The events occurring on D-Day, June 6, 1944, nearly seventy-five years ago, are widely celebrated in books, films, and on any number of web sites. Some call the landings on the beaches of Normandy the most celebrated battle of the war—though there were others of equal scope and ferocity in Europe and the Pacific.
But D-Day is just that, the day the invasion began and, as some refer to it, the beginning of the end of the war in Europe.
Many of us are familiar with the scenes—whether from perusing history books, or watching television specials, or Hollywood productions, famously Saving Private Ryan (1998) and The Longest Day (1962). We’ve watched 156,000 American, British, and Canadian forces approach and take five beaches: the Americans at Utah and Omaha, the British and Canadians at Juno, Sword, and Gold. It was one of the largest amphibious assaults in history.
We’re generally less familiar with what took place after June 6. By nightfall, the Allies held only small parcels of land along and above the beaches. The Germans presented strong resistance and tried unsuccessfully to drive a wedge between the pockets of advancing Allied forces. A week passed before the Allies secured the beaches and brought in troops, equipment and supplies. By then Allied ground forces had multiplied almost tenfold to 850,000.
The coast of Normandy was not fully secure until the end of the month. In all, the Americans lost 2,500 on D-Day and as many as 100,000 during the month long battle Operation Overlord—the military code name for the Normandy invasion. Still, American casualties were just a quarter of the estimated total of 425,000.
Let us salute our troops who participated in the invasion, whether they landed on June 6 or fought on the June 7, June 8 or any of the other days that month or in any other battle.
(Note: Numbers are inexact and vary by source.)
Photo Credit: Photograph by CphoM. Robert F. Sargent, June 6, 1944. Record Group 26, Records of the U.S. Coast Guard (26-G-2343)
Sources: www.history.com; https://history.army.mil/books/wwii/utah/utah4.htm; D-Day Encyclopedia; The War, Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns