Today in 1944, D-Day! Allied troops stormed Normandy in German-held France. D-Day was supposed to take place in May 1944, but poor weather conditions and an insufficient buildup of supplies delayed the landing until June. The battle for Normandy would continue for two months, concluding in late August 1944, effectively ending the war in Europe (although it should be noted that Germany would not surrender until April 1945).
General Dwight Eisenhower led the Allied preparations for what was known as Operation Overlord, the invasion of Europe from the English Channel. The Allies gave themselves the upper hand by working to confuse Germany, up until the attack, German leadership believed that the attack would happen not at Normandy but at another beach, Calais. Believing this, Hitler delayed sending two reserve divisions to Normandy, allowing for the Allies to gain a foothold in France.
Three million men, 11,000 aircrafts, and 2,000 vessels were all a part of D-Day! Talk about fire power! The troops included men from Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. There were also smaller forces from Free France, Poland, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Greece, the Netherlands, and Norway. The original Operation Overlad plan was for a ninety-day campaign in Normandy with the goal of reaching the River Seine, pushing Germany out of France. Historians debate when the actual end of the combat in Normandy occurred, ranging from July 24 to August 25, to August 30, 1944. This is largely due to the start day of Operation Cobra on July 24, with Americans leading the battle. However, the ultimate goal of pushing the German troops to the Seine was not achieved until August 30, leading to the confusion. To add to this, the United States, Canada, and Great Britain also all hold different definitions of when the battle ended, with Canada claiming the latest date, September 1. This is what historians argue about! We are fun at parties!
The Victory in Normandy was followed by pushing Germany out into the Western Front, requiring them to pull support from their Soviet and Italian fronts. This eased some of the pressure the Soviet Union had been facing at its front. For years, Stalin had been demanding the Allies to open a second European front to deflect some of Germany’s troops and allow the Soviet Union to recoup from years of defending its own borders. Until 1944, the requests had been denied. Stalin requested the additional front so often that the running joke was that he knew only knew four English words: “yes,” “no,” and “second front.”
The cost of Normandy was high for all sides, with over 200,000 casualties for the Allies (10% of the forces landed in France) and between 288,000 and 450,000 casualties for the Germans.
D-Day not only was the beginning of the end for Nazi Germany, it also flagged the start of the race for Europe, which some consider to be the start of the Cold War.