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Jul. 15, 2020 | Wednesday
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Remembering D-Day
Follow-up waves of the 9th Canadian Infantry Brigade disembark with bicycles from landing craft onto Juno Beach at Bernieres-sur-Mer on June 6, 1944. (Wikimedia Commons)


It is not an exaggeration that June 6, 1944, is one of the most important days in world history. This is the day that started a change we still live with today. It was the start of “Operation Overlord,” a complex attack on German-held territory in France by Canadian, American and British military forces. It was the beginning of the end of the Second World War and stabilized Europe as never before.

The attack took place along the Normandy coast of the Atlantic ocean, focused on five points, known as Omaha, Utah, Sword, Juno, and Gold beaches; Juno was the Canadian objective; 155,000 soldiers in total charged ashore that day; 14,000 were from the Canadian 3rd infantry Division, and the 2nd Armoured Brigade, including 450 paratroopers; 10,000 Canadian sailors in 110 ships and 45 air squadrons supported the effort, as they fought from the sea to the shore, and then to the cliffs. The German defences were well-built and well-armed. By the end of the first day, the Canadians suffered 1,074 casualties, 359 died. France was finally freed by August when the Germans were defeated in Falaise and Paris.

The Allied forces fought through Belgium and the Netherlands and into Germany. The German military surrendered on May 7, 1945. Oct. 24, 1945, marked the forming of the United Nations. Rebuilding of Germany would soon follow. Another key date was May 5, 1949, when the NATO alliance was created.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is an agreement to give collective support to each of its members, mostly protection from a Russian (then Soviet) invasion. A key part of the treaty is the declaration that an attack on one country is an attack on all within the group. There are currently 29 members of NATO. The result has been 70 years of relative peace in Europe. NATO has allowed European countries to prosper in peace and influenced the world economy. There is no doubt the United States is the centrepiece of this group, but Canada has contributed troops in Germany, Bosnia, Afghanistan, and currently in Ukraine, and Georgia. During this time Canada has become a leading contributor to peacekeeping throughout the world, a proud heritage that started June 6, 1944.