Hon. Serge Joyal:
Honourable senators, today marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Normandy landings on June 6, 1944, or D-Day. This was a very important date in the Second World War because it marked the beginning of the British, Canadian, French and American Allies’ offensive on the eastern front, which led to the downfall of the Third Reich and the final victory. The Allied operation, code-named Overlord, was discussed at a confidential meeting between Churchill and Roosevelt at the Quebec Conference in August 1943. The planned offensive at Normandy was supposed to make people forget the disastrous retreat at Dunkirk in May and June of 1940, when the British army had to quickly evacuate the coast of France because it was unable to drive back the German offensive.
Under General Dwight Eisenhower, an outstanding number of Allied military forces fought on D-Day: 155,000 soldiers, 14,000 of whom were Canadian, 11,000 planes, 50,000 vehicles, and 5,000 minesweepers, battleships, landing carriers and other watercraft. The German forces were under the command of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, better known as the “Desert Fox” since his African expeditions. The Americans were slated to take Utah Beach and Omaha Beach to the west; the British, Gold Beach and Sword Beach; and, in between, the Canadians landed at Juno Beach. The Allies intentionally deceived the Germans about the location of their operations, leading them to believe it would be at Pas-de-Calais.
Among the Canadian regiments who landed at Juno Beach were the Royal Winnipeg Rifles, the 1st Hussars, the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, the Fort Garry Horse, the Royal Regina Rifles and the North Shore (New Brunswick) Regiment. Earlier that same day, 450 members of the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion, among them many French Canadians, dropped behind enemy lines and were first to connect with the French resistance.
By the end of D-Day, the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division had penetrated farther into France than any other Allied force. There was, of course, a tragic human cost: 359 Canadian soldiers died and 715 were wounded or captured. Altogether, the Allies suffered 10,000 casualties of whom 4,414 were killed.
Canadian troops succeeded in establishing their beachhead and Juno Beach was their victory. Although this is a significant event in Canadian history, there is no separate monument in Juno Beach comparable to the towering monument commemorating the Battle of Vimy Ridge that is reproduced on our $20 bills and on pages 22 and 23 of your passport.
However, there is an Interpretation Centre at Juno Beach where visitors can perhaps begin to understand for themselves the hellish nature of the landing.
Here in the Senate, it is our duty to remember those Canadian, British and American soldiers and French combatants who put their lives at risk for our rights and freedoms, and for the existence of a free world. We owe all of them our profound respect and enduring gratitude. We shall not forget.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.