D-Day, observed annually on June 6, brings overwhelming memories of the brave men and women who fought a strategically planned and well-executed battle that ultimately led to the end of the Second World War. More than 75 years after the end of World War II, these memories remain fresh to the over 300,000 living U.S. veterans of the war. The rest of us look to their legacy and the rich history of events told through museums and memorials. There is not a more important time than today for us to remember and honor them as we reflect on D-Day, June 6, 1944.
HISTORY OF D-DAY
The morning of June 6, 1944, American troops and their allied forces landed on the beaches of Normandy, France in an invasion, code-named Operation Overlord, during World War II, which began the liberation of France, and ultimately other areas of Europe, from Hitler’s Nazi regime. This day, known as D-Day, and the strategically planned landing of 156,000 British, Canadian and American troops at 6:30 A.M. on the five beaches of Normandy was code-named Operation Neptune.
Earlier in the morning of June 6, 24,000 airborne troops were dropped into battle by parachute in order to close exits and overtake bridges slowing the advancement of Nazi reinforcements. Troops entering the beaches by land and sea were met with Hitler’s ‘Atlantic Wall,’ 2,400 miles of bunkers, landmines, and beach obstacles (metal tripods, barbed wire, and wooden stakes) established in anticipation of a French coast invasion. Nazis planted 4 million landmines along Normandy beaches.
Planning for our invasion of German-occupied France began in 1942. In an attempt to mislead the Germans and maintain the secrecy of the details of the D-Day invasion, the Allies conducted a military deception, code-named Operation Bodyguard. It included fake radio transmissions, double agents, and a ‘phantom army’ commanded by American General George Patton.
June 5 was originally chosen as D-Day due to predictions of weather and high tide, based on the phase of the moon. Bad weather conditions ultimately interfered with the established plans and D-Day moved to June 6.
Ultimately, over 4,400 identified soldiers, sailors, airmen, and coastguardsmen died on D-Day with an estimated 5,000 or more were lost at sea, in an air battle, or otherwise were not identified. Their sacrifice and the valiant efforts of all troops turned the tide of the entire war that day.
WAYS TO OBSERVE D-DAY
Thank a veteran
Our World War II veterans, as with all veterans of our active military, sacrificed greatly during their times of battle. It is difficult for those of us who have not served our country in the same manner to understand the full measure of their service and sacrifice. But, today, we listen, learn and thank the men and women who protected our freedom at such a critical time in our world’s history.
Visit the museum in New Orleans
Opening in 2000, the World War II Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana offers briefings throughout the day explaining events as they occurred in 1944. Step onto one of the boats that took our soldiers to the beaches of Normandy.
Watch a WWII movie
Over 50 movies have been created depicting aspects of World War II — detailing battles, showcasing heroes, and remembering victims of the Holocaust. You can learn about the war and the events at Normandy from a variety of angles to understand the true scope of this war and what our victory has meant to the world.