capt. Hangsterfer took a paper bag with an orange and an apple, trudged through a swap with a rifle over his head, and sat down on the other side to eat his fruit. If the enemy kept firing, he recalled, he might as well have died with an apple in his mouth.
In this special from Cinema Sound Ltd, voices from both sides of the battle recount the day that Allied forces — including 156,000 American, British and Canadian troops — landed on five French beaches from more than 5,000 ships and landing crafts. One German soldier remembers what marked the beginning of the end for the Nazis’ “Fortress Europe”:
“It was in the night and I was sleeping, and my sergeant came running and said, ‘There are a thousand different ships coming in the English Channel.’ ...Then came thousands of men at one time coming on land and running over the beach. This is the first time I shoot on living men, and I go to the machine gun and I shoot, I shoot, I shoot! For each American I see fall, there came ten hundred other ones!” -Corporal Franz Rachmann
The exact number of Allied soldiers who died in the landing remains unclear, although the American cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach holds the remains of 9,383 servicemen and four women. Today marks the 70th anniversary of their death. But these voices are preserved.