The “D” in D-Day stands for “day,” because the final invasion date was unknown and weather-dependent.
Allied forces involved
156,000 troops from primarily the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, along with France, Poland, Belgium, Netherlands, Australia, Greece, Czechoslovakia, Norway, New Zealand.
The Allied code names for the five beaches along the 50-mile stretch of Normandy coast targeted for landing: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword.
6,900 ships and landing craft
United States: Dwight D. Eisenhower, Omar Bradley
United Kingdom: Bernard Law Montgomery, Trafford Leigh-Mallory, Arthur Tedder, Miles Dempsey, Bertram Ramsay
Germany: Erwin Rommel, Gerd von Rundstedt, Friedrich Dollmann
The planning and logistics behind Operation Overlord, the code name for the invasion of Normandy, were unparalleled in history: landing vast amounts of men and equipment by the end of D-Day.
Fighting was the most intense — and the casualties the highest — at Omaha Beach and Juno Beach.
» Omaha Beach was six miles wide and the largest of the five beaches where Allied forces went ashore. The Americans were assigned to this beach.
German guns had been well placed and machine gun fire tore into the Americans as they disembarked. Small naval craft got as close as possible and attacked the German gun emplacements. The attack distracted the Germans from a singular focus on the Americans on the beach. Led by U.S. Rangers, the U.S. troops scaled the cliffs overlooking the beach. By midday, German resistance was considerably lessened. By nightfall, the Americans had gained a hold on the beach and its immediate area.
The Americans suffered 2,400 casualties at Omaha, but 34,000 troops had been landed by the end of the day.
» Juno Beach was assigned to the British 2nd Army, and the main force that attacked was from the Canadian 3rd Infantry Division. The mission was to reach a road and form a link between the British beaches at Gold and Sword.
The attackers had wanted to land at low tide with the German defensive measures exposed, but they landed three hours later. The demolition engineers were unable to destroy all the now-submerged targets, and mines took out about 30 percent of the landing craft. Many Canadian soldiers had to wade ashore. When they reached the beach they were hit by a wave of firepower from German soldiers who had fortified the area immediately behind the beach. Once the attacking soldiers reached the German positions they were able to move inland with some speed.
D-Day dead: 4,413
1,914 other Allied nations
Entire Battle of Normandy
More than 425,000 Allied and German troops were killed, wounded or went missing.
» More than 209,000 Allied casualties, with nearly 37,000 dead among the ground forces and another 16,714 among the air forces. Of the Allied casualties, 83,045 were from the 21st Army Group (British, Canadian and Polish ground forces) and 125,847 from the U.S. ground forces.
» 27 war cemeteries hold the remains of more than 110,000 dead from both sides: 77,866 German, 9,386 American, 17,769 British, 5,002 Canadian and 650 Poles.
» Between 15,000 and 20,000 French civilians were killed, mainly as a result of Allied bombing. Thousands more fled their homes to escape the fighting.
By June 11, the beachheads were firmly secured. Paris was liberated on Aug. 25. Germany surrendered on May 8, 1945.
Sources: National WWII Museum in New Orleans, D-Day Museum of Portsmouth, Britain