Monday, June 6, 2016
About 160,000 Allied troops parachuted or waded onto the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944, in what was the largest sea assault in military history. Allied casualties on D-Day have been estimated at 10,000 killed, wounded, and missing in action: 6,603 Americans, 2,700 British, and 946 Canadians, but the operation eventually led to an Allied victory across Europe.
More than 5,000 ships and 13,000 aircraft supported the D-Day invasion. The invasion began shortly after midnight, with a perilous airborne operation led by paratroopers of the "Screaming Eagles'' 101st Airborne and the 82nd Airborne divisions. At dawn, thousands of Allied troops leaped out of landing craft to storm the beaches under ferocious German defensive fire.
U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower, then the supreme commander of Allied forces across Western Europe, called the operation a crusade in which “we will accept nothing less than full victory.”
The “D” stands for Day. D-Day and H-Hour stand for the secret day/time an operation is scheduled to begin. Code names for the five beaches where the Allies landed: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword. The date June 5, 1944, was originally chosen for the invasion, but bad weather forced the Allies to postpone a day.
August 19, 1942 – A raid on the French port of Dieppe resulting in heavy losses convinces D-Day planners to land on the beaches, so discussions and preparations begin for an Allied invasion across the English Channel.
May 1943 – The Trident Conference, a British and American strategy meeting on the war. In Washington, DC, Winston Churchill, President Roosevelt and their military advisers discuss, among other things, crossing the English Channel.
August 1943 – The Quadrant Conference, where the British and American military chiefs of staff outline Operation Overlord.
November and December 1943 – The Sextant and Eureka Conferences, where the British and American military chiefs discuss the specifics of the assault on France.
1944 – The Germans expect an invasion along the north coast of France, but they do not know where. They build up their troops and artillery near Calais, where the English Channel is the narrowest.
June 5, 1944 – Allied paratroopers and gliders carrying heavy equipment leave England to begin the invasion of France by air.
In a broadcast message to troops before they leave, Eisenhower tells them, “The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to victory…. We will accept nothing less than full victory!”
June 6, 1944 – Overnight, a military armada and more than 160,000 troops cross the English Channel. Minesweepers go ahead to clear the waters in preparation for the thousands of landing crafts that will be carrying men, vehicles and supplies.
Between midnight and 8 am, Allied forces fly 14,674 sorties.
6:30 am – Troops begin coming ashore on a 50-mile front.
In a broadcast to the people of occupied Europe, Eisenhower says, “Although the initial assault may not have been in your own country, the hour of your liberation is approaching.”