D-Day was one of the hardest fought battles of WW2 and possibly the history of humanity itself. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers came through the beaches of Normandy to begin the liberation of France. Had it not been for the brave men who fought on D-Day, there would have never been a German defeat, and the allies would never have had a road to Berlin. We have gathered forty breathtaking pictures that capture what life was like in the shoes of a young man who risks it all to fight for freedom, liberty, and Uncle Sam. 75 years later and the impact from the allied landing can still be felt today.
Where did the name “D-Day” come from anyway? Does it stand for doomsday, or decision day? The correct answer is none of the above. According to the National World War II Museum, the “D” simply stands for “day.” It was the army’s way of designating the first day of the invasion. For instance, the day before D-Day was D-1, and after D-Day = D+1. The code name for D-day was “Operation Overlord.”
The allied troops knew that to successfully invade France, they would need to drop the elite Airborne Division deep behind enemy lines and take out the German defenses inside waiting in the second line of defense. There were 60 German infantry divisions, and 10 Panzer divisions waiting behind enemy lines. You can see reference to the story of the Airborne in the show “Band of Brothers.”
Keeping the enemy in the dark was crucial to Allied success in WWII, and American media outlets had very little new information for mothers and fathers on their son’s whereabouts after landing in France. All Americans could do is listen to German media broadcasts to try and get a sense of the carnage, and boy their heads in prayer.
D-day from the home front was a day of blindness in the sense that there was nothing but a newspaper headline to let Americans know that there is a massive landing happening across the Atlantic. Americans flocked the streets in great numbers, with some attending rally’s, and others attending prayer services.
Vigils and events of support were held across the U.S. in solidarity with the armed forces in Europe. In Philadelphia, the mayor sounded the Liberty Bell for the first time in over a century. The New York Stock Exchange observed two minutes of silence, and a D-Day rally was held in MSG. Then NY mayor Fiorello La Guardia said in a speech to NY “We, the people of the City of New York, in meeting assembled, send forth our prayers to the Almighty God for the safety and spiritual welfare of every one of you and humbly petition Him to bring total victory to your arms in the great and valiant struggle for the liberation of the world from tyranny.”
Operation Overlord was no joke. The allies knew that in order to invade Germany, they needed to liberate France and open the road to Berlin. The allied forces gathered 5,333 ships and landing craft that would be tasked with taking the beaches across the French coast around Normandy, France. The combined allied troops deployed to storm the beaches was a whopping 175,000 brave souls.
Allied soldiers had little idea what would wait for them on beaches like Omaha, Utah, Gold, Sword, or Juno Beach. The Germans were ready for a fierce fight and had designed the most robust defenses ever seen on the battlefield. More than 850,000 German troops were awaiting the invasion, consisting of Eastern European conscripts and even Korean soldiers. Yes, you heard correct.
The allied generals who were tasked with leading the charge and storming the beaches were Dwight Dwight D. Eisenhower, Bernard Law Montgomery, and Trafford Leigh-Mallory. Where is the legendary tank commander general George S. Patton you ask? Patton was actually tasked with staging a fake landing on the other side of France to throw off the Germans. Complete with blow-up tanks and fake soldiers. I wonder how he felt about that decision?
Out of the 132,000 allied troops sent by landing craft into France were 57,500 brave American patriots from all 50 states ready to take on the German forces, and sacrifice themselves for freedom. I wonder if these boys knew the type of battle they were walking into?
This photo shows General Dwight D. Eisenhower gently smiling as he says farewell and good luck to the brave men of the US 101st Airborne division or “The Screaming Eagles” as they prepared to embark on a jump into enemy territory on the evening of June 6th, 1944. These men had trained for over a year by then and were ready to take the fight to the Germans.
Over 20,000 airborne infantry troops would be deployed behind enemy lines to fight the German’s from within. These soldiers were a whole other breed of warriors who were trained jump into an ambush and make it out on top. These mere twenty thousand soldiers would take on tens of thousands of German infantrymen and tanks behind the line.
The airborne invasion over Normandy was a vital part of taking back and liberating France from the German juggernaut. Their main task, to distract, attract, and defeat the enemy deep behind enemy lines, and open the way for the allied landing to make its way across France towards Paris, and then to Berlin for the final showdown. These men landed with their faces painted black and rage and fury in their eyes, ready to take out the enemy at first sight.
Meanwhile, in the Atlantic Ocean, a vast fleet of 5,333 allied ships and landing craft had been making their way from England towards Germany, carrying thousands of soldiers inside them. Many of whom would never make it back home. They would first have to sit through the loud and endless artillery barrages from allied ships, and when it was their time to go, enter the landing craft and make their way into the mouth of the devil himself.
Knowing you’re about to go into battle is like no other feeling in the world. The heart is pounding 1,000 beats per seconds, one last glance at a picture from home, you close your eyes to imagine the last good day in your life, and let your soul go dark as you enter into the darkness of war. One can only imagine what went on in the minds of the allied forces as they landed on the beaches of Normandy.
The first wave of landing crafts was met with tough German defenses, with German sniper, machine gun, and artillery fire raining down on allied soldiers as they struggled to fight their way up the beaches and meet the German troops face to face. Landing crafts that made it to shore by the time the fight was over reported seeing the carnage in no better description than a sea of red.
The Allied generals knew the casualty count facing them at the beginning of the battle and decided to pack each landing craft beyond capacity with the goal of winning through the strength of numbers. No amount of training could prepare these brave men for what they were about to do.
This is a picture from the inside of a landing craft as its soldier’s land on Omaha beach and struggles to rush through the waist-deep water towards the battlefield. Smoke and fire aluminate the sky above, as allied planes, reign in overhead and lob as much firepower as humanly possible at the German defenses. Whole platoons would be decimated before even making it to shore. Everyman knew his orders. Make it to the Germans, and take the beach at all costs.
Once the beaches of Normandy were captured from the Germans, the allied forces could begin the second phase of the operation. Huge landing craft would land on the shore and drop off all of Uncle Sam’s best assets for the battles ahead.
These colossal landing craft carried inside of them, Jeeps, Tanks, Supplies, and thousands of more re-enforcements that would all make their way towards the Airborne who were desperately fighting to open up roads for the allied invasion. Medics would attend to the wounded, and begin counting the deceased.
If at any point one of these soldiers had a feeling of running away, by the time you’re on that landing craft there is no turning back, all you can do is look straight ahead, and fire back. Once those doors opened, you would be met with a hail of firepower with only the instinct of survival left in your mind.
Allied soldiers hit the deck with little to no cover the second they reached the sand. They used the land blocks planted by the Germans to keep the landing craft from making it all the way to shore. The German troops outnumbered the allies greatly and had it not been for the bravery of the allied forces. The chances of winning the battle would have been slim to none.
Within 12 hours of fierce fighting allied forces had managed to bring over 160,000 troops onto Omaha Beach, and within 15 days the whole of the invasion had reached its final goal. American soldiers played a big part in securing the beaches of Normandy, but could not do it without the help of their close allies.
General Montgomery commanded 40,000 British troops that landed on Sword beach, on the morning of June 6th, 1944, the young British troops had to run up the beach through a hail of firepower. British soldiers reported it being tranquil on the way in towards the shore.
Soldiers were hit by enemy fire from the second they landed on the beach, and many of them actually applied their own field dressing to and got right back into the fight. Soldiers had to fight and keep moving as not to be picked off by snipers firing from villas ahead as they were trying to take the beach.
The Royal Marines were made of brave you Canadian soldiers who were commanded by general Rodney Keller were tasked to take Juno Beach. The Canadians too deployed an Airborne battalion into the fight. Soldiers were met with fierce German firepower coming from defense nests across the coast.
The Canadian forces who landed on Juno Beach were only 14,000 strong, yet they commanded a great strength against the German troops. The Royal Canadian Air Force or RCAF had helped prepare the invasion by taking out German positions prior to the landings. Fighter squadrons fought diligently to fend off German fighter planes as the allies drudged on. These Canadian and British soldiers played a vital role in securing the allied win for the battle of France. By the end of the month, over 900,000 allied troops would enter France, to meet the Germans and end the war for good.
Now that they have taken the beaches of Normandy the allied forces could begin their assault on the rest of the German army and begin the long fight for the liberation of France. Allied forces would need to bring in massive firepower from the ocean, and begin their way through France to meet the 4 Airborne divisions waiting for them, and the French Resistance Army led by general LeClair.
Allied engineers worked night and day from the beginning of the invasion to build massive bridges and makeshift docks that would make it possible for allies to bring in the adequate amount of armor and supplies to defeat the Germans.
It would still be a long time before the allies could declare full victory and the Liberation of Pairs. Thousands of tons of, food, ammo, and medical supplies would be shipped into the shores of Normandy along with, a never-ending supply of tanks and armored vehicles.
The fast shipment of supplies would prove critical, as news of the successful battle spread to the streets of Paris, and the French revolt against the German occupiers had begun. Forces of the French underground had started their fight against Germans, and barricaded themselves waiting for the allies to come.
Allied soldiers by now knew all too well the reality of war, and are seen in this picture, for instance, taking a moment to pray for their safe passage as they made their way to Paris to win the war. For many of the soldiers on the front, faith would be the only thing left to keep them going.
The French Uprising in Paris had played a vital role in distracting and confusing the German tyrants as they were already struggling to defend their ground against on coming allied assaults, and then before long, the road to Germany was looking more and more likely.
Very soon the Paris Resistance had dismantled the barricades it had used earlier to fight the Germans and cleared the way for the French Armored Division to enter Paris, and fight off the remaining French forces. From there the allies had a clear line of sight to begin their final push to take Berlin.
Captured German officers had been recruited to assist allied forces in navigating through German defenses on the border with France. Why would they do this you ask? Simple, they were promised safe passage into the US if they helped the Allies.
Now that France was captured allied commanders, and officers began planning for their final assault on Germany. The Russians and Partisans would fight from the north, while the rest of the allied forces made of the French, American, and British troops would fight from the south. While the officers were preparing for more, their simple soldiers had begun their time of relaxation before the next storm.
The Streets of Paris rang with the sound of joy that would echo all across France. Kids were finally able to play on the street again, and mothers could eventually begin to worry about more than just avoiding the carnage on a day to day basis. Soldiers could put their rifles down for a while and enjoy the fruits of victory with their liberated people.
Soldiers were given time to rest, and enjoy some good old “R&R.” Singers and actors had flown out to France to meet the warriors and provide them with a show. Locals hosted them in their homes and gave them a place to sleep with warm food, and soon news of victory would make its way to the mainland as well.
The papers back home had now given the world some hope that the war would soon be over. Parades and victory rallies were held all across America to celebrate the victory over the Germans in France, a victory that would not come without a price.
The D-day invasion of France was one of the hardest if not the hardest and bloodiest fought battles in the history of mankind, in a time today where the world is timid and scared at the thought of any war against a tyrant, we must remember that at a time of great carnage, and in battles of defense, when the good wins, good follows. We owe our everyday freedoms to the brave men and women who fought to defend world order against the German oppressor and must never forget the allied sacrifice for that freedom.
Over 425,000 souls had perished throughout the Battle of Normandy, among them, 209,000 were allied casualties. Among the dead were 37,000 ground forces and more than 16,000 airmen. It would be a battle that will live long in history, and be told for hundreds of years more to come.