UPDATED 7:28 AM PT – Monday, June 6, 2022
One of the most important operations in World War II took place on June 6, 1944 One day prior, General Dwight Eisenhower approved ‘Operation Overlord’ an ambitions strategy in Normandy, France that would be the largest seaborne invasion in history.
Shortly after midnight on this day in 1944, the first part of the operation was put into action in the air. Numerous American and British bombers attacked targets along the coast. In addition to that, thousands of allied paratroopers dropped into the surrounding area while other allied forces used gliders to secure key structures like bridges.
In the water, minesweepers cleared the area in preparation for the landing. Then at 6:30 a.m. the first Higgins boats would hit Normandy’s shores, which were divided into five sectors: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword Beach.
"I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty, and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory."
— Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III (@SecDef) June 6, 2022
Weather not only proved to be a challenge in the air, but in the water as well as many of the crafts were blown east of their intended positions. However, there was a greater obstacle when the allied troops made landfall. Axis opposition was heavy as the allies not only faced gunfire, but a beach strewn with obstacles.
The casualties were numerous with at least 10,000 on allied side, but so too was achievement as nearly 160,000 troops crossed the English Channel on D-Day. One of those allied troops was Theodore Roosevelt Junior. At age 56, he’s believed to be oldest person to storm the beaches, but he wasn’t the only Roosevelt. His son Quentin landed at Omaha Beach.
While all of the operation’s ambitious goals were not achieved on the first day, the heroic efforts of the allied forces on D-Day eventually proved vital in the European theater. In 1984, on the 40th anniversary of D-Day, Ronald Reagan said this about the brave troops that stormed Normandy on this day in 1944:
“Strengthened by their courage, heartened by their value, and borne by their memory, let us continue to stand for the ideals for which they lived and died…”