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D-Day
Part of Operation Overlord, the invasion of Normandy and the Western Front of World War II
Into the Jaws of Death 23-0455M edit.jpg
Men of the 16th Infantry Regiment, US 1st Infantry Division wading ashore on Omaha Beach on the morning of 6 June 1944
Date 6 June 1944
Location 49°20′N 0°34′W / 49.333°N 0.567°W / 49.333; -0.567
Result Allied victory
Territorial
changes
Five Allied beachheads established in Normandy
Belligerents
Allies
 Nazi Germany
Commanders and leaders
Units involved
United States First Army

Omaha Beach:

V Corps
  • 1st Infantry Division
  • 29th Infantry Division

Utah Beach:

VII Corps
United Kingdom Second Army

Gold Beach

XXX Corps
  • 50th Infantry Division

Juno Beach

I Corps
  • 3rd Canadian Infantry Division

Sword Beach

I Corps
  • 3rd Infantry Division
  • 6th Airborne Division
Nazi Germany 5th Panzer Army

South of Caen

  • 21st Panzer Division
Nazi Germany 7th Army

Omaha

  • 352nd Infantry Division

Utah Beach

  • 709th Static Division

Gold, Juno, and Sword

  • 716th Static Division
Strength
156,000 soldiers
195,700 naval personnel
50,350+
170 coastal artillery guns. Includes guns from 100mm to 210mm, as well as 320mm rocket launchers.
Casualties and losses
10,000+ casualties; 4,414 confirmed dead
185 M4 Sherman tanks
1,000 casualties
Normandy 1
Carrying their equipment, U.S. assault troops move onto Utah Beach. Landing craft can be seen in the background.

D-Day, also known as the Normandy landings was the landing operations and associated airborne operations on Tuesday, 6 June 1944 of the Allied invasion of Normandy in Operation Overlord during World War II.

Codenamed Operation Neptune it was the largest seaborne invasion in history.

The D-Day landings were the largest seaborne invasion in history, with nearly 5,000 landing and assault craft, 289 escort vessels, and 277 minesweepers participating. Nearly 160,000 troops crossed the English Channel on D-Day.

The operation began the liberation of German-occupied France (and later western Europe) and laid the foundations of the Allied victory on the Western Front.

Planning

Planning for the operation began in 1943. In the months leading up to the invasion, the Allies conducted a substantial military deception, codenamed Operation Bodyguard, to mislead the Germans as to the date and location of the main Allied landings.

Adolf Hitler placed Field Marshal Erwin Rommel in command of German forces and of developing fortifications along the Atlantic Wall in anticipation of an Allied invasion.

Weather forecast

The weather on D-Day was far from ideal, and the operation had to be delayed 24 hours; a further postponement would have meant a delay of at least two weeks, as the invasion planners had requirements for the phase of the moon, the tides, and the time of day that meant only a few days each month were deemed suitable.

Participating navies

The primary ground-force participants in the landings that began Operation Neptune were nine divisions drawn from the American, British and Canadian armies. During subsequent weeks more units were landed as reinforcements.

The Invasion Fleet was drawn from eight different navies, comprising 6,939 vessels (1,213 warships, 4,126 transport vessels (Landing ships and landing craft) and 1,600 support vessels which included a number of merchant vessels).

Bombardment

The amphibious landings were preceded by extensive aerial and naval bombardment and an airborne assault—the landing of 24,000 American, British, and Canadian airborne troops shortly after midnight.

Just prior to the invasion, General Eisenhower transmitted a now-historic message to all members of the Allied Expeditionary Force. It read, in part, "You are about to embark upon a great crusade, toward which we have striven these many months." In his pocket was an unused statement to be read in case the invasion failed.

The landings

D-day - British Forces during the Invasion of Normandy 6 June 1944 B5246
British troops come ashore at Jig Green sector, Gold Beach

Allied infantry and armoured divisions began landing on the coast of France at 06:30.

The target 50-mile (80 km) stretch of the Normandy coast was divided into five sectors: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword.

Strong winds blew the landing craft east of their intended positions, particularly at Utah and Omaha.

The men landed under heavy fire from gun emplacements overlooking the beaches, and the shore was mined and covered with obstacles such as wooden stakes, metal tripods, and barbed wire, making the work of the beach-clearing teams difficult and dangerous.

Casualties were heaviest at Omaha, with its high cliffs.

At Gold, Juno, and Sword, several fortified towns were cleared in house-to-house fighting, and two major gun emplacements at Gold were disabled using specialised tanks.

The Allies failed to achieve any of their goals on the first day. Carentan, St. Lô, and Bayeux remained in German hands, and Caen, a major objective, was not captured until 21 July. Only two of the beaches (Juno and Gold) were linked on the first day, and all five beachheads were not connected until 12 June; however, the operation gained a foothold that the Allies gradually expanded over the coming months.

Casualties

German casualties on D-Day have been estimated at 4,000 to 9,000 men. Allied casualties were documented for at least 10,000, with 4,414 confirmed dead. Museums, memorials, and war cemeteries in the area now host many visitors each year.

War memorials and tourism

Beny-sur-Mer Cemetary
The Bény-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery.

The beaches at Normandy are still referred to on maps and signposts by their invasion codenames. There are several vast cemeteries in the area.

The American cemetery, in Colleville-sur-Mer, contains row upon row of identical white crosses and Stars of David, immaculately kept, commemorating the American dead.

Commonwealth graves, in many locations, use white headstones engraved with the person's religious symbol and their unit insignia. The largest cemetery in Normandy is the La Cambe German war cemetery, which features granite stones almost flush with the ground and groups of low-set crosses. There is also a Polish cemetery.

Streets near the beaches are still named after the units that fought there, and occasional markers commemorate notable incidents.

Every year on June 6, American cartoonist and World War II veteran Charles M. Schulz (1922–2000) reserved his Peanuts comic strip to memorialise his comrades who fell at Normandy.

Interesting facts about D-Day

Canada JunoBeach 1 RCNCOMMANDO
Personnel of Royal Canadian Navy Beach Commando "W" land on Mike Beach sector of Juno Beach, 6 June 1944
  • The D in D-Day just stands for 'Day'. The term D-Day was used for the day of any important invasion or military operation.
  • D-Day was just the beginning of a campaign that lasted around 12 weeks.
  • The Normandy landings on June 6th 1944 were the largest seaborne invasion in history.
  • Thousands of paratroopers landed first but only 15% of them landed in the right place.
  • Adolph Hitler was asleep when the Allied forces landed.
  • There were 5 beaches where they landed. They were codenamed Sword, Juno, Gold, Omaha, and Utah.
  • Before D-Day the BBC ran a fake competition for people to send them French beach holiday photographs and postcards. They sent them to the War Office so they could plan where to land on D-Day.

In popular culture

Books

  • The Longest Day by Cornelius Ryan (1959 book)
  • D-Day: The Battle for Normandy by Antony Beevor (2009 book)
  • Neptune: The D-Day Landings and the Allied Invasion of Europe by Craig Symonds (2014 book)

Film and television

  • The Longest Day (1962 film)
  • The Big Red One (1980 film)
  • Saving Private Ryan (1998 film)
  • Band of Brothers (2001 miniseries)

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