By Airman Jonathan Whitely | 50th Space Wing Public Affairs
SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — On June 6, 1944, when Allied forces stormed the beaches of Normandy, more than 2,000 Americans lost their lives in the name of freedom.
However, their sacrifices will never be forgotten as Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, remembers D-Day.
Charles Souza, a guide at the National Museum of World War II Aviation and a Vietnam veteran, explained the significance of the D-Day invasion.
“Had we not gone into France, the Germans could’ve buckled down and fortified,” Souza said. “Had we not been successful we may never have defeated the Nazis, and if we did it would’ve taken a lot longer and there probably would’ve been even more casualties.”
The 50th Operations Group traces its lineage back to World War II, when they were called the 50th Pursuit Group.
Airman 1st Class Joseph Cummins, 4th Space Operations Squadron protected satellite communications maintenance technician, said he is proud to be a part of the 50th OG.
“Heritage is important, and when you can trace it back to World War II, it makes it even more impactful,” Cummins said. “Not only was the history of the United States altered, but so was the history of the entire world.”
Col. Laurel Walsh, 50th OG Commander, said she is proud to be the commander of the 50th OG.
“The Group flew over 200 sorties on D-Day, striking targets deep behind the landing zones with their P-47 Thunderbolts,” she said. “It is an honor to lead a unit with such significant heritage and a tradition of excellence!”
Souza said during World War II, the 50th Pursuit Group used the P-47 Thunderbolt, a fighter-bomber that proved to be impactful.
“They hit and they hit hard,” he said. “They hit ammunition trains, tanks, railroads, anything that was a German target or transportation target. They went after those and were very successful.”
Cummins said heritage can impact performance.
“The brave men and women involved in the D-Day invasion, in World War II, they set the standard,” Cummins said. “They blazed the trail and set the expectation very high. Now it is our job to meet and exceed those expectations.”
Souza said his father flew in both World Wars, and he described the mindsets of pilots in the era.
“Becoming a pilot was not an easy task,” he said. “To be a pilot you have to be competitive and confident. Pilots were almost fearless. The thrill of being in the air has to be able to trump almost any fear, and any pilot who doesn’t have that mindset won’t make the cut.”
Cummins said remembering events like D-Day is important.
“It’s important we remember and celebrate our successes,” Cummins said. “We almost have a duty to remember how we got to where we are now, because had we not stormed the beaches of Normandy, the world could be very different.”
Souza said the sacrifice made by the men and women in the D-Day invasion changed history.
“The Normandy Beach invasion broke the Atlantic wall which was thought to be unbreakable,” he said. “If we had lost World War II, most of us wouldn’t be here, and that final push started with D-Day.”