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The 80th Anniversary of D-Day; Operation Overlord

By, Michelle Hazekamp

June 6, 2024

By Air & Sea

This year commemorates the 80th anniversary of D-Day, whereby on June 6, 1944, an Allied invasion of western Europe was launched, The simultaneous landing of U.S., British, and Canadian forces on five separate beachheads in Normandy, France. Code named, "Operation Overlord," it was a master plan in the making for over a year and became what known as the largest invasion by sea in history. The heroic memory of this great feat lives on as a reminder of what our freedom costs.

The Occupation of Hitler

A year before the invasion that would eventually lead to the liberation of western Europe, Adolf Hitler’s armed forces occupied all the territory it had gained in the blitzkrieg campaigns of 1939–41, most of its Russian conquests of 1941–42 and retained its foothold on the coast of North Africa. Although the Russian counteroffensives had pushed back the perimeter of Hitler’s Europe in the east, the Nazi's and their allies still controlled the whole of mainland Europe, except for neutral Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, and Sweden.

Over a Year in the Making

Operation Overlord was the subject of careful planning that lasted for over a year, and was scheduled to launch in May, 1944, however, was postponed to June 5th due to difficulties in assembling landing craft, and bad weather conditions further delayed the launch by another 24 hours. In the early hours of June 6, 1944, 822 aircraft, carrying parachutists or towing gliders, roared overhead to the Normandy landing zones; a fraction of the air armada of 13,000 aircraft that would support D-Day. That mornining, an, armada of 3,000 landing craft, 2,500 other ships, and 500 naval vessels, escorts and bombardment ships left the ports of England, crossing the English Channel towards the French coast.

No Escape

In preparation for the June 6th invasion, between April 1 and June 5, 1944, the British and American strategic air forces deployed 11,000 aircraft, flew 200,000 sorties, and dropped 195,000 tons of bombs on French rail and road networks as well as German airfields, radar installations, military bases, and coastal artillery batteries. Two thousand Allied aircraft were lost in these preliminaries, but the air campaign succeeded in breaking all the bridges across the Seine and Loire rivers and thus isolated the invasion area from the rest of France.

The Infamous Airborne Takes the Lead!

The invasion of Normandy began with a large-scale parachute drop that included 13,100 soldiers of the 82nd and the 101st Airborne Divisions. The attack occurred during the night in the early hours of June 6, 1944, and was the vanguard of the Allied operations in Normandy. The paratroopers were to disrupt the German defense lines and use the element of surprise while the main force landed on the beaches. The landings needed to be carried out precisely so that the troops wouldn’t scatter and fall victim to German patrols.

Dropped into Enemy Hands

Even though the operation was well planned, bad weather interfered with the accuracy of the drops which caused hundreds of men to land far from their drop zones and directly into German forces. Along with the bad weather and fog, the accuracy of the drops was also hindered by a lack of navigators on many of the aircraft, radio silence that prevented warnings when adverse weather was encountered, German anti-aircraft fire and emergency usage of Rebecca by numerous lost aircraft, jamming the system and causing malfunctions. Despite the difficult start and surrounded by the enemy, they began organizing and completing their objectives. Fortunately, the dispersal of the American Airborne troops and the nature of the hedgerow terrain caused confusion among the Germans and fragmented their response.

One of the Most Daring Operation in Modern History

After the battle, the number of US casualties during the airborne operation was 42 C-47 carrier planes , 1,240 (182 killed, 557 wounded, and 501 missing) members of the 101st and 1,259 (156 killed, 347 wounded, and 756 missing) from the 82nd. The strategic importance of the Airborne landings to the overall success of the invasion of Normandy is huge and remain one of the most daring operations in the history of modern warfare.

Facing Heavy Artillary

In the meantime, the seaborne units began to land about 6:30 AM on June 6. The British and Canadians landed on Gold, Juno, and Sword beaches with light opposition, and so did the Americans at Utah Beach.. The U.S. 1st Division at Omaha Beach, however, encountered heavy attacks by machine gunners as the troops waded ashore, and the landing at Omaha was threatened to fail. Dedicated local leadership eventually got the troops inland—though at a cost of more than 2,000 casualties.

Liberation Day

Once the beaches had been secured by U.S., British and Canadian forces, troops pushed inward fighting German the German offenses with the Airborne and tank divisions pushing in from the opposite direction, liberating the French towns along the way. After 10 weeks of intense fighting, the Allies proceeded to Paris. On August 25, the German city commander in Paris, Dietrich von Choltitz, surrendered to the French Resistance and to Jacques-Philippe Leclerc, the 2nd Armoured commander. On August 26 Gen. Charles de Gaulle, head of the Free French, made a triumphal parade down the Champs-Élysées to Notre-Dame Cathedral, where a mass of victory was celebrated.

The Cost of Freedom

Liberation had come at a high cost: more than 200,000 dead, wounded, and missing from the Allied armies, more than 300,000 from the German. French civilian losses numbered more than 12,000. This is the cost of freedom.

Remember & Honor

May we reflect on these great hero's who fought on this day, and continued on to fight more battles. Honor their memory, sacrifices and dedication to preserving the freedoms we enjoy today. As we take on the battles for freedom today, we must ensure their sacrifices were not made in vain.

Hour by Hour Time Line of D-Day:

  • 1:30 a.m.: U.S. 101st Airborne Division begins landing behind the most western of the five landing beaches, codenamed Utah.

  • 2:30 a.m.: U.S. 82nd Airborne Division also lands but many units are scattered.

  • 5 a.m.: Allied naval forces begin shelling German coastal defenses.

  • 6:30 a.m.: Beach landings begin.

How D-Day progressed on the five beaches:

  • Utah: Assaulted by U.S. forces. This beach saw the fewest Allied casualties: 197 troops killed or wounded among 23,000 that land.

  • Omaha: The longest, most heavily defended and bloodiest beach. U.S. forces suffer 2,400 casualties but still land 34,000 troops by nightfall.

  • Gold: Taken by British forces, which land 25,000 soldiers and push German forces inland, for 400 casualties.

  • Juno: Joint Canadian-British assault lands 21,000 troops; more than 1,150 casualties.

  • Sword: Assisted by French and British commandoes, the British 2nd Army takes the easternmost beach, landing 29,000 soldiers for 630 casualties.

Fact Sheet: The D-Day Invasion at Normandy – June 6, 1944

  • Invasion Date: June 6, 1944 – The D in D-Day stands for “day” since the final invasion date was unknown and weather dependent.

  • Allied Forces: 156,000 Allied troops from The United States, The United Kingdom, Canada, Free France and Norway.

  • Invasion Area: The Allied code names for the beaches along the 50-mile stretch of Normandy coast targeted for landing were Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword. Omaha was the costliest beach in terms of Allied casualties.

  • The Armada: 5,000 ships and landing craft, 50,000 vehicles and 11,000 planes.

  • Commanders:

United States – Dwight D. Eisenhower, Omar Bradley.

The United Kingdom – Bernard Law Montgomery, Trafford Leigh-Mallory, Arthur Tedder, Miles Dempsey, Bertram Ramsay.

Germany – Erwin Rommel, Gerd von Rundstedt, Friedrich Dollmann

  • Casualties: Numbers represent total killed, wounded, missing or captured-

United States – 6,603 (1,465 killed)

United Kingdom – 2,700

Canada – 1,074 (359 killed)

Germany – Estimated between 4,000 – 9,000

  • The Outcome: By June 11, with the beachheads firmly secured, more than 326,000 Allied troops had crossed with more than 100,000 tons of military equipment. Paris was liberated on August 25. Germany surrendered on May 8, 1945.

  • Veterans Today: The number of remaining WWII vets is estimated at just over 1 million. There is no official resource for how many D-Day veterans remain with us today, however, 16.1 million Americans served in WWII. At the last estimate in 2023, 119,550 were still alive.

The Veterans Administration has detailed numbers on total WWII vets remaining available at:



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