George Diepenbrock
KU News Service

Media advisory: Experts available to discuss 70th anniversary of D-Day

Thu, 05/29/2014

LAWRENCE — June 6 will mark the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion that became a major turning point in World War II as more than a million American, British and Canadian soldiers began the brutal trek across Europe to defeat Adolf Hitler. General Dwight D. Eisenhower, who grew up in Kansas, led the largest amphibious invasion in history on June 6, 1944, in Operation Overlord, the invasion of Normandy, France.

President Barack Obama is scheduled to speak in Normandy as part of the 70th anniversary ceremony. An estimated 550 American veterans of World War II die each day, according to Department of Veterans Affairs statistics, meaning this likely will be one of the final major D-Day anniversary celebrations to include living veterans.

The University of Kansas has experts who are available to comment on different aspects of the D-Day invasion and its place in World War II, American and world history.

Adrian Lewis, professor of history, can speak about the military strategy behind the invasion and its place in the history of warfare. Lewis is author of the 2001 book "Omaha Beach: A Flawed Victory." He has also contributed to six documentaries related to the Normandy invasion, including a two-hour special episode of NOVA on PBS "D-Day's Sunken Secrets," in which he examined underwater wrecked ships, tanks and landing craft from the mission. In addition to his extensive scholarship on the Normandy invasion, Lewis, a retired Army major, also wrote the 2012 book "The American Culture of War: A History of American Military Force from World War II to Operation Enduring Freedom."

Lewis said the D-Day invasion, also known as Operation Overlord, was notable from a military perspective for the technological advancements the Allies implemented to prepare for the massive assault. Also, it became a success despite several failures in planning.

"The Normandy invasion was the most important operation of the war for the Americans and British, and it could have failed, as the battle for Omaha Beach demonstrates," Lewis said. "Soldiers, not generals, made the difference."

Theodore Wilson, a professor of 20th century U.S. political, military and diplomatic history, is available to talk about the Allied coalition and the decisions its leaders faced prior to D-Day. Wilson is general editor of the Modern War Studies series published by the University Press of Kansas. Of the more than 300 titles in the series, some 30 works focus on the Normandy invasion and related issues. He also edited the book "D-Day 1944" that outlines lessons and meanings behind the major invasion and why D-Day remains such a monumental event in national memory.

Wilson has also studied the selection and training of U.S. ground combat troops in the war. He said Allied troops faced a daunting task in execution of the strategy behind the Normandy invasion, which eventually led to the reopening of the Western Front of the war.

Without a Wounded Warrior scholarship, Timothy Hornik probably wouldn’t be at KU pursuing a doctoral degree in therapeutic sciences. And he definitely wouldn’t have led the Pledge of Allegiance during President Barack Obama’s visit to the university in January — a moment he will never forget. Hornik, a retired Army officer, lost his sight while serving as an air defense artillery platoon leader in Iraq. The Wounded Warrior Educational Initiative, launched at KU in 2008, provides financial support and specialized training to help injured veterans and their family members pursue advanced degrees. With his education, Hornik plans to counsel soldiers through trauma. “All of the opportunities and services I’ve received originated from the efforts of someone else paying it forward or back,” he says. “I simply hope to continue this cycle and change the lives of others.” Learn more about the Wounded Warrior Scholarship:

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