June 6, 1944
Why D-Day Matters
Turning the Tide of WWII
- Strategy: Invade German-occupied France by air and sea, weaken the Nazis, and take back Europe.
- Results: Through brutal fighting, the Allies successfully invaded enemy territory — the beginning of the end for the Germans (at no small cost).
- Just A Note: The “Allies” referenced on D-Day mainly refers to U.S., British, & Canadian soldiers, though many other countries also combated Nazi Germany.
Largest Air, Land, Sea Military Operation Ever
- More than 2M soldiers were fighting to liberate Europe at that time; about half were Americans.
- “Allies” = U.K., U.S., & Canada, joined by Australian, Belgian, Czech, Dutch, French, Greek, New Zealand, Norwegian, Rhodesian, & Polish forces.
- 150,000+ soldiers participated in the D-Day invasion.
Why "Utah" & "Omaha"
- The invasion took place on five Normandy beaches: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, & Sword. U.S.-led forces took Utah and Omaha; British and Canadian-led forces took the rest.
- The Germans had superior fire power, experience, & position, but the Allies convinced them to hold back certain resources for another invasion elsewhere —which never occurred.
"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 hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you … We will accept nothing less than full Victory!"
Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, June 6, 1944
- “D-Day” doesn’t refer to “death” or “destruction,” despite the many wounded & killed in action.
- The military uses the generic term “D-Day” for the day an operation launches.
- Total # of Allies killed in action in one day remains a mystery: est = 4,400 (around 2,500 U.S. casualties).
- Context: 2,400+ Americans died serving in Afghanistan over nearly two decades.
"The worst part of that was sitting in the channel waiting to go in, because the German shells were landing pretty close. We never took a direct strike. We were pretty lucky. What was going through my mind was, what were we going to get into?"
Jasper Madonia at the age of 101, reflecting on landing at Utah Beach, Normandy, France on D-Day, 1944. He served as part of the U.S. Army 4th Infantry Division. Madonia reflected on his military service & those lost: “God had his hand on me, I guess.”
For many U.S. soldiers, D-Day was just the beginning of a long string of battles that eventually led to the liberation of Europe, forever altering its future.
WWII veterans gathered at the beaches of Normandy this morning to honor and reflect on the 78th anniversary of D-Day. Check out our source page for more on today’s events and to read a first-hand account from a veteran who was a young man during the Allied invasion of Normandy.
Crowds honor WWII veterans at Normandy D-Day celebrations: “I remember the good friends that I lost there. So it’s a little emotional, I guess you can say I’m proud of what I did but I didn’t do that much.”
The Challenge of Counting D-Day’s Dead (FiveThirtyEight)
D-Day Fact Sheet: The Beaches (U.S. Department of Defense)
by Jenna Lee,