What Happened on D-Day on June 6, 1944?

By Staff WriterLast Updated Mar 30, 2020 2:12:29 AM ET
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On June 6, 1944, the Allied powers launched D-Day, which was the largest seaborne invasion in history, and began the overtaking of German-occupied Western Europe during World War II. Code-named "Operation Overlord," the invasion included a storming of the beaches of Normandy, France.

The beachheads were split into five sections: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword. Taking the beachheads cost the Allies considerable casualties, where approximately 10,000 men were lost, with 4,414 confirmed dead. The landing crafts dropped soldiers into heavy machine gun fire, where the German's had set up formidable defenses along the coast. The beaches were laden with barbed wire, mines and other obstacles, making the invasion extremely deadly.

Originally, the Pas de Calais was considered a potential landing site for the invasion, being that it was the closest continental point to Great Britain. Due to this, the Germans fortified Pas de Calais the most by far. However, the allied powers soon chose Normandy as the landing site for the invasion because the geographic point offered a broader front of attack, allowing simultaneous attacks of Cherbourg, various important coastal ports and an overland push to Paris and then into Germany.

The invasion was originally scheduled for May 1, 1944. The date then changed to June 5, but inclement weather pushed the commencement of the invasion to June 6. D-Day is considered one of the most decisive moments of World War II. Many soldiers died that day, and today, the Normandy region contains numerous memorials, cemeteries and museums.