The heroes who changed history

Operation Neptune was the largest amphibious invasion in history, nearly 160,000 soldiers landing to break Hitler’s hold on Western Europe, backed by even more sailors and the crews of 11,590 aircraft.

They succeeded, and changed the course of history.

All the countless films, TV specials and documentaries are entirely warranted, and still don’t fully capture the heroism of these Americans, Brits and Canadians — supported by Aussies and Kiwis, Free French commandos and the Resistance, with more exiles from Belgium, Norway, Poland, Luxembourg, Greece and Czechoslovakia.

Frogmen ventured in early, clearing obstacles for the landing ships; paratroopers dropped behind the lines to seize key points.

And, as President Ronald Reagan so eloquently described 40 years ago, Rangers climbed the cliffs to Pointe du Hoc to take out the German artillery that could’ve doomed the whole invasion.

But it was the grunts that carried victory home, pushing onto the beaches and up the cliffs as thousands of their comrades fell.

“Greatest Generation” seems faint praise.

The insane opening scene of “Saving Private Ryan” and second episode of “Band of Brothers” only begin to capture the chaos.

Most amphibious assaults against entrenched forces fail: “Gallipoli” is worth another watch to see how horrific that can be.

Take the time on this 80th anniversary (80! We’re as distant in time from D-Day as it was from the Civil War battles of Cold Harbor and Petersburg) to appreciate our great good fortune, that we stand on the shoulders of such giants.

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