Two miles wide
Philosophy and religion struggle to describe the nature of good and evil, but the years between 1939 and 1945 continue to provide us with concrete examples. By 1941, all but a few countries in Western Europe, as well as many countries in Africa and Asia, were occupied by the Axis powers. Against the evil of Axis dictators stood very little, and by 1941 it did not appear that anything could stop them.
After Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, leading to a declaration of war by the Axis against the United States, the landscape changed. The U.S. had maintained a neutral military position until then, but the next few years saw a massive build up in the American military. Those efforts culminated in the Invasion of Normandy, which began on June 6, 1944.
The costs of that fight for freedom are staggering: over 425,000 Allied and German troops were killed, wounded or went missing during the Battle of Normandy. During just the first 24 hours of the invasion, the First U.S. Army tabulated 1,465 killed, 1,928 missing, and 6,603 wounded Americans. A further 3,000 British and 1,000 Canadians were killed, wounded, or missing.
The vast majority of the American deaths that first day took place over just a two mile stretch of Omaha beach.
The sacrifices of those men continue to pay dividends today. As a direct result of the Allied push into Normandy, we now live in a world where democracy and peace are the standards.
The magnitude of the lives lost is impossible to put into words.
Nor are there words for the feelings experienced in visiting the places where so many lost their lives fighting for freedom.
Astounding effort has been made to honor the dead and preserve the memory of their sacrifice. The monuments are solemn, and incredibly well-maintained. It's a moving experience to be in places where the gratitude for the sacrifices is so obvious and present, and it's remarkable to see those efforts continue today.