Why D-Day Matters

June 6, 2022
Image

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”

  • “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.

“I saw one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen. The color of the water changed. Those poor guys on the ground deserve all the credit they can get. The paratroopers, the armored forces, the ground troops. They are the ones.”

Floyd Blair, 103, served as a fighter pilot in the Army Air Corps during World War II. On June 6, 1944, Blair participated in two support missions around Omaha Beach.

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.”

Berks man recounts his service aboard Navy ship on D-Day

Library of Congress – This Day In History

The Challenge of Counting D-Day’s Dead (FiveThirtyEight)

D-Day Fact Sheet: The Beaches (U.S. Department of Defense)

Photo by Robert Capa: “Assault landing, one of the first waves at Omaha. The Coast Guard caption identifies the unit as Company E, 16th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division. Photo courtesy of Center of Military History” (U.S. Army).

by Jenna Lee,

ImageImageImageImage