The long-awaited Anglo-American invasion of Nazi Europe begins just after midnight on June 6, 1944, as the first wave of U.S., British, and Canadian paratroopers plunge into the darkness over Normandy. It was the largest combined sea, air, and land military operation in history, with the participation of 3 million men, 13,000 aircraft, and 6,000 ships.
At daybreak, a heavy bombardment of the French coast ended as 135,000 Allied troops stormed ashore at five landing sites. Despite the formidable German coastal defences, beachheads were achieved at all five locations. At Omaha Beach, German resistance was especially fierce, and the position was only secured after hours of bloody fighting by the Americans assigned to it.
By the evening, 150,000 troops were ashore, and the Allies held roughly 80 square miles.
Image: U.S. Soldiers disembark a landing craft at Normandy, France, June 6 1944, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.