June 6, 1944, is known as D-Day. It was the day Allied forces landed on a 50 mile stretch on five beaches of Normandy, France, which set up one of the pivotal attacks against Germany during World War II. The five beaches had codenames; Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword. It took President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill 2 years to plan for D-Day. Officially called "Operation Overlord," the invasion combined the forces of 156,115 U.S., British, and Canadian troops, 6,939 ships, and landing vessels, and 2,395 aircraft and 867 gliders delivered airborne troops. D-Day was the most massive amphibious assault and the largest combined operation in history.
Thousands of paratroopers launched the invasion in the pre-dawn hours of June 6, landing on the Utah and Sword beaches, attempting to cut off Nazi reinforcements. Casualties were high for American paratroopers at the Utah beach. Many either drowned under heavy equipment in the marshland or were shot out of the sky by Nazi snipers. British and Canadian paratroopers had better luck at Sword beach and were able to take over two key bridges.
Coming in on thousands of landing ships, more than 156,000 Allied infantrymen stormed the five beaches. Stormy seas made it difficult, and many regiments missed their target destinations. Only two fo the 29 amphibious tanks made it to Omaha Beach on their own, while three others had to be transported to the beach later on. 14 Comanche "Code-Talker" who relayed critical tactical messages in their Native American Tongue was among the American troops that landed at Utah Beach.
Allied losses at Normandy on D-Day are around 4,413 dead. The German death toll was not well recorded, but it is estimated to be between 4,000 - 9,000. The Battle of Normandy lasted until late August. In the end, over 425,000 Allied and German troops were wounded, killed or listed as missing. Of these, around 200,000 were Allied casualties, including 53,714 deaths. German losses are estimated at approximately 200,000 injured and killed and about 200,000 taken prisoner. French civilian casualties during the battle stand around 19,890.
D-Day marked a decisive turning point in the war, and less than a year later, Germany signed an unconditional surrender on May 7, 1945.
All Photos courtesy of DVIDS
Top Left: A bird's-eye view of landing craft, barrage balloons and Allied troops landing in Normandy, France, on D-Day, June 6, 1944. U.S. Maritime Commission photo
Top Right: U.S. Soldiers disembark a landing craft under heavy fire off the coast of Normandy, France, June 6, 1944. (Photo Credit: National Archives U.S. Coast Guard Collection)
Bottom Left: Resolute faces of U.S. Army paratroopers just before they took off for the initial assault of D-Day. The paratrooper in the foreground had just read Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower's message of good luck and clasped his bazooka in determination. Note Eisenhower's D-Day order in the hands of the paratrooper in the foreground. DOD photo
Bottom Right: The beachhead is secure, but the price was high. A U.S. Coast Guard photographer came upon this monument to a dead American soldier somewhere on the shell-blasted shore of Normandy shortly after D-Day. Coast Guard photo