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Today marks the anniversary of one of the greatest achievements of World War II. On this day 77 years ago, the Allied Forces began the invasion of Northern Europe that would end with the collapse and surrender of Nazi Germany.

The actual landings June 6, 1944, at Normandy on the northern coast of France are known to history as D-Day.

The first phase was an air assault that began shortly after midnight. Then, at 6:30 a.m., amphibious landing craft began unleashing Allied troops on the shore.

It was a massive undertaking. The planning had been in the works almost since the war had begun. There had been preliminary plans for an invasion in 1942 and again in 1943, but the operation was finally set for 1944.

The landings on D-Day still hold the record for the largest amphibious assault in history. About 160,000 troops landed that day. Nearly 200,000 sailors and merchant marines in nearly 7,000 ships and other naval vessels provided vital support, bombardment of enemy positions and cover fire.

The invasions covered 50 miles of the Normandy coast. The target area was divided into five sections: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword.

The Allied troops were met by German firepower. Despite being outnumbered, the Allies established a hold in Northern Europe that allowed for the success of Operation Overlord and Operation Neptune and the eventual end to the war in Europe.

About 10,000 U.S., British and Canadian troops were killed, wounded or declared missing in the D-Day operation. German casualties are estimated to be somewhere between 4,000 and 9,000.

Now, 77 years later, many of the heroes of D-Day and World War II are gone. The ranks of those who remember firsthand the events of June 6, 1944, are growing smaller every day.

But D-Day must never be forgotten. The bravery and dedication of those who fought to conquer tyranny must be remembered, must be honored, must be celebrated as long as free people draw breath in this land.

We salute the heroes of D-Day. And we always will.

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