“Soldiers, sailors, and airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force, you are about to embark upon the Great Crusade towards 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 people of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world. Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well-trained, well-equipped, and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely.  But this is the year 1944, much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of 1940, 41. The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats in open battle, men to men. Our air offenses have seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our home fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and ammunitions of war and placed at our disposal, great reserves of trained fighting men. The tide has turned, the free men of the world are marching together to victory.

I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory.  Good luck and let us all beseech the blessing of almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.”

–General Dwight D. Eisenhower addressing the Allied troops before the invasion of Europe that would take place on June 6, 1944.

In the hindsight of history, many have come to believe that the success of the D-Day landings, as well as the ultimate victory of the Allies in World War II, was a foregone conclusion, an inevitable result of the superior might of the United States and its allies. In reality, the outcome was far from certain. In addition to this moving call for the Allied forces to advance toward victory, General Eisenhower had written, on July 5, 1944, a letter in which he accepted full responsibility for the failure of the landings at Normandy.

Of course the landings were not the failure that Eisenhower had feared, but an incredible success; a success made possible by the efforts of thousands of men and women, on both sides of the Atlantic, in the days and weeks leading up to June 6, 1944. In this issue of World War II Chronicles we feature the personal experiences of some of these people who made the success of D-Day possible. From the sands of Omaha Beach to the cliffs of Pointe du Hoc, from the nurses to the Army Rangers, without their bravery and sacrifice, this “Great Crusade” may well have fallen well short of victory.