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U.S. Army Center of Military History

The Normandy Invasion: Operation Overlord

70th Anniversary

When dawn broke on 6 June 1944, a great invasion force stood off the Normandy coast of France. During the hours that followed, more than 100,000 fighting men under the command of General Dwight D. Eisenhower moved ashore as part of one of the most complex amphibious operations conducted in World War II and one of the epic assaults of history.

Allied leaders had long recognized the importance of an attack across the English Channel to both liberate western Europe from Adolf Hitler's grip and relieve pressure on Soviet forces battling Germany on the Eastern Front. Preliminary planning had begun more than two years before, and over time the Allies secretly had assembled a multinational invasion force nearly 3 million strong in Great Britain. An elaborate deception effort involving inflatable tanks, false radio messages, and media reports of an army group commanded by Lt. Gen. George S. Patton helped to mislead the Germans regarding the location of the planned attack.

On D-Day, British and Canadian troops landed on GOLD, JUNO, and SWORD Beaches, while American forces debarked on UTAH and OMAHA Beaches to the west. A night drop also had delivered paratroopers to secure exits from the beaches. Although UTAH Beach was lightly defended, strong defenses and tough resistance from enemy troops at OMAHA Beach severely tested the soldiers who landed there and led First U.S. Army commander Lt. Gen. Omar N. Bradley to consider pulling his men out and sending them ashore elsewhere. Bravery, tenacity, and initiative, assisted by naval gunfire, nevertheless ensured that by day's end the 57,000 American troops who went ashore had secured both beaches and begun to move inland.

The cost for the United States was significant: more than 6,600 casualties, including some 1,500 or more killed. But the Allies now had a foothold in western Europe, and an end to Nazi tyranny was in sight.

CMH Publications

  • Normandy
  • Northern France
  • Omaha Beachhead
  • Utah Beach to Cherbourg
  • The War Against Germany- Europe and Adjacent Areas


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