In the last several days, the world has paid tribute to the members of the “greatest generation” who stormed the beaches of Normandy, France on 6 June 1944 to begin the drive across Western Europe that ended with the surrender of Nazi Germany on 7 May 1945. These American heroes, mostly gone now, deserve every accolade being given them. My own uncle was killed in northern France in 1944. However, I would respectfully point out that when the invasion of Normandy was taking place, Americans were fighting valiantly in many other theaters of war across the globe.
In Italy, the American Fifth Army was liberating Rome (4 June 1944) after enduring the brutal amphibious assaults at Salerno and Anzio as well as bitter mountain fighting. Crews of B-17 and B-24 heavy bombers were flying daylight bombing raids against Germany industrial targets, facing the fury of the Luftwaffe, and enduring casualties as high as 25%.
In the Southwest Pacific, American soldiers under the command of General Douglas MacArthur were battling to seize Biak, Wewak and Aitape on New Guinea from the Japanese. In Burma, the American unit known as “Merrill’s Marauders” was enduring the heat and humidity of the jungle in their battle to take the city of Myitkyina from the Imperial Army. In the Central Pacific, American soldiers and Marines would assault Saipan in the Marianas Islands (15 June 1944). They endured one month of vicious fighting, to include a fanatical banzai charge, before the island was secure at the cost of 16,000 casualties.
At the same time, the U.S. Fifth Fleet fought the battle of the Philippine Sea (19-21 June 1944), sinking three Japanese aircraft carriers and shooting down over 400 Japanese aircraft, breaking the back of Imperial naval air power. Finally, submarines of the Pacific Fleet continued their lonely war against Japanese merchant ships bringing raw materials into Japan. The efforts of these submariners were critical to ruining the Japanese economy and assisting in forcing Japan to surrender in August 1945. 52 of our submarines did not return from their missions, where these sailors remain on eternal patrol to this day.
Americans fought, endured, and sacrificed in numerous other locations in World War II. All of their heroic efforts, mostly unheralded, helped to contribute to the overall defeat of Germany and then Japan in 1945. 16 millions American served in the Army, Navy, Army Air Forces, Coast Guard, and Marines in World War II. We must always remember to honor all of them.