For the seventieth anniversary of the Normandy landing I’d like you to imagine you’re standing in a landing craft, a steel open-top ship containing about forty or so other men from your regiment, your friends. The smell of sea salt is thick in the air. Your feet are soaked because the door to the craft isn’t fully sealed so there’s water coming in the bottom. You’ve got a Lee-Enfield MK3 rifle slung over your shoulder and on your back you have a pack that weighs about 60 pounds. You’ve been standing for two or three hours, you’re exhausted and you haven’t even landed on the beach.
You’re getting closer. Off in the distance you can hear the thumping of artillery and the chattering of machine guns. You stumble forward slightly as you feel the ship’s bottom grind against the beach’s sand. The front of the ship slowly opens and as you run out of the ship with the rest of the troopers you hear your sergeant yell over the din of the mortar and machine gun fire, “Go get ’em boys!”. As you run up the beachhead you hear the screams of your fellow Canadians as they are hit by gunfire. The smell of salt is not tainted with the smells of blood and death. You sprint and crouch up against the cliff face waiting for some more men to arrive so that you can proceed onwards with the mission.
This is what the men of the Canadian army storming Juno Beach seventy years ago experienced. The missions were a complete success with all of the Allied forces on a constant advance and the Axis troops on the retreat. It was the beginning of the end for the Axis. But the horrors of the Normandy beaches were something that all of the survivors would carry with them for the rest of their lives.