June 6, 2018 marks the 74th anniversary of D-Day, when Allied forces invaded Normandy and set in motion the liberation of mainland Europe from Nazi Germany during World War II. While “the longest day” was a decisive moment in history, it will soon be simply a story in history books when those who actually experienced it have all passed away.
According to a 2014 article in The Independent, a British online newspaper, “The pivotal Western European battle of the Second World War is about to pass over the horizon of living memory.”
Below we share some interesting facts about this turning point in World War II:
The name D-Day is not unique to the Battle of Normandy. It’s a label given to the start of any military operation. And the “D” doesn’t stand for anything but instead is simply a placeholder for an actual date to prevent critical dates from falling into enemy hands or when the dates have yet to be determined. Four days before the invasion would be referred to as “D-4.”
The invasion of Normandy had many code names attached to it. Operation Overlord, conceived by Winston Churchill, referred to the entire invasion of Normandy. The famous seaborne part of the attack was called Operation Neptune, which landed troops on Normandy’s beaches, including Omaha and Utah beaches, which were also code names for the beaches where American forces landed. Juno referred to the sector of the coastline for which the Canadians were responsible, with Gold and Sword the code names for the British domain.
The perception of most people is that D-Day was largely an American operation. While General Dwight D. Eisenhower was the Allied commander, his deputy and all three service chiefs were British, and the vast majority of ships and aircraft (70-plus percent) were also British.
In the months before D-Day, the Allies used deception tactics, such as fake equipment, a phantom army, double agents and fraudulent radio transmissions, to make the Germans believe the invasion target was Pas-de-Calais (the narrowest point between Britain and France) rather than Normandy.
When the planned date of the date finally arrived, the invasion was delayed a day—from June 5 to 6—because of bad weather.
More than 160,000 Allied troops, including 5,000 ships and 13,000 aircraft, landed along a 50-mile stretch of the heavily fortified coastline of Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944. Approximately 10,000 soldiers were killed or wounded in this effort.