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Total Victory or Total Defeat

The Normandy Invasion: A 75th Anniversary Retrospective

Robert F. Sargent's black-and-white photo of soldiers disembarking to storm the Normandy coast.

The Allied forces stormed the beaches along France’s Normandy coast 75 years ago, on June 6, 1944, gaining a costly foothold that contributed significantly to the downfall of the German Army nearly a year later. Hardly an obscure event, D-Day has been studied and scrutinized countless times, so why do we turn again to it now?

Professor Emeritus Dr. John “Kim” Munholland points out “that it was and remains the largest amphibious military operation in history … this was an element of total warfare that required an extensive mobilization of many elements of society, not only for soldiers but civilians at war.” The orchestration of such a comprehensive military strike is in itself a work of wonder, a testament to the ingenuity of some of our brightest minds answering a desperate call.

“Also, it was a conflict that would mean total victory or defeat for participants. We have not had such wars since then.”

Munholland is a name familiar to many LearningLife course participants: in 2016 he walked attendees through the United States’ response to Pearl Harbor, and in 2017 he chronicled the French Resistance defending its own nation and its national treasure, wine. Now this Smithsonian Journeys Expert will tour LearningLife participants through the history of France’s invasions, from the Vikings to Operation Overlord. Munholland describes The Normandy Invasion: A 75th Anniversary Retrospective as both “a remembrance for those who experienced it,” and “an introduction to a dramatic moment in what has been the most extensive—total—war in history.”

Published on June 3, 2019