June 4, 1944. It was the beginning of the end for Adolph Hitler and the Nazis. It was the opening day of liberation for Western Europe and the protection of Western civilization.

D-Day. The day 175,000 allied troops landed ashore on the Normandy Coast of France, supported by 15,000 airborne troops. Destination: Berlin and the bunker of Adolph Hitler and his Nazi command.

As the 80th anniversary of D-Day approaches, a unique documentary is being shown now through June 26 at the Dome Theater of the Exploreum Science Center at 65 Government Street in downtown Mobile.

The film is narrated by historical broadcaster Tom Brokaw. Here is the trailer:

D-Day: Normandy 1944 - Trailer [1080] from K2 Studios on Vimeo.

Details, showtimes and ticket information can be found here.

"D-Day" is told through the voices of people who participated in the invasion's planning and execution and in the battle for the Normandy beaches.

Here is the official summation of the "D-Day" film:

The invasion of Europe through Normandy was a military operation of mostly American design. While the British argued for a cautious, limited, wait-and-see approach, America was determined to confront the enemy head-on in northern France on a pre-determined date. The operation was fraught with incalculable risk, for which American General Dwight Eisenhower acknowledged full responsibility.

Given the code name OVERLORD, D-Day was an operation so mammoth that once in motion, there was no turning back. Thousands of men were involved in the planning of the assault, and thousands kept it secret. The campaign was a triumph of intelligence protocol and teamwork.

Chief Petty Officer Rastus "Smoky" Holcomb, U.S. Navy remembers being told, "You're going to see a show; you're lucky to be in an invasion like this. There's gonna be more ships participating in this than any place there's ever been in the world. We're going in to win. There's no coming back."

While a phantom army maneuvered about in northern England threatening to cross at Calais, the real assault took place on the beaches along a 50-mile stretch of fortified coastline in Normandy. Five thousand ships carried 175,000 men and nearly 30,000 vehicles across the English Channel, an unpredictable and dangerous body of water.

"Get off these ships," Private First Class Joseph Bacile recalls saying. "I don't care what's waiting for us."

"A lot of guys said, 'Oh, I know I'm not coming back,'" remembers Platoon Sergeant Felix Branham. "I said I never entertained such a thought. I know I'm going back."

Lt. Col. William Friedman, U.S. Army has his own vivid memories of that day: "Rank had nothing to do with anything on that beach... Not by unit, not by role, everybody individually...did what they had to do... [Men] started yelling, 'Goddamit, get up, move in, you're gonna die anyway, move in and die!"

A remarkable convergence of situations pointed to the operation's success. The German torpedo boats lay at anchor; officers were convinced that no one would brave the high seas on June 6. The German air force had redeployed its few remaining fighters to bases in the south the day before, while dozens of front-line officers were miles away at a situational briefing. Field Marshal Erwin Rommel was also away, gone to visit his wife on her birthday, and Hitler, who didn't wake up until 10 o'clock that morning, refused to release his armored divisions, which could have raised havoc on the beaches.

On many counts, the attack went as planned. But the terrible conditions and enormous challenges of the attack also brought about terrible, fatal, human errors. Hampered by overcast skies, a great umbrella of troop transports overshot their drop zone by miles. Sixty percent of all equipment parachuted in was lost.

Improvising under pressure, individual soldiers accomplished miracles. Road exits were captured, bridges held, and fortifications destroyed. Rangers who had trained intensely for the deadly, torturous climb up to Point Du Hoc to neutralize the big guns positioned at the top accomplished their mission only to find the guns had not yet been installed. Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., got his men off their bellies and off the beach at Utah. He would win the Congressional Medal of Honor before noon — and be dead of a heart attack a few days later.

"It was a soldier's battle," Eisenhower later said. For all the split-second planning and careful rehearsal, the ultimate success of D-Day came down to young men whose remembrances and recollections are presented in D-Day

Eighty years ago. Never forget.

Jim ‘Zig’ Zeigler’s beat is the colorful and positive about Alabama. He writes about Alabama people, places, events, groups and prominent deaths. He is a former Alabama Public Service Commissioner and State Auditor. You can reach him for comments at ZeiglerElderCare@yahoo.com.

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