Medal of Honor Upgrade for Leonard DeWitt


I really love writing about things I care about. Leonard DeWitt’s upgrade of his Distinguished Service Cross to the Medal of Honor is something I feel is very important.

PORTLAND, OREGON- December 6, 2013-

I am at the annual Saint Barbara’s Day Ball, at the Heatherman Hotel downtown. The 2nd Battalion, 218th Field Artillery, Oregon Army National Guard hosted the gala event.

The ball commemorates the patron saint of the Field Artilleryman, Saint Barbara. The ball promotes camaraderie and recognizes outstanding artillerymen.

The battalion welcomed over 200 guests.

The ball had a social hour before the ceremony. During the ceremony, the guests stood for the presentation of colors and toasts from senior leaders in the battalion. It concludes with a tribute to the fallen.

The guest speaker was a local legend- Lieutenant Colonel (Retired) Leonard DeWitt.

Leonard DeWitt

Leonard shuffled his way up to the podium. Leonard is 92 years old. His soft gray hair makes him look distinguished. He is wearing a black suit jacket, white shirt, red tie and gray slacks.

Leonard smiles at the crowd. Everything about him was old except his eyes, they were cheerful and undefeated. His grin made him look much younger.  Leonard doesn’t use notes to make his speech, he is legally blind.

He looks out at the crowd with a big smile as he says, “Sorry, for the delay. I’m not as quick as I once was.” Everyone laughs.

“I heard you give a toast to the 2nd Battalion, 218th Field Artillery. I can tell you they did a great job during World War II,” Leonard says. “I know, because I was there. I am alive today because of those brave boys.” The room falls silent in respect and admiration.

The Fateful Night

Seventy-five years ago on December 7, 1941 after the attack on Pearl Harbor, America entered World War II. Leonard joined the 41st Infantry Division- a group of National Guardsmen from Oregon, Washington and California.

NEW GUINEA- July 1943

Leonard’s unit was part of the Allied campaign to re-take New Guinea from the Japanese.

Emotions ran high and adrenaline flowed on a dark ridge in New Guinea. A company of American soldiers- many of them fellow Oregonians- braced for an all-out Japanese attack.

Leonard sank to the bottom of his foxhole and fired his weapon. Other American soldiers fled their positions on the defense perimeter.

Leonard could hear the loud calls of a Japanese commander. He saw the enemy massing at the bottom of the hill. They were going to try and pierce the American defensive ring. The attack could sweep the U.S. troops off the ridge.

Leonard told us his story, “I had to put a stop to it, if I could,” he remembered. “I found a BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle) and a tommy gun (submachine gun). I walked over the to the edge, which was kind of stupid, but I didn’t care.”

He emptied the Browning into the darkness below. He did the same thing with the Tommy gun. He could still hear the Japanese commander yelling.

“I threw a half-a-dozen grenades down, and I tried to catch all these guys, you know, down at the bottom,” he continued, “You have to do what you have to do.”

But it wasn’t over. He ducked a hand grenade, slipped down the hill and ended up side-by-side with enemy soldiers who wanted to kill him. He stabbed one with his bayonet and then looked at the other one.

Wrestling with the other Japanese soldier, Leonard had nothing left to fight with, so he took off his helmet and “whapped that guy in the kisser with it.” That soldier too, screamed and fell.

Enraged, Leonard scrambled back to the ridge top. He flung his helmet down the hill. “They probably thought it was a satchel charge,” he said. The remaining Japanese fled.

Historians said DeWitt turned back over 100 enemy soldiers that night. They found evidence of 20 dead enemy soldiers.

Leonard saved his unit from being overrun.

We Go For Each Other

Later that night I was talking to Leonard and his lovely wife of 35 years Joanne. He told me something I will forget.

Sitting in his chair, he looked a little tired from speaking for almost an hour. I had to keep reminding myself he was 92 years old.

He winked at me and smiled. He said, “I really admire your generation.

I don’t know if I could keep going back over and over again.” This shocked me.

I said, “Sir, I don’t think I could have done what you did. New Guinea was a bad place and the Japanese were tough soldiers.” He waved his hand in the air dismissing what I said.

“Dom, what I am saying is when we over there we knew we were going to stay until the end of the war. There was no coming back and forth,” he said.

“I don’t know if I would have gone back again, if I’d come home. I am amazed your generation does it over and over again,” he said.

He smiled and pointed at me and said, “I think your generation is the ‘next greatest generation.'”

Leonard said, “What really matters is that you volunteer. By stepping forward, you say you will do whatever it takes.”

He laughed and said, “I had no idea what would happen over there. I didn’t know if I would survive the war. It really doesn’t matter what happens or why we go. We go for each other.”

He said, “The uniforms change. The equipment gets better. The soldier’s heart stays the same.”

Deep wisdom of a simple man.

Medal of Honor Nomination

Leonard was nominated for the Medal of Honor. It sat on General Douglas MacArthur’s desk for two years. Leonard later was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, our nation’s second award for valor.

Over the years, several attempts were made to upgrade his DSC to the Medal of Honor. His current nomination is still pending.

After World War II, he went to Korea. He was wounded and received the Purple Heart.

Medal of Honor Controversy

It’s almost impossible to recount all of the gallantry that went on during World War II. Very few Medals of Honor were given out in the Southwest Pacific Theater in World War II.

The 32nd Infantry Division, the unit that Leonard fought in after he was given a battlefield commission, 11 were awarded. Nine of the recipients received them posthumously.  None were given out in Leonard’s original unit of the 41st Infantry Division, although a handful of men were nominated including Leonard.

Remembering Leonard

Leonard died on June 21, 2016, he was ninety-five years old. He was my friend.

The affection that Leonard generated from other people was almost physical. He was a natural leader who could generate great affection in others, even in his 90s.

His smile and simple demeanor made you forget he was a war hero.

Everyone that knew Leonard had a story about him. People would talk about underneath his humble exterior lay a heart of gold. A generous heart that allowed a man in his mid-90s to attend a dozen Oregon Army

National Guard events every year.

To a large extent, armies exist on the myths and deeds of heroes. Woven tightly into the army’s image of itself is the actions of humble heroes that transcend time and even death.

Leonard was a living embodiment of the heroism of the Oregon Guard.

On a small ridge in a land far from home a young man found incredible courage. He single-handedly warded off a column of attacking Japanese soldiers.

He fought in two wars and served his country for over twenty-eight years. The heroism of Leonard’s deeds are immortal, even if Leonard isn’t.

Leonard was a thin man of medium height, a tough man. When I met him five years ago, he still had a steel grip of a handshake.

He was a brave man, physically and mentally. He was a leader who was honest with himself and others. He was a man who loved others more than he loved himself.

He loved soldiers. He went to every event he was invited to. He loved talking to and meeting young soldiers. They loved him back.

Leonard was from a generation of men that didn’t like talking about themselves, but he loved helping other people.

His amazing wife Joanne did the same thing. She would drive him to all these events. She stood quietly to the side while soldiers waited in-line to meet her famous husband.

Leonard was one the good guys. Joanne loved him and he loved her back.

There was nothing she neglected to tell him and nothing he neglected to tell her.

People live, and then they die, as long as they do both things properly, there’s nothing much to regret.

Leonard is an inspiration to those who knew and loved him. He is the hero of the Oregon Army National Guard. His bravery, kindness and generosity will always be remembered.  His memory will be a rallying point for generations of Oregon soldiers to come.

Medal of Honor Upgrade

The Commanding General of the 6th Army approved Leonard’s Medal of Honor nomination for gallantry above and beyond the call of duty.  Sadly, the paperwork never made it past General MacArthur’s Desk.

Leonard has passed on, but I believe it’s fitting to see his courage and sacrifice is remembered.  What it will take is a Presidential action to see that DeWitt receives his Medal of Honor.

Joanne, his wife, started a page to ask Oregon Congressman Greg Walden to carry this request to President Donald Trump and so honor the memory of Leonard DeWitt.

Here is the page:

Please sign!


Themes from Fortunate Son by Lewis B. Puller Jr.


I love Marines. They are America’s Spartan warriors. They are always ready to do battle. They are closet idealists and pessimists.

Marines have an intense feeling of identity. They have almost a mystical connection of belonging to an elite fighting force of almost invincible warriors.

Some of this attitude comes from their brutal and efficient training. Another part of that comes from their deep confidence and pride in their mission and leaders.

There is no better friend, and no worse enemy than a U.S. Marine.

Lewis “Chesty” Puller, Sr.

No Marine has commanded more respect and admiration than General Lewis “Chesty” Puller. His bulldog face, his barrel chest, gruff voice and common touch made him the epitome of a Marine combat officer.

His long, distinguished career made him a legend. He was the most decorated Marine in history. He was a descendant of Robert E. Lee and a cousin to George S. Patton.

In a forty year career he rose from buck private to general. He fought in five wars. On five separate occasions he was awarded the Navy Cross- a military honor second only to the Medal of Honor.

Chesty Puller was a Marine’s Marine. The men under his command idolized him. He is a legend in the Marine Corps the way babe Ruth exemplifies baseball or the way Yeats stands for the melancholy Irish.

It would be hard to be his only son.

Lewis B. Puller, Jr.

Lewis B. Puller Jr, was a sensitive and intelligent man. He is a gripping writer who tells you about his tragic ordeal after Vietnam in his autobiography “Fortunate Son.”

Puller’s story is a difficult book to read because of the subject matter, but it is wonderful at the prose level. It tells a harsh and forbidding story that made me think about the larger themes of his book.

Puller’s story sounded so much to me like my own story- only bigger, more intense and much more tragic.

His book is an autobiography, a record of the life of a wounded Marine. His writing is haunting, devastating and his story lingers with you long after his book and life have ended.

His book explores his suffering. His telling of that suffering is sincere and brutal. He makes you have sympathy for him. His redeeming quality is his optimism and absolute refusal to give up.

Puller’s thoughtfulness and undiminished patriotism and his heroic battle against injury, alcohol and depression provide a genuinely moving human drama.

He wanted to reclaim his life despite losing half of his body on a booby trap in Vietnam. He endured years of surgery and rehabilitation, alcoholism and a feeling that he had let himself and his father down.

Puller’s book had the blood-red glare of anger and bitterness. But his story had hope, the glow of morning sunlight of a promising new day. His chronicle was moving and powerful.

Puller writes with simplicity and candor, with touches of spontaneous humor. His outcry of agony and isolation is harrowing. It leaves the reader overwhelmed with wonder at the torture a human being can absorb this side of madness.

Puller makes you bear witness to his pain, rage and bitterness. Puller had come so far, only to end his own life in the end. His death baffled and disappointed me.

I wanted to explore some themes from the book.

Father and Son Relationships

Puller’s relationship with his father Chesty dominates his life. Chesty was a loving father. Chesty was nearly fifty years old when Puller was born.

Puller wants to make his father proud. He writes about the unspoken assumptions of responsibility of being Chesty’s only son and heir to his father’s heroic legacy. Almost every decision he makes in his early life is in reaction to his father’s legacy.

Chesty was proud when his only son went off to Vietnam as a Marine Infantry Officer. Puller returned three months later as one of the most grievously wounded men of the Vietnam War.

Human Life

Puller’s greatest contribution to literature is the exploration of the value of human life. Puller constantly wonders how he will continue to “live” and “to function” and most importantly “to contribute and serve” even after the loss of both legs and most of his hands.

Even after a horrific trauma Puller still wants to serve and help his fellow man. His physical loss did not diminish the value of his life to society.

Puller made a conscience choice to do a lot with his life after Vietnam: 1. He became a lawyer. 2. He helped to organize and build the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. 3. He ran for public office. 4. He served on clemency board that helped thousands of fugitive draft dodgers return to the U.S. from Canada- his feelings on this issue is one of the best parts of the book.

Puller’s story provided hope and a long overdue appreciation for Vietnam veterans. His story inspired thousands of wounded veterans from his war in Vietnam to veterans of the wars in Iraq and Vietnam.

Puller had the courage to go on after a savage wound where he lost half his body. He was grief-stricken and angry about the loss of his legs and hands but he did something heroic by choosing to live.

I think Puller displayed the same steely courage of his father in the face of adversity.


There is a Greek ideal of “kleos”- the glory that comes from a warrior performing a heroic deed, often at the cost of his own life. Marines embody the ideal of “kleos”-self-service and sacrifice.

Pullers felt he made an honorable sacrifice for an unworthy cause. He felt cheated that his great sacrifice was never appreciated and written off by indifferent public as meaningless.

For years after his physical “recovery” strangers, friends, and acquaintances were “put off” and “uncomfortable” by looking at Puller’s mangled body. This was a constant reminder to Puller how people felt about him and Vietnam.

This is truly a soldier’s greatest fear- for your sacrifice to be unappreciated and forgotten. A soldier can and will endure any hardship as long as he thinks the cause is worth it.

This was the real reason for Puller’s pain. Puller felt he had been tricked into throwing his life away for an uncaring country.

Puller’s second pain was emotional. He was the “fortunate son” of a legendary hero. Puller admired and deeply loved his father. For Puller there was no other path than to become a Marine.

His wounds cut his military career short. Puller feels he let himself and his father down. His sense of disappointment and sorrow of what might have been haunts the book.

Puller’s grisly physical and traumatic emotional injuries were almost too large to be overcome in a single lifetime. In the end, Puller commits suicide. By that act he became another casualty of the Vietnam War.


Puller’s book gave me hope. His struggled to find a new point of view which supports his “new” life and the sacrifices he made inspired me. Puller taught me to live beyond my injuries and my past.

Ironically, Puller’s closest he gets to peace is when he recovering from another bout of alcoholism. While in Alcoholics Anonymous he sees that life is paradoxical. To be happy human beings must often learn to live with two contrasting viewpoints, to make a compromise of what we feel and what we think.


Puller is a wonderful writer. His personal voice is engaging and honest. It was a privilege to get inside the mind of such an intelligent, sensitive and caring man. He makes it easy to read about tough subjects (death, trauma and depression).

His prose clear, accurate and most important honest. Puller never shies away from telling us about his life, the reasoning behind his actions, even the parts he is not proud of. His unflinching honesty gives the book authenticity and credibility.

Puller’s Impact

I know what it is like to be the son of a powerful and legendary man. My father was a decorated war hero. My relationship with my father and his early death has dominated my life, the same way it did Puller.

Nearly every decision I made in my life, either consciously or subconsciously, was a reaction to my father’s legacy. Like many dutiful sons, I only wanted to make my father proud, the same as Puller.

I was blessed. As I got older I realized there was no one was keeping score. All the decisions I made in my life, were mine and mine alone. My father loved me and was proud of me, he told me so many times.

I know that my father would have been proud of me no matter what I did with my life. I think he would have been most proud that I try to be a good husband and provider for my family.

He would have been very proud that I became a writer because it made me happy. He would have adored my wife Muna.

Lewis B. Puller Jr.’s book taught me the value of a human life. That no matter what has happened to us we choose what our lives become by the choices we make. Our lives are the sum of the decisions we make.

I prayed for Puller after reading his amazing book. His story gave me a balm for my pain and some much needed closure.

Thank you, Mr. Puller and God bless you. Your service and sacrifice inspired me to write more and to try harder. I hope you finally found the peace that eluded you in life.







Book Review: My Early Life by Winston Churchill


Winston Churchill is one of my heroes. His book “My Early Life” is an adventure story about one of the interesting figures in the 20th century.


Few pedigrees read as impressively as Winston’s: a descendant of John Churchill, “the Duke of Marlborough,” according to some historians the greatest military leader Britain has ever produced.

Winston was the son of Sir Randolph Churchill, a man of such political ability he was made England’s Chancellor of the Exchequer and Leader of the House of Commons simultaneously at the unheard of age of only 37. His mother was Jeanette Jerome Churchill, a beautiful American heiress. Her favor was sought throughout Victorian high society.

Despite his impressive oratory ability and personal charisma Winston’s father’s ambition and pride drove him to make disastrous decisions. Those decisions led to the destruction of his career with alcohol and drugs. He died in 1892 at the age of 48.

His mother was a young woman of great beauty but questionable morals. She was a notorious adulteress. Her renowned promiscuity saw her married three times and forever scandal-ridden.

The marriage of Winston’s parents was a hushed and hurried affair. Jeanette had gotten pregnant prior to it, presumably by Lord Randolph but no one could be quite sure.  Of his mother, Winston later wrote, “I loved her, but at a distance.”

Lord and Lady Randolph Churchill ignored their two son’s – Winston the first, John the second (believed sired by someone other than Sir Randolph). They devoted their time to far more important matters of high society and career advancement.

What time they did spend with young Winston was hurried and fraught with contempt for their “little monster.” His father thought Winston was retarded, rarely talked to him, and often vented his mounting rage on the child.

They sent off Winston, a sickly redhead with a tendency to throw temper tantrums, to the new nanny’s care as they lived the 19th Century equivalent of “la vida loca”.

His mother spent her time throwing parties and seducing other men. She hired Elizabeth Everest to care for him.


It was in Elizabeth Everest – whom he called “Woom”, it was the closest thing he could to say to ‘woman’- became not only his nanny, but his dearest companion. He would share with her an understanding of his widening world as he grew older.

She was the stereotypical British nanny; plump, simple, cheery, ever optimistic, and always compassionate. Winston grew to love her completely. Her encouragement shaped the man he would become.

Mrs. Everest provided a steady regimen of love, understanding, faith, and Christian instruction. When the his day of destiny arrived, Winston was ready to lead the world with a trumpet call of the solid faith he had learned from his Christian nanny.

When Winston learned that Mrs. Everest was gravely ill he rushed to her bedside. He was the only member of his family to attend to her, and upon her death provided the tombstone for her grave.

Winston later wrote, “She had been my dearest and most intimate friend during the whole twenty years I had lived. I shall never know such a friend again.”

Winston the Man

Winston had a lifetime of achievements. He displayed physical courage as a Cavalry Officer on the battlefield serving in India, Afghanistan, Africa and Belgium during World War I.

He wrote vivid articles for British newspapers that were well received. The articles advanced both his literary and political career.

His oratory and bulldog determined leadership was instrumental in his country’s defeat of Nazi Germany.  Churchill received both the Nobel Prize Peace and for Literature.

Churchill was the recipient of a remarkable variety of honors and awards at a relatively young age. No matter what his accomplishments were, Winston saw himself, first and foremost as a soldier.


“TWENTY to twenty five, those are the years.” wrote Winston in his autobiography “My Early Life” in 1930, was Winston looking back on his life from the summit of middle age at fifty-five years old.

Winston recalls his childhood, his schooling and the times that shaped him into being a great leader. He is kind to his cruel parents and speaks warmly of “Woom.”

He saw combat on three continents, won four medals and an order, was mentioned in dispatches, wrote five books, gained international fame, and won a seat in Parliament, all before his twenty-sixth birthday.

His Times

Churchill began his military career in 1895. The world was a very different place. In the United Kingdom, Queen Victoria, Empress of India, was on the throne, her Diamond Jubilee to be held in 1897.

At that time the British Empire covered one-quarter of the earth’s land surface, its 380 millions of inhabitants lived on every continent and on the islands of every ocean. The sun truly never set on the Union Flag. It was a world without radio or television, without automobiles, or computers.

As a young man, Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill set out to become a military hero. He exceeded everyone’s expectations, except maybe his own.


The material is an adventure story, a story that would defy belief if it were in a novel. Yet, it did all happen to one man.

In the space of one year alone, Winston was in the cavalry charge at the Battle of Omdurman, he tried to save an ambushed train in the Boer War, and he made a daring escape from a prisoner of war camp in Pretoria, South Africa.

He describes it all with the detail of the war correspondent.

Winston wrote, “We had the very strong spirit of the ‘diehards’ and the ‘young bloods’ of the enemy,” he recalls of his time in the Malakand Field Force, fighting on India’s North-West Frontier in the late 1890s.

“They wanted to shoot at us and we wanted to shoot at them. … So a lot of people were killed and others were badly wounded and hopped around for the rest of their lives, and it was all very exciting and, for those who did not get killed or hurt, very jolly.”

On one punitive expedition among the mud villages of the Mamund Valley (on today’s Afghan-Pakistan border), Lieutenant Churchill found himself with five British officers and eighty-five Sikh soldiers when, in an area that had seemed totally quiet, “Suddenly the mountainside sprang to life. Swords flashed from behind rocks, bright flags waved here and there.”

In no time, “The British officer was spinning round just behind me, his face a mass of blood, his right eye cut out. Yes, it was certainly an adventure. It is a point of honour not to leave wounded men behind. Death by inches and hideous mutilation are the invariable measure meted out to all who fall in battle into the hands of the Pathan (Pashtun) tribesmen.”


Winston wrote his book was, “a picture of a vanished age.” He’s right. To fully understand Winston Churchill and his times, his book is essential reading.

Winston tells us about trooping and defending the British Empire. His amazing book is a final gun salute to a time when the Victorian British Empire was on full display in all its pageantry and glory. It was a time of hope, expectation, and adventure before the disaster and sorrow of World War I.



D-Day and World War II- Blood, Sweat and Bravery

“You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward 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 peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.”

– General Dwight D. Eisenhower letter to the Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force

Beyond Band of Brothers Tour

The first place Ron I went to was Normandy. We retraced the landings of D-Day. We followed the path of the Allied forces as they landed on the shores of Normandy, France. The tour allowed us to step back in time to this important World War II battle. Brave men crossed the English Channel, delving into history in June 1944. We toured the important sites with noted military historian Rudy. We strolled the legendary beaches. We stood on the cratered cliff top at Pointe du Hoc, and visited local villages that still bear the vestiges of war.


The endless flow of history touches us all. History defines the past and shows the way to the future. With this trip we journeyed through time and across continents to see World War II as it really happened in the places the war happened.  We relived the events shaped World War II.

Normandy, France

Normandy is a beautiful landscape of northern France. With its miles of beach and a countryside full of charming chateaus. Today, people came here to relax, to unwind, and to remember. To remember a day when this beautiful countryside was a killing ground.

On June 6, 1944- D-Day- the day of the greatest invasion the world has ever seen.

By 1944, World War II is in its fifth year. Adolf Hitler and the Nazi War Machine seem unstoppable. Hitler holds the European continent in an iron grip. Seasoned Nazi troops occupy the entire coastline all the way through France to the border of Spain. Hitler calls it his Atlantic Wall.

Just 30 miles across the English Channel, the British Isles are being transformed into a huge arsenal. Allied forces pour into the island nation in preparation for Hitler’s day of reckoning.

The D-Day operation is a risky proposition- a surprise attack on France. The massive invasion is planned for the late spring of 1944. It is called “Operation Overlord.” The commander is United States General Dwight D. Eisenhower. To get the job done, he’s building a force of 170,000 soldiers, sailors and airman from Britain, the United States and Canada. Where the Allies will strike and when must at all cost be kept top secret.

The Allies dot the countryside with mock-ups of tanks and trucks. They even build false harbors and air fields- all of it decoys to fool German spies. They lay a trail of false information. Hitler is kept guessing.

Some of the Nazi generals can’t believe the Allies would risk sending an army across the unpredictable English Channel. Nature and experience backs them up. June 5, 1944. The worst storm in 25 years whips the English Channel into a fury. Eisenhower waits a day than faces a crucial decision- attack now across menacing seas or wait for two more weeks for favorable tides.

Early on the morning of June 6, 1944 Eisenhower makes the toughest decision of his life. Eisenhower sends his soldiers to war with a stirring message, “This landing is but the opening phase of the campaign in Western Europe. I call upon all who love freedom to stand with us now. Keep your faith staunch. Our arms are resolute. Together, we shall achieve victory.”

Eisenhower knows many of these brave men will not return. 130,000 men in 5,000 ships- the largest armada ever assembled- crosses the stormy English Channel to begin the liberation of Europe.

The invasion fleet avoids the narrowest point of the channel where the coast is most heavily defended. The invasion force heads towards the beaches of Normandy. The line of attack stretches 70 miles along the coast.

British and Canadian troops will land at beaches code named Gold, Juno and Sword. The Americans will land at Utah and Omaha. The most daunting is the six miles of Omaha Beach.

The Germans have dug in on bluffs, some rising 200 feet. From their concrete bunkers, they command the beach. Along the shore are mines, steel spikes, and coils of barbed wire. A direct hit from their big guns can turn an allied landing craft into an inferno.

Landing craft now hit sandbars on their way to the beach. The Americans wade into a hail of machine gun and cannon fire. Casualties in the first wave are 50%. Their first instinct is to hit the dirt. But they must not.

A colonel shouts at his men that there are two kinds of people staying on the beach- the dead and those who are going to die. He adds now let’s get the hell out of here. The invasion is an incredible display of valor and determination. By the end of the day, 130,000 men and their equipment are ashore all along the coast of Normandy. D-Day is a magnificent success and the turning point in the war.

Within a year, Germany surrenders. But the Allies pay a terrible price. More than 10,000 killed, wounded, or missing. The casualties are highest on Omaha Beach where more than 2,000 Americans die. The stretch of sand becomes known as bloody Omaha.

Many of the dead from that day lie in consecrated ground overlooking Omaha Beach and other military cemeteries along the coast of Normandy. Their sacrifice will never be forgotten.