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On This Day, 1944: The Normandy Landings Begin

D-Day
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The 6th of June 1944. D-Day. A momentous day in world history.

On the morning of 6th June the largest invasion fleet in history dominated the waters of the English Channel as Operation Overlord began. The amphibious landings that were about to take place cost an untold number of man hours to coordinate over several months.

The moment had come; Europe was to be liberated from Nazi oppression.

D-Day Begins

After hours of relentless bombardment by naval and air forces – and an early-morning assault by airborne troops – Allied forces stormed several beaches along the Normandy coast.

Under a hail of fire, thousands of British, American, Canadian and Free French troops seized five beaches designated under the names Omaha, Utah, Juno, Sword and Gold.

Soldiers from nearly a dozen more nations took part in the Normandy Landings, including men from Australia, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Greece, New Zealand, Norway, Poland and the Netherlands.

British troops stormed Sword and Gold while their Canadian comrades took Juno beach. The landings at the aforementioned beaches saw intense house-to-house fighting as troops scrambled to establish a beachhead.

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Along the coast at Omaha and Utah beaches, American troops stormed from their landing craft into a scene of utter chaos. GIs landed under heavy fire from fortified gun emplacements overlooking the beaches, which had also been littered with mines, barbed wire and obstacles.

Casualties were heaviest at Omaha, but by the day’s end all five beaches had been taken. Despite this apparent success, none of the initial objectives of the landings were successfully completed – and there was more heavy fighting to come in the weeks ahead as Allied forces pierced deeper into Nazi-held France.

Commandos of the 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division storm from a landing craft at Gold Beach.

Major towns such as Carentan and Saint-Lo were major objectives for the Allies during those tentative days after the landings. Caen, another key target during the Allied advance, wasn’t seized until the 21st July.

At least 10,000 Allied casualties were recorded on D-Day, with more than 4,400 confirmed dead. ⁠

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