The Allied Invasion of Normandy Begins with the D-Day Landings

Soldiers, sailors and airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force. You are about to embark upon the great crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hope and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you.”

— Dwight D. Eisenhower

The Normandy Landings were the first operations of the Allied invasion of Normandy, also known as Operation Neptune and Operation Overlord, during World War II. The landings commenced on Tuesday, 6 June 1944 (D-Day), beginning at 6:30 British Double Summer Time (UTC+2). In planning, D-Day was the term used for the day of actual landing, which was dependent on final approval.

The assault was conducted in two phases: an air assault landing of American, British and Canadian airborne troops shortly after midnight, and an amphibious landing of Allied infantry and armoured divisions on the coast of France commencing at 6:30. There were also subsidiary 'attacks' mounted under the codenames Operation Glimmer and Operation Taxable to distract the German forces from the real landing areas.

The operation was the largest single-day amphibious invasion of all time, with 160,000 troops landing on 6 June 1944. 195,700 Allied naval and merchant navy personnel in over 5,000 ships were involved. The invasion required the transport of soldiers and materiel from the United Kingdom by troop-laden aircraft and ships, the assault landings, air support, naval interdiction of the English Channel and naval fire-support. The landings took place along a 50-mile (80 km) stretch of the Normandy coast divided into five sectors: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword.

Nothing like it had ever been tried in modern times – so how successful was D-Day for the Allies?

The largest opposed amphibious landing in history would be launched in Normandy on June 6th 1944. Several thousand ships rendezvoused during the night in the English Channel and waited for H-Hour, the moment to mount the invasion. It was an operation fraught with risk and the culmination of years of planning.

As the warships pounded the Normandy coast more that 130,000 Allied troops waited to board landing craft to take them to the beaches. With the sea perfectly calm, conditions for the attack seemed almost ideal.

As part of the coordinated D-Day offensive, the Allied airforce launched a devastating attack on the invasion coast.

In the wake of this almost overwhelming air attack, the Allies landed on five beaches on the morning of the 6th June. Code-named Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword. On most of the beaches the Allied assault went more or less to plan. But there was one exception. At Omaha Beach the American 1st Infantry division faced stiff resistance from German units dug in securely on the high ground above them.

The Americans suffered 2,000 casualties at Omaha on D-Day. Part of a total of more than 10,000 Allied casualties on that one day. But the bridgehead into France had been secured - overall at a smaller cost in lives than the Allied commanders had feared. And within six weeks of D-Day the Allies would land over two million soldiers and enormous quantities of heavy equipment.

Stage two - the battle for Normandy - would most definitely not go to plan. In fact, the war fought here, across this perfect defensive landscape, would prove to be one of the bloodiest of the whole conflict.