D-Day: A Day That Changed Humanity Forever

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.

The Biggest Day in WW2

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.”

6th June 1944: Reinforcements disembarking from a landing barge at Normandy during the Allied Invasion of France on D-Day. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

The Airborne

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.”

Set to be flown to Normandy (France), men of a US infantry paratroop regiment are shown inside a, C-47 transports of the 9th US Air Force Troop Carrier Command in England in the early hours of June 6, 1944. (Photo by Photo12/UIG/Getty Images)

Stressful Anticipation

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.

`A sign outside Trinity Church, New York City, inviting worshippers to ‘Come in and pray for Allied victory’ in the invasion of Normandy on D-Day, 6th June 1944. (Photo by FPG/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Prayers from the Homefront

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.

`A sign outside Trinity Church, New York City, inviting worshippers to ‘Come in and pray for Allied victory’ in the invasion of Normandy on D-Day, 6th June 1944. (Photo by FPG/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Coming Together

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.”

A ‘2nd Invasion Extra’ edition of the Worcester Telegram newspaper, published in Worcester, Massachusetts, reporting the Allied invasion of Normandy on D-Day, 6th June 1944. (Photo by FPG/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Massive Navy Fleet

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.

Photograph of Allied landing craft underway to the beaches of Normandy. Dated 1944. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

Crossing into the Valley of Death

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.

Vital supplies and equipment roll over the prefabricated piers less than two weeks after ‘D-Day’ (June 6, 1944), The piers, stretched a total of seven miles in the greatest constructional engineering plan of the war (Normandy, France). (Photo by Photo12/UIG/Getty Images)

Countless Lives

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?

Allied Chiefs Air Marshal Arthur Tedder (1890 – 1967), General Dwight D Eisenhower (1890 – 1969), and Field Marshall Bernard L. Montgomery (1887 – 1976), watch tank manoeuvres in preparation for the D-Day landings, February 25, 1944. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

American Patriots

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?

6th June 1944: US troops travel the English Channel on a barge en route to Normandy, France for the D-Day Invasion, World War II. An American flag flies behind them. (Photo by Anthony Potter Collection/Getty Images)

“Good Luck Boys”

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.

6th June 1944: General Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969) smiles while speaking with the men of the US 101st Airborne Division, ‘The Screaming Eagles’, as they prepare for the D-Day invasion, England, World War II. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Behind Enemy Lines

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.

Parachutes fill the sky after the 12th Air Force Troop Carrier Air Division C-47s drop Allied soldiers and supplies over the beachhead between Marseilles and Nice, during the Allied Invasion of France. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

Dirty Faces

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.

Paratroopers give the thumbs-up signal, before leaving in a glider to drop on Normandy as reinforcements to the invasion forces. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Into the Unknown

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.

June 1944: American soldiers in the sleeping quarters on the troopship ‘Queen Mary’. Original Publication: Picture Post – 1825 – Queen Mary Troopship – unpub. (Photo by Haywood Magee/Picture Post/Getty Images)

Starring into Darkness

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.

Landing troops at Omaha Beach, Normandy, France, on D-day as Allies invade France. (Photo by © CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

Beaches Painted Red

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.

Barrage balloons and shipping at Omaha Beach during the Allied amphibious assault, before the installation of Mulberry Harbour. (Photo by Three Lions/Getty Images)

Packed Like Sardines

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.

6th June 1944: US Army troops crowd into a navy landing craft infantry ship during the D-Day Invasion of Normandy, France, World War II. (Photo by US Navy/Getty Images)

Through Fire and Smoke

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.

US Troops wading through water after reaching Normandy and landing Omaha beach on D Day, 1944. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

Large Landing Craft

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.

Photograph of D-Day landing craft, boats and seagoing vessels used to convey a landing force (infantry and vehicles) from the sea to the shore during an amphibious assault. Dated 1944. (Photo by Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

Getting Tanks on the Beaches

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.

Photograph of D-Day landing vehicles, vessels used to convey a landing force (infantry and vehicles) from the sea to the shore during an amphibious assault. Dated 1944. (Photo by Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

No Turning Back

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.

Photograph of American troops approaching Omaha Beach, Normandy, on D-Day. Dated 20th Century. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

Inch by Inch

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.

D-Day Landings Under German Fire. (Photo by Bettmann/Corbis/Getty Images)

A Long Hard Fight

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.

Build-up of Allied forces landing at Omaha Beach, Normandy, France during the World War two D-Day landings 1944. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

British Warriors

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.

1940: British soldiers negotiating a barbed wire defence during a seashore invasion exercise. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Fighting through the Odds

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.

1943: Men of the Royal Marines, tucked away in the landing craft, prepare to take part in invasion exercises. (Photo by Keystone Features/Getty Images)

The Royal Marines

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.

Troops from the 48th Royal Marines at Saint-Aubin-sur-mer on Juno Beach, Normandy, France, during the D-Day landings, 6th June 1944. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Small Force Big Impact

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.

British soldiers at Juno Beach during the World War Two, D-Day landings in France 1944. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

Liberating France

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.

A group of officers and non-commissioned officers are updated by Lieutenant Neville Chandler who has returned from a briefing meeting about D-Day at headquarters. (Photo by Hulton-Deutsch/Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis via Getty Images)

Engineering Feats

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.

Mulberries made in dockyard at Portsmouth. Being towed in harbor. Portable docks used in D-Day landings (Photo by © CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

Supply’s for the Front

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.

World War II, After the assault of the troops on Normandy beaches, supply shifts and landing crafts unload huge quantities of equipment, A few days after the D-Day (June 6, 1944). (Photo by Photo12/UIG/Getty Images)

Coming Fast

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.

High angle view of American troops and Ford GPWs (light utility vehicles very similar to Willys MB, both of which are commonly refered to as jeeps) aboard an unidentified landing craft, England, early June, 1944. The vessel is loaded as part of the preparations for invasion of France, the Normandy Landings, which began on June 6, 1944. (Photo by PhotoQuest/Getty Images)

Praying for Victory

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 last mass prior to departure for France, World War II for the Normandy Landings, US Army, Wales, World War II, June 1944. (Photo by Tony Vaccaro/Getty Images)

French Resistance

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.

UNITED KINGDOM – JUNE 04: The French heroes of D-Day in Plymouth, France on June 04, 1944 – Hubert Faure, veteran of the French Commando Kieffer. June 4, 1944 at the departure station in Plymouth, Brigadier-General Lord Lovat in the outfit he will wear on June 6, speaks to the men of the 1stCommando Brigade who will open the way for the liberation army. (Photo by Xavier ROSSI/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

The Road to Germany

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.

June 1944: Engineers of the 531st Engineer Shore Regiment explode a German landmine during the Allied invasion of France. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

Help where you can Get It

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.

June 1944: A German officer explains details of a military map captured with him, to members of the Allied Expeditionary Force who made the initial landings in Northern France on 6 June 1944. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Preparing for More

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.

Pilots of the American 8th Air Force being debriefed by an Intelligence Officer following a daylight raid on occupied France during the Second World War in preparation for D-Day March 1944 (Photo by Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty Images)

Pride & Joy

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.

The population of Cannes celebrating the entry of Allied troops into the city. Cannes, 29th August 1944 (Photo by Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)


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.

Four French actresses are dancing with American soldiers on stage. 1944. La Cambe, Normandy, France. (Photo by Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images)

News of Victory

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.

(Original Caption) 6/6/1944-New York, NY: Scene in the French canteen on New York’s Second Avenue this morning when news of the Allied Invasion of Europe broke. French soldiers and sailors, many of them with families back home in France, cheered the news that liberation of their country is at last underway. Source: Gettyimages

History’s Lesson

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.

Resolute faces of paratroopers just before they took off for the initial assault of D-Day, June 6, 1944. The paratrooper in the foreground has just read General Eisenhower’s message of good luck and clasps his bazooka in the other hand. (Photo by PhotoQuest/Getty Images)

Gone but Never Forgotten

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.

American soldiers go ashore during the Normandy landings. landing operations on Tuesday, 6 June 1944 (termed D-Day) of the Allied invasion of Normandy in Operation Overlord during World War II. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

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