NORMANDY, France – With over 10,000 Allied casualties, Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion of northern France on June 6, 1944, commonly known as D-Day, didn’t just change the fate of WWII, it changed the course of human history.
Seventy-nine years later, U.S. and European Allies and partners demonstrated the strength of that alliance and unity from May 31 to June 6, 2023, with French-led commemorations and celebrations throughout approximately 40 French communities in Normandy, France.
“We gather here for a few reasons,” said Maj. Gen. David Hodne, commanding general, 4th Infantry Division. “We are here to commemorate our combined victory and we are here to honor incomprehensible sacrifice; we are here to remember why America and our Allies gave so much for the survival of liberty and freedom. Lastly, we also come here to tell, and retell, the incredible story that is D-Day.”
To kick off the 79th anniversary of D-Day events, Soldiers with the Ivy Division welcomed 42 WWII veterans from across all branches of military service back to Normandy, June 1, 2023. Some of these veterans haven’t stepped foot into France since the deadly battles of WWII.
“These events mean a great detail to all of us, and I cannot think of a better way to begin this very special anniversary,” said Maj. Gen. Jeff Broadwater, deputy commanding general, V Corps, as he welcomed the WWII veterans off the plane. “You marched in storied formations, served abroad formidable vessels, and piloted legendary aircraft saving countless lives and restoring peace in the region. We are honored to share this moment with you and remain in awe of your heroic efforts.”
Roughly 600 U.S. Soldiers and Airmen took part in the commemoration events to honor the bravery and heroism by all Allies who fought for peace, stability, and order in Europe during WWII.
Twenty-five of those U.S. Soldiers are assigned to the Ivy Division and represent the highest standards of a combat credible force and a legacy of service transcending generations.
“Today, and into an uncertain future, with the echoes of our actions here on the 6th of June, our Soldiers remain true to our division Motto: Steadfast and Loyal,” said Hodne. “We stand here today steadfast in our resolve and loyal to one another.”
One of those Soldiers, Spc. Robert Bausman, a sentinel crew member assigned to 4th Infantry Division Artillery, has a deeply personal connection to the events of WWII. Bausman is a fourth generation Soldier. His grandfather, a U.S. Army Soldier, and his grandmother, a U.S. Navy Sailor, were a few of the thousands who fought in the grueling battles of WWII.
“Knowing that my ancestors served is something I have always been proud of,” said Bausman. “Being about to witness and honor the same organizations and sights they fought for is an incredible opportunity.”
At 6:30 a.m. the morning of June 6th, elements of the Ivy Division, along with Allied forces from the United Kingdom and Canada, began the largest multinational amphibious attack and operational military airdrop in history.
The Ivy Division, commanded by Gen. Raymond O. Barton, landed on Utah Beach, the westernmost beach of the five landing points.
“As the lead elements of the Ivy Division landed on Utah Beach, they landed at a location not originally intended in the invasion plan,” said Hodne. “Undeterred, one of the generals in the Ivy Division, Brig. Gen. Teddy Roosevelt famously stated, ‘We will start the war from here’.”
As the Ivy Division Soldiers stand at Utah Beach, in the same spot where thousands fought and died for peace in Europe, one of those Soldiers, Staff Sgt. Eva Potter, an intelligence NCO assigned to the divison’s Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, speaks in awe of the combat credible Soldiers who came before her.
“I feel great pride, sadness and humbled to be able to stand in the place where Ivy Division Soldiers stood,” said Potter. “The sadness comes from those who never made it home, but the pride I feel in being in the same unit decades later as those brave Soldiers, its unexplainable.”
As the battle continued away from the beaches into France, the 12th and 8th Infantry Regiment, 4th Inf. Div., reached the city of Montebourg where the Germans had built a solid line of defense. Help was on the way for the French citizens who occupied the town.
“After four years of German occupation, the sound of approaching gunfire and explosions meant the sound of freedom had arrived,” said Hodne.
On June 19th, after 30 hours of grueling battle, The Ivy Division, with help from additional U.S. and Allied forces, were able to enter and liberate Montebourg from enemy forces.
“Montebourg was an important crossroads and one of the last hurdles before reaching Valognes and Cherbourg,” said Hodne. “It was a town of critical importance to protect the port at Cherbourg and its liberation was a turning point against the Germans in France.”
A U.S. 4th Infantry Division Monument now stands in the center of the city where everything around it was once ash and ruin. During the week-long D-Day celebrations, Ivy Soldiers represented the division’s history at Montebourg by participating in a parade and wreath laying ceremony at the monument site on June 3, 2023.
“Montebourg is a town that was rebuilt from blood and ash, and it is a town that has not forgotten its legacy,” said Hodne. “We remember the hundreds of lives lost on those days, both citizens and Soldiers.”
As the D-Day celebrations come to a close, Soldiers with the Ivy Division participate in a memorial ceremony at Utah Beach on June 6, 2023, to honor the service and sacrifice of countless Ivy Soldiers.
“It is a surreal feeling knowing that members of the same organization I am a part of now fought on this beach,” said Bausman. “The scene is enough to make you speechless knowing what happened 79 years ago. It makes me proud to continue to serve in 4ID as such a historic and successful organization.”
The partnership of the U.S. forces, with 25 participating units, and the French communities throughout the commemoration ceremonies, speaks to the heroism of French resistance fighters. The shared history between the U.S. and European Allies, including France, is built on a foundation of collective values.
In the Euro-Atlantic region, NATO remains the cornerstone of deterrence and defense.
“The 4th Infantry Division has returned to Europe. Each and every day Ivy Soldiers operate far from home to assure our Allies, deter Russian aggression, and reinforce NATO’s eastern flank,” said Hodne. “We stand together. We are stronger together and we are more prepared than ever to protect each other and protect freedom.”
Through the countless acts of heroism that occurred on D-Day and the battles that followed, the U.S. and our European Allies and partners forged almost eight decades of a combat-credible collective defense.
The U.S. and European Allies and partners continue to celebrate the anniversary of D-Day each year to honor the “Greatest Generation’s” selfless service and sacrifice in defense of global peace and security.