On Tuesday 6 June 1944 the largest seaborne invasion of history took place as massive combined British, American and Canadian forces stormed ashore at Normandy, on he coast of France and began rolling back the German occupying forces that had captured much of western Europe some four years before.
Code-named “Operation Overlord”, but popularly known as “D-Day”, the invasion, commanded by US 5-star general Dwight D. Eisenhower, was underpinned by a masterpiece of military planning that involved deception, weather prediction, coordination with French Resistance and the close integration of air, naval and ground forces on a grand scale.
In the lead up to the invasion an elaborate deception campaign was mounted by the Allies to convince the Germans that the troop landings would occur away from the Normandy area.
Closer to the event the weather across the Channel was rough, but the Allies meteorological team advised Eisenhower that a temporary improvement was likely on 6 June and this helped set the invasion date. The Germans considered the weather too rough for an Allied invasion and were not in a state full operational readiness.
Preceded by an aerial and naval bombardment, plus a massive airborne assault using gliders and paratroopers, more than 150,000 troops landed along an 80 km stretch of the Normandy coastline on the morning of 6 June 1944. As they fought their way ashore heavy German resistance was encountered, and by the end of the day over 4000 Allied soldiers had been killed.
Although the Allied forces remained largely pinned down on the first day, a foothold in Europe had been achieved, and over the following days and weeks this gradually expanded, and eventually developed into a major contribution to the Allied victory in Europe.
“I have full confidence in your courage and devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory”. General Dwight. D. Eisenhower, in his address to the Allied troops prior to the D-Day landings.
Image: US troops approach the Normandy coastline on the morning of 6th June 1944, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.