The end of World War II started with the Battle of Normandy, which took place from June 1944 to August 1944, and it led the allies to liberate Western Europe from the control of Nazi Germany. The battle was kicked off on D-Day, June 6th, 1944, with an operation that had the code name Operation Overlord.
On this day, 156,000 Allied forces landed on 5 beaches along a 50-mile stretch on the coast of Normandy, France. The forces included Americans, Canadian, British, and more. This invasion by the allied forces became one of the most ambitious military assaults in history and it took extensive planning.
By the end of August, northern France was free again, and the Germans were defeated by the Spring. For this reason, the landings at Normandy are considered to be the beginning of the end of WWII. In other words, it was a major turning point and without this incredible effort, history would be different. June 6th celebrates D-Day and it honors the many who courageously gave their lives to guarantee the freedom of future generations.
A Short History of D-Day
At the beginning of WWII, Germany had already invaded and occupied northwestern France. The U.S. joined the war effort in December 1941 and by 1942, the Americans and the British were considering an Allied invasion across the English Channel. In 1943, the plans for this operation, code named, Operation Overlord, started taking shape.
Adolf Hitler was aware of this invasion that would take place along France’s northern coast, so in November 1943, he put Erwin Rommel in charge of finishing the Atlantic Wall, a fortification of landmines, obstacles, and bunkers that stretched for 2,400 miles.
In January 1944, General Dwight Eisenhower became the commander of the operation. Months prior to D-Day, the Allies performed a huge deception operation with the objective of tricking Germans into believing the invasion would take place in Pas-de-Calais, not Normandy.
The original date for the Allied invasion was June 5th, 1944, but it was held up for 24 hours due to bad weather, but later in the day, over 5,000 ships and landing craft left England and began their journey across the Channel. At the same time, 11,000 aircraft were sent out to provide support and air cover to those on the ground.
On June 6, 1944, thousands of paratroopers and glider troops made their way behind enemy lines to secure exit roads and bridges. The Allied invasion started at 6:30 am and by the end of the day, the Allied troops had stormed the beaches of Normandy successfully. This cost many their lives; over 4,000 Allied troops perished and thousands more were either missing or injured.
In the weeks that followed D-Day, the battle continued across the countryside. At the end of June, the Allied had taken the port of Cherbourg, where around 850,000 men and 150,000 vehicles landed to continue marching across France. At the end of August, the Allies had liberated Paris and then they got ready to enter Germany to join the Soviets. Finally, on May 8th, 1945, Nazi Germany surrendered.
Facts About D-Day
- 150,000 Allied soldiers landed on the shores of Normandy.
- 9,000 Allied soldiers lost their lives after the first day of battle.
- The beaches of Normandy are still known by their code names in the operation: Utah Beach, Omaha Beach, Gold Beach, Sword Beach, and Juno Beach.
- The decoding of Enigma, the German code machine, helped the Allies locate the fighting units in Normandy.
- World War II lasted for almost 11 months after D-Day before coming to an end.
How to Observe D-Day
D-Day in the U.S. is a day of observance, so it is not a federal holiday. Now, there are many ways to observe D-Day. You can do it right from home and watch a film or documentary about it so you can learn more about the history behind it and the brave men who fought for freedom. Similarly, you can read a book about D-Day. You can also go to events on D-Day memorials, museums, or other locations. D-Day ceremonies are also held all over the country, so you can keep an eye out for that!
Featured photo by Sean Manning from Pexels