Seventy years ago today, Lima was touched by D-Day in many ways.
The city’s own Brig. Gen. Walter R. Peck was one of the leaders of the allied military avalanche that saw 4,000 ships and 11,000 planes come crushing down on Adolf Hitler’s fortified Europe. Gen. Peck led a wing of Liberator bombers against the heavily-armed northern coast of France shortly before dawn that Tuesday.
Their mission was to destroy coast batteries and machine-gun emplacements.
Addressing his fliers before they took off, Gen. Peck told his combat wing, “The world’s biggest invasion fleet will be only 400 yards off shore when you are over the target, so for Pete’s sake, smack the target!”
Thurstan Macauley, an International News Service correspondent, filed the dispatch published in The Lima News that day. He wrote that Gen. Peck’s words were “met with gasps and whistles from his men.”
At 344 Lincoln Avenue in Lima, Mr. and Mrs. R.H. Peck prayed for all of the troops’ safety. “We are proud that our son is helping strike what we all hope is the final blow at our European enemy,” they told reporters.
The pre-invasion tension, which had gripped the city for several weeks, showed signs of having been broken as news of the invasion spread across town. The tension was replaced with an atmosphere of solemnity with prayer and mediation being observed. People could be seen walking with heads bowed after their first blank query, “Is it really here.”
In downtown restaurants and stores, small groups of people gathered to discuss first invasion reports. War plants, meanwhile, saw workers flocking to get on the job.
The fate of Allies on D-Day wasn’t certain that day.
On what has been called “The Longest Day,” the casualty toll for the Allies included nearly 4,500 dead — with just under 2,500 Americans among them.
It was a bloody price.
As the nation marks the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the last American survivors of the Normandy invasion are mostly men in their 90s. What they and others did on June 6, 1944, will forever be a milestone in history.
We owe them an enduring debt.