The 6th of June 2019 was the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings. Here is a look back on the buildup and the events of that fateful day
On the 6th June 1944, almost five years since the start of WWII, the Allied forces launched a combined naval, air and land assault on Nazi-occupied France. Codenamed Operation ‘Overlord’, the allied landings at Normandy marked the start of one of the world’s longest and most costly military campaigns.
A team of British, American and Canadian officers originally submitted plans for the invasion in July 1943, with the aim to relieve pressure on the Soviet Union and at the same time weaken Germany’s overall position in Western Europe by draining them of critical resources and key military sites.
British General Montgomery planned to attack five beaches in Normandy, which was less heavily defended than Calais and within range of British air cover. The Allies made plans to deceive the German’s into thinking they would attack at Calais, the closest point to England.
Months of air raids followed as the allies kept up their deception and carried out nightly air raids on key targets, meanwhile, the British factories increased production and over 9 million tonnes of supplies and equipment crossed the Atlantic from North America.
During this period, British spies and French Resistance sabotaged German supply lines, while British and American forces flew over 200,000 sorties, dropping 195,000 tonnes of bombs on key targets. At the same time over 2,000,000 soldiers, sailors and marines came together along the south coast of England.
D-Day started when airborne troops, who had been carried over the channel at 11pm on the 5th June, attacked German sentry posts and other enemy positions, capturing critical strategic targets.
At first light, all five beaches were to be attacked by British, Canadian and American forces totalling over 156,000 men. At 6.30am American forces were the first to land on Omaha beach and Utah beach, but were met by fierce machine gun fire from the German’s. Thousands of soldiers died.
An hour later, British and Canadian forces landed on the last three beaches. Despite massive losses, the bravery of the Allies won through, and they secured all the targeted beaches and pushed inland, creating a safe zone to land more men and equipment.
It was a stunning victory for the Allies and by the 10th June over 325,000 Allied soldiers and 50,000 vehicles had come ashore. By mid-July, the Allies had taken Caen and in August they started to march to Paris and Belgium. Eventually leading to the defeat of Germany in September 1945.
We remember those heroes who fought so bravely for our futures on those beaches 75 years ago. The men and women of that time stand head and shoulders above the rest of us and the world they fought so hard to ensure a future for. They didn’t fight for themselves or for glory, they fought for everything that is good and pure in this world.
“I cherish the memories of a question my grandson asked me the other day when he said, ‘Grandpa, were you a hero in the war?’ Grandpa said ‘No… but I served in a company of heroes.’
—Maj. Richard Winters
Over 6000 men died or went missing on D-Day, with thousands more injured.
A series of commemoration events are taking place in France and the UK this week.
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