D-Day

D-Day: What Happened 75 Years Ago?

Nearly 75 years ago the largest single-day amphibious invasion in history took place on the beaches of Normandy.

In June 1944, Germany was still occupying the vast majority of mainland Europe.

However, things were about to change as military personnel from Britain, the US and Canada were getting ready to invade France from the south of England.

Across the entire south of the country, personnel trained for the upcoming operation codenamed Operation Overlord.

Minehunters prepared to neutralise German mines along the Normandy coast.

Remarkably, the preparations for Operation Overlord, and the seaborne part of it – Operation Neptune, were kept a secret.

Thanks to the deception techniques used during Operation Bodyguard, Hitler’s generals did not see an attack on Normandy coming. Instead, they expected intervention in Calais.

D-Day, which simply means ‘the day to the operation’s commencement’, was meant to be 5 June, but bad weather delayed it.

On 6 June, a weather window meant it was time to strike. The English Channel was filled with ships.

In total, there were over 160,000 Allied personnel, 5,600 landing crafts, assault and minehunters in the Channel.

Before Operation Neptune swept into action, naval and air bombardment began.

At midnight, 26,000 US, British and Canadian troops began and airborne assault by parachute and paraglider.

Royal Marines on D-Day
(Picture: PA).

Six and a half hours later, at 06.30 in the morning, the Allied forces invaded 50 miles of the Normandy coastline on beaches codenamed Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword.

The men landed on the heavy fire from guns in placement overlooking the beaches. The beaches were mined and covered with obstacles.

The Allies did not conquer as much ground as they wanted to, but they managed to hold onto each beach, establishing a foothold of the territory they could build on.

The biggest seaborne invasion in history had been a success, but it was costly.

There were 10,000 Allied casualties that day, with 4,414 confirmed dead. German casualties are estimated between 4,000 and 9,000.

With each following day, more troops and kit were brought in. Temporary harbours, called Mulberry, were tolled across England and built on the beach heads. The armour and men kept rolling.

The areas liberated grew and more prisoners were captured. France rejoiced as freedom returned.

This whole campaign was titled Operation Overlord and it kept sweeping west.

Europe’s liberation a reality thanks to the start made and live sacrificed on 6 June, 1944.

For more on D-Day 75, click here.