On June 6, 1944, at the height of World War II, the allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy to fight the German troops in what became known as D-Day. Operation Neptune, as it was formally designated at the time, started the effort to liberate France from German occupation and was the largest invasion by sea in history.
The United States played a big part in the planning and execution of the operation, so many Americans like to commemorate the victory on June 6 every year. However, D-Day is not recognized as a public holiday in the United States.
Preparations for D-Day began way before the invasion took place. Almost as soon as the Second World War started, Northwestern France fell into the hands of the German army, who controlled that whole territory. Soon after joining the War, in 1941, Americans allied themselves with the British in order to plan a big invasion across the English channel. Aware of these plans, Adolf Hitler ordered his officials to construct a 2,400-mile obstacle wall of bunkers and landmines on the beaches of Northwestern France, in what became known as the Atlantic Wall.
The allied invasion operation was codenamed Operation Overlord. Allied generals led by Dwight D. Eisenhower then began an operation of deception to lead the Germans to think that they would be invading Calais, and not Normandy.
On the evening of June 5, 1944, over 5,000 ships and crafts, with 11,000 aircraft as backup, left England carrying 156,000 allied troops.
The invasions were carried out on June 6 at 6:30 a.m, with British and Canadian troops easily taking the beaches named Juno, Gold and Sword, and Americans overcoming opposition at Utah Beach. At Omaha Beach, however, the fortifications were stronger, and American troops found heavy resistance, with over 2,000 soldiers losing their lives on the invasion. By the end of the day, the Allies had successfully taken over the beaches of Normandy, with more than 4,000 overall casualties, and many more wounded.
By June 11, 326,000 troops landed in Normandy, and the beaches were fully secured.
D-Day allowed the Allied troops to begin their mission to take back France, and by August 1944 Paris had been liberated. The Battle of Normandy was the event that turned the tide on the War and began the Allies' path to victory.
D-Day Remembrance Today
Every year people across America come together to remember and honor those who fought and those who lost their lives on D-Day. Many flock to D-Day memorials to lay wreaths for the deceased.
Museums often host exhibitions that feature photos of the landings.
Veterans who were part of the invasions and are alive today are decorated with medals of merit and honor for the great service they paid to their country and the world.