Operation Neptune: Normandy at Seventy-Five
It was the largest seaborne invasion in history and a decisive Allied victory against Nazi Germany.
On June 6, 1944, approximately 156,000 Allied troops stormed the beaches of Normandy. They were preceded by extensive aerial, naval, and airborne assaults, and this effort started the push of Nazi Germany out of France. It built the foundations of victory on the Western Front in World War II. The landings commenced at 6:30am local time across a 50-mile stretch of French coastline divided into five sectors: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword. The weather was bad but the fighting was worse, from heavy fire from elevated gun emplacements to anti-personnel measures like wooden stakes, metal tripods, and barbed wire that slowed the Allied advance.
The operation was a masterstroke in planning, including a large deception codenamed Operation Bodyguard that mislead the Germans. The landings were delayed a full day due to bad weather, and if the landings had not occurred on that Tuesday morning, they would have had to wait an additional two weeks for the right tides and conditions. The Allies even failed to achieve their goals on the first day, and fighting continued for days afterward. The five beaches were not connected until six days after the initial assault.
German casualties were estimated as high as 9,000 soldiers. Allied casualties numbered more than 10,000, with nearly 4,500 confirmed dead.
I want to visit Normandy someday to pay my respects and learn more about this turning point in history.
You can learn more about the depth and complexity of this operation from the multiple books and films available. Take some time today to remember these heroes and their historic sacrifices in the face of fascism.