June 6th marked the 70th anniversary of the Invasion of Normandy, commonly referred to as “D-Day.” On June 6th 1944, the Allied forces launched the largest seaborne invasion in history. Nearly 24,000 Allied troops stormed the coast of France shortly after midnight, risking their lives to begin the invasion of German-occupied Western Europe. The operation greatly contributed to an Allied victory in the war, and remains crucially important to our nations’ history.
Unbeknownst to many locals, Minnesotan soldiers played a significant role in the occupation of Europe. The 34th Infantry Division, commonly referred to as “The Red Bulls,” were the first U.S. division deployed to Europe in World War II. Consisting largely of Minnesota and Iowa National Guard members, the Red Bulls trained for and helped execute the Allied Invasion of Italy. In total, the division participated in six major Army campaigns in North Africa and Italy. While pursuing Axis forces, the 34th Infantry amassed 517 days of front-line combat, which is more than any other U.S. division. The unit was heavily decorated in awards following their courageous successes, including eleven Medals of Honor. On the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs acknowledges the significant contributions our soldiers accomplished, and thanks them for their continued service.