D-Day: Facts on the Epic 1944 Invasion That Changed the Course of WWII

H/T History.com.

Tuesday June 6,1944 changed the course of the war.

The Allied invasion of Normandy was among the largest military operations ever staged. Learn how many fighting forces took part, why it was called D-Day, stats on its planning, execution and more.

Without the brilliant planning and heroic sacrifices of the D-Day invasion, the Allies may have never defeated the Nazi forces in Europe. On June 6, 1944, more than 156,000 American, British and Canadian troops stormed 50 miles of Normandy’s fiercely defended beaches in northern France in an operation that proved to be a critical turning point in World War II. Below are key facts on the planning and execution of the epic Allied invasion.

1. D-Day Meaning: The ‘D’ in D-Day doesn’t actually stand for anything.

Unlike V-E Day (“Victory in Europe”) or V-J Day (“Victory over Japan”), the “D” in D-Day isn’t short for “departure” or “decision.” As early as World War I, the U.S. military used the term D-Day to designate the launch date of a mission. One reason was to keep the actual date out of the hands of spies; another was to serve as a placeholder until an actual date was chosen. They also used H-Hour for the specific time of the launch.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill orchestrated the D-Day plans.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill orchestrated the D-Day plans.

Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

2. The D-Day invasion took years of planning.


Allied leaders Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill knew from the start of the war that a massive invasion of mainland Europe would be critical to relieve pressure from the Soviet army fighting the Nazis in the east. Initially, a plan called “Operation Sledgehammer” called for an Allied invasion of ports in northwest France as early as 1943, but Roosevelt and Churchill decided to invade Northern Africa first and attack Europe’s “soft underbelly” through Italy.

3. D-Day was the largest amphibious invasion in military history.

According to the D-Day Center, the invasion, officially called “Operation Overlord,” combined the forces of 156,115 U.S., British and Canadian troops, 6,939 ships and landing vessels, and 2,395 aircraft and 867 gliders that delivered airborne troops.

4. Allied forces carried out a massive deception campaign in advance of D-Day.


The idea behind the ruse was to trick the Nazis into thinking that the invasion would occur at Pas-de-Calais, the closest French coastline to England. The Allies used fake radio transmissions, double agents, and even a “phantom army,” commanded by American General George Patton, to throw Germany off the scent.

5. A D-Day dress rehearsal was a fiasco.


Two months before D-Day, Allied forces conducted a disastrous dress rehearsal of the Normandy invasion on an evacuated English beach called Slapton Sands. Known as “Exercise Tiger,” 749 U.S. troops lost their lives after a fleet of German E-boats caught wind of the mock invasion and torpedoed American tank landing ships. Survivors described the Exercise Tiger fiasco as more terrifying than the D-Day landing on Omaha Beach.

Engineers of the 531st Engineer Shore Regiment explode a German landmine during the Allied invasion of France. 

Engineers of the 531st Engineer Shore Regiment explode a German landmine during the Allied invasion of France.

Keystone/Getty Images

6. Germany had fortified France’s coast.


Anticipating an Allied invasion somewhere along the French coast, Adolf Hitler charged Field Marshal Erwin Rommel with fortifying Nazi defenses in France. In 1943, Rommel completed construction of the “Atlantic Wall,” Germany’s 2,400-mile line of bunkers, landmines and beach and water obstacles. It’s estimated that the Nazis planted 4 million landmines along Normandy’s beaches.

Ammunition stored in the town square of Morten-in-Marsh, England in May 1944 in preparation for D-Day.

Ammunition stored in the town square of Morten-in-Marsh, England in May 1944 in preparation for D-Day.

Frank Scherschel/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

7. The U.S. shipped tons of supplies to the staging area in England.


Since Operation Overlord was launched from England, the U.S. military had to ship 7 million tons of supplies to the staging area, including 450,000 tons of ammunition.

8. Bad weather delayed the invasion.


Troops and supplies were in place by May, but bad weather delayed the launch date of the invasion. On June 5, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander in charge of Operation Overlord, decided that the invasion would happen the next day, in part because the weather was still rough and Nazi planes were grounded. That same day, 1,000 British bombers dropped 5,000 tons of munitions on Nazi gun batteries along the Normandy coast to cripple Germany’s defenses before the imminent invasion.

U.S. Army infantry men approaching Omaha Beach, Normandy, France on June 6, 1944.

U.S. Army infantry men approaching Omaha Beach, Normandy, France on June 6, 1944.

Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images

9. D-Day was carried out along five sections of beachfront.


Operation Overlord was divided among sections of beachfront along the Normandy coast codenamed, from West to East: “Utah,” “Omaha,” “Gold,” “Juno” and “Sword.”

American paratroopers attached to the static line just prior to jumping during the invasion of Normandy, France.

American paratroopers attached to the static line just prior to jumping during the invasion of Normandy, France.

/US Army Air Force/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

10. Paratroopers launched the operation before dawn .


The D-Day invasion began in the pre-dawn hours of June 6 with thousands of paratroopers landing inland on the Utah and Sword beaches in an attempt to cut off exits and destroy bridges to slow Nazi reinforcements. American paratroopers suffered high casualties at Utah beach, some drowning under heavy equipment in flooded marshland, others shot out of the sky by Nazi snipers. The British and Canadian paratroopers met less resistance at Sword beach and quickly took two key bridges.

Video: Guy Whidden, Paratrooper

11. More than 156,000 Allied ground troops stormed the beaches.


In wave after wave of thousands of landing ships, more than 156,000 Allied infantrymen stormed the five beaches. Facing them were around 50,000 Germans troops. Stormy seas made the landings incredibly difficult, with many regiments coming ashore far from their target destinations. At Omaha Beach, only two of the 29 amphibious tanks even made it to land on their own power (three were later transported to the beach). At Utah Beach, the American troops included 14 Comanche “code-talkers” who relayed critical tactical messages in their Native American tongue.

Massive landing and deployment of U.S. troops, supplies and equipment day after victorious D-Day action on Omaha Beach, barrage balloons keep watch overhead for German aircraft while scores of ships unload men and materials.

Massive landing and deployment of U.S. troops, supplies and equipment day after victorious D-Day action on Omaha Beach, barrage balloons keep watch overhead for German aircraft while scores of ships unload men and materials.

Time Life Pictures/National Archives/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

12. The toughest fighting was on Omaha Beach.


At Omaha Beach, bombing runs had failed to take out heavily fortified Nazi artillery positions. The first waves of American fighters were cut down in droves by German machine gun fire as they scrambled across the mine-riddled beach. But U.S. forces persisted through the day-long slog, pushing forward to a fortified seawall and then up steep bluffs to take out the Nazi artillery posts by nightfall. All told, around 2,400 American troops were killed, wounded or unaccounted for after the fighting at Omaha Beach.

Video: Frank DeVita describes landing at Omaha Beach

13. Canadian troops at Juno Beach captured the most territory.


Canadian soldiers also suffered terrible casualties at Juno Beach, battling rough seas before landing on a heavily defended strip of shoreline. Similar to the Americans at Omaha Beach, the first lines of Canadian troops were gunned down en masse by Nazi artillery—estimates put the initial casualty rate at 50 percent—before pushing beyond the beachfront and chasing the Germans inland. In the end, the Canadians at Juno captured more towns and territory than any other battalions in Operation Overlord.

14. All five beaches were secured by Allied forces by June 11.

Five days after the D-Day invasion, troops immediately began installing two massive temporary harbors that had taken six months to construct back in England. All told, the Allies unloaded approximately 2,500,000 men, 500,000 vehicles and 4,000,000 tons of supplies at the temporary harbors over the remaining course of the war.

Wounded U.S. soldiers of the 3rd Battery, 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st US Infantry Division, lean against chalk cliffs while eating and smoking after storming Omaha Beach in Normandy on D-Day.

Wounded U.S. soldiers of the 3rd Battery, 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st US Infantry Division, lean against chalk cliffs while eating and smoking after storming Omaha Beach in Normandy on D-Day.

Taylor/US Army/Getty Images

15. The D-Day invasion marked a turning point in the war.


The total Allied losses at Normandy are estimated to be at least 4,413. Total Allied casualties in the Battle of Normandy, which dragged on until August, topped 226,000. But thanks in part to the massive influx of troops and equipment, D-Day marked a decisive turning point in the war. Less than a year later, on May 7, 1945, Germany signed an unconditional surrender.

Top 10 Things To See When Visiting The D-Day Beaches In Normandy

 

 H/T  War History OnLine. 

Normandy Visit

The Normandy landings took place on D-Day, 6 June 1944, it was the largest seaborne invasion in history. Today millions of people visit Normandy every year to see for themselves where the battle was fought. We have compiled a list of 10 things we think you should see when you visit the battlefields of Normandy.

1. Pegasus Bridge & Museum

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On the night of 5 June 1944, a force of 181 men, led by Major John Howard took off from southern England in six Horsa gliders to capture what was to become known as Pegasus Bridge. The force was composed of D Company (reinforced with two platoons of B Company), 2nd Battalion, Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry; 20 sappers of the Royal Engineers of 249 Field Company (Airborne); and men of the Glider Pilot Regiment.

The object of this action was to prevent German armour from crossing the bridges and thus stop them from attacking the eastern flank of the landings at Sword Beach.

Five of the gliders landed as close as 47 yards from their objectives from 16 minutes past midnight. The attackers poured out of their battered gliders, completely surprising the German defenders, and took the bridges within 10 minutes.

The original Pegasus Bridge now resides in the grounds of the Pegasus Museum. The museum was inaugurated by HRH The Prince of Wales on 4 June 2000, Brigadier James Hill, Françoise Gondrée foundress with General Sir Richard Nelson Gale as Président and lies at the Eastern end of the current bridge.

Click for more info on the Pegasus bridge museum

2. Sword Beach – German Command bunker Ouistreham

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Just a stone’s throw from the beach and only a few minutes away from Pegasus Bridge, the Atlantic Wall Museum is housed in the former German Army HQ that controlled the batteries guarding the Orne Estuary.

Built from 5,000 tonnes of steel and concrete, this massive 17m tower which overlooks the seaside villas of Riva-Bella is unique of its kind. The tower has been restored so that it looks exactly as it did on the morning of June 6, 1944.

Inside the rooms on each of its six storeys have been entirely refurbished and returned to their original functions, including an engine room, barrack room, pharmacy, armory, ammunition store, map room, radio room, switchboard, model room and observation post with a powerful telemeter.

Spaces are also dedicated to the crack troops who breached the Atlantic Wall and the special equipment they used. The battle damage is still clearly visible.

More information can be found on their website or  Tripadvisor

3. Juno Beach Center

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The Juno Beach Centre is Canada’s Second World War museum and cultural centre located in Normandy, France. The Centre pays homage to the 45,000 Canadians who lost their lives during the War, of which 5,500 were killed during the Battle of Normandy and 359 on D-Day.

Opened in 2003 by veterans and volunteers with a vision to create a permanent memorial to all Canadians who served during the Second World War, the Centre’s mandate is to preserve this legacy for future generations through education and remembrance.

Since 2004, the Juno Beach Centre’s Canadian guides have conducted guided tours of Juno Park, leading visitors through the remains of the Atlantic Wall, recounting the history of the D-Day Landings. The guided tour gives local context specific to Courseulles and the Battle of Normandy and complements the visit of the museum which conveys the role of Canada throughout the entire Second World War.

The bunker located in front of the Juno Beach Centre was uncovered and its access was cleared with the creation of Juno Park in 2004. This bunker was a German observation post that was part of the Atlantic Wall defence system. In 1944, it contained radio equipment that allowed its occupants to communicate with other bunkers and coordinate the defence of the beach. A machine gun post was positioned on the top of the bunker. A steel dome (removed in the late 1970s) protected the “look-out”. It is a great example of the German strategy to fortify the port of Courseulles.

Guided tours now include visiting the tunnels that lead to the underground Command Post of the 6th Company, 736th Infantry Regiment of Hauptmann Grote which controlled the site in 1944.

More information on the Juno Beach website

4. D-Day Museum Arromanches

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It was on the beach of Arromanches that, during the Invasion of Normandy immediately after D-Day, the Allies established an artificial temporary harbour to allow the unloading of heavy equipment without waiting for the conquest of deep water ports such as Le Havre or Cherbourg.

Although at the centre of the Gold Beach landing zone, Arromanches was spared the brunt of the fighting on D-Day so the installation and operation of the port could proceed as quickly as possible without damaging the beach and destroying surrounding lines of communication. The port was commissioned on 14 June 1944.

This location was one of two sites chosen to establish the port facilities to unload the massive quantities of supplies and troops needed for the invasion during June 1944, the other was built further West at Omaha Beach. The British built huge floating concrete caissons which, after being towed from England, then were formed the walls and piers forming and defining the artificial port called the Mulberry harbour.

Even today sections of the Mulberry Harbour still remain with huge concrete blocks sitting on the sand and more can be seen further out at sea.

Learn more about the harbor in the D-Day Museum

5. Batterie de Longues

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The battery at Longues was situated between the landing beaches Omaha and Gold. On the night before the D-Day landings of 6 June 1944, the battery was subjected to a barrage comprising approximately 1,500 tons of bombs, although much of this landed on a nearby village.

The bombing was followed from 0537hrs on the morning of the landings by bombardment from the French cruiser Georges Leygues as well as the U.S. battleship Arkansas. The battery itself opened fire at 0605hrs and fired a total of 170 shots throughout the day, forcing the headquarters ship HMS Bulolo to retreat to safer water.

Three of the four guns were eventually disabled by British cruisers Ajax and Argonaut, though a single gun continued to operate intermittently until 1900hrs that evening. The crew of the battery (184 men, half of them over 40 years old) surrendered to the 231st Infantry Brigade the following day.

The heaviest damage was caused by the explosion of the ammunition for an AA gun, mounted by the British on the roof of casemate No.4, which killed several British soldiers.

Open to the public are four casemates with artillery plus the observation bunker (which was used in the movie “The Longest Day”)

More information can be found on Tripadvisor

6. Overlord Museum

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Located at a short distance of the famous “Omaha beach”, on the D514 facing the roundabout that provides access to the American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-mer. Overlord Museum chronicles the period of the Allied landing until the liberation of Paris.

The collection was collected by someone who was both a witness to the conflict and involved in the reconstruction of Normandy.

The museum contains the Leloup collection which has been built up over half a century of research, salvage and purchases of historic pieces from the Normandy battlefields. Everything from a reconnaissance plane, V1 flying bomb, more than 10 armoured fighting vehicles, 30 soft skin vehicles, artillery pieces, poster, signs, documents and personal objects all bearing witness to the terrible fighting in 1944.

Restoration of many of the vehicles to full running order , accurately equipped and painted have taken many thousands of hours by a dedicated team of skilled specialists. Some of the vehicles developed for war are unique as the factories and companies that produced them no longer exist, illustrating the preservation of the past technologies realized by the Overlord Museum Omaha beach

More information can be found on their website.

7. American Cemetery

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The Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in France is located in Colleville-sur-Mer, on the site of the temporary American St. Laurent Cemetery, established by the U.S. First Army on June 8, 1944 as the first American cemetery on European soil in World War II.

The cemetery site, at the north end of its half mile access road, covers 172.5 acres and contains the graves of 9,387 of our military dead, most of whom lost their lives in the D-Day landings and ensuing operations. On the Walls of the Missing, in a semicircular garden on the east side of the memorial, are inscribed 1,557 names. Rosettes mark the names of those since recovered and identified.

Normandy is ABMC’s most visited cemetery, receiving approximately one million visitors each year.

The visitors center depicts the significance and meaning of Operation OVERLORD and honors the values and sacrifices of the World War II generation.

More information can be found on the ABMC Website

8. Pointe Du Hoc & Range memorial

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The World War II Pointe du Hoc Ranger Monument is located on a cliff eight miles west of Normandy American Cemetery, which overlooks Omaha Beach, France. It was erected by the French to honor elements of the American Second Ranger Battalion under the command of Lt. Col. James E. Rudder. During the American assault of Omaha and Utah beaches on June 6, 1944, these U.S. Army Rangers scaled the 100-foot cliffs and seized the German artillery pieces that could have fired on the American landing troops at Omaha and Utah beaches. At a high cost of life, they successfully defended against determined German counterattacks.

 

The monument consists of a simple granite pylon positioned atop a German concrete bunker with tablets at its base inscribed in French and English. The monument was formally transferred to ABMC for perpetual care and maintenance on January 11, 1979. This battle-scarred area on the left flank of Omaha Beach remains much as the Rangers left it.

More information can be found on the ABMC Website

9. Utah Beach Museum

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In 1962, the mayor of Saint Marie du Mont, Michel de Vallavieille, decides to create the Utah Beach D-Day Museum as a living expression of the town’s appreciation and gratitude for the Allies’ sacrifices. The Museum will initially be housed in one of the German command bunkers of strongpoint WN5.
The Museum’s unique collection of artifacts is largely the result of his tireless efforts, and the friendships he developed over the years with officers and American veterans.

Almost 45 years later the Utah Beach Museum now recounts the story of D-Day in 10 sequences, from the preparation of the landing, to the final outcome and success. This comprehensive chronological journey immerses visitors in the history of the landing through a rich collection of objects, vehicles, materials, and oral histories.

Admire an original B26 bomber, one of only six remaining examples of this airplane still in existence worldwide, and relive the epic experience of American soldiers through the film “VICTORY IN THE SAND,”.

By the end of your visit, you will understand the strategic choices for the Allied invasion of Normandy and the reasons for the success at Utah Beach. Thanks to your visit, you will also have contributed to the safeguard of the site and the preservation of the memory of the Allied soldiers’ extraordinary sacrifices.

More information can be found on the Utah Beach Museum Website

10. Dead Mans Corner Museum

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Normandy, France, 6 June 1944. It is only just 00:15 when the American paratroopers of the 101st Airborne Division of General Maxwell D. Taylor parachute over the Normandy, thus becoming the first soldiers to reach the French territory; their main mission is to capture Carentan. This town is defended by the elite of the German troops, the paratroopers of Major von der Heydte, the “Green Devils” of the 6th Fallschirmjäger Regiment.

 

The Germans are entrenched in Saint-Côme-du-Mont, the last bastion before Carentan. They have the order to defend the town until their last man dies. It is crucial for the Americans to capture Carentan as quick as possible. They are waiting for the support of the light tanks of the 70th Battalion that landed in Utah Beach. The road from the beach is the only way they can go.

It comes from the beach, passes through Sainte-Marie-du-Mont and ends half way on the road Carentan/Saint-Côme-du-Mont, at a crossroads named – since then – the « Dead Man’s Corner” by the Americans.

A sole house stands at this crossroads; it is used by the German paratroopers as headquarters, then as aid post. The Dead Man’s Corner Museum is located in this very building, in the highly historical place of Saint-Côme-du-Mont.

Indeed, the house of the Dead Man’s Corner has been acquired by the Carentan Historical Center and turned into a museum.

During the first development phase of the D-Day Paratroopers Historical Center, it has gathered within this historical building an impressive and authentic collection of material used by the American and German paratroopers, related to this legendary site.

In 2015 the museum opened the D-Day Experience in which you have the chance of boarding a C-47 Dakota that participated in the invasion in a simulated parachute drop!

Learn more about the museum on the Dead Mans Corner website

More, Much More

We have selected but 10 of the museums and attractions that Normandy has to offer, there are dozens more museums, locations, towns and memorials that are well worth a visit.

 

Remembering D-Day

H/T  Town Hall.

Lest We Forget.

photo credit Town Hall

This year marks the 77th anniversary of D-Day, the Allied invasion of Normandy, France, and the long-awaited opening of a western front.

The year before, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin had repeatedly asked British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and American President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to open a second front on the Atlantic Coast of Europe, to provide his army on the east with relief.

General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the supreme allied commander in Europe, planned and carried out the liberation of Western Europe and invasion of Germany, code-named Operation Overlord. This large-scale invasion required hundreds of thousands of troops to be assembled and trained for amphibious landing. The plans had to account for beach attacks and required information on the terrain and weather tracking.

Before the invasion began, Eisenhower sent a message of encouragement and support to the troops. He compared the invasion with a “crusade” and noted that their goal was nothing less than “security for ourselves in a free world.” He expressed “confidence in your courage and devotion to duty and skill in battle,” while noting, “We will accept nothing less than full victory.”

He ended with a request for assistance from “God Almighty upon this great and noble undertaking.”

The invasion began on June 6, 1944. It included nearly 3 million soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines, some 11,000 planes and nearly 7,000 vessels carrying close to 200,000 tanks and other vehicles.

That night, Roosevelt broadcast his prayer. Biographer Jon Meacham noted, “the White House had distributed the text beforehand so that the audience — an estimated 100 million Americans — could recite the words with Roosevelt.”

“My fellow Americans: Last night, when I spoke with you about the fall of Rome, I knew at that moment that troops of the United States and our allies were crossing the Channel in another and greater operation. It has come to pass with success thus far. And so, in this poignant hour, I ask you to join with me in prayer.”

Imagine 100 million Americans reciting the words of this prayer with their president.

“Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.

“Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith. …

“They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest — until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men’s souls will be shaken with the violences of war.

“For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and good will among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.

“Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.

“And for us at home — fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters and brothers of brave men overseas — whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them — help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice.

“Many people have urged that I call the nation into a single day of special prayer. But because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts.

“Give us strength, too — strength in our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and the material support of our armed forces. …

“With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogancies. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister Nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace, a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. …

“Thy will be done, Almighty God. Amen.”

There were more than 10,000 casualties among the U.S., British and Canadian troops, but the invasion succeeded in changing the direction of the war. Less than a year later, on May 7, 1945, the Germans surrendered unconditionally to the Allies.

Take the time today to say a prayer of thanks and gratitude for those who fought for our country and won.

Remembering D-Day

H/T  Town Hall.

Lest We Forget.

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This year marks the 76 st anniversary of D-Day, the Allied invasion of Normandy, France, and the long-awaited opening of a western front.

The year before, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin had repeatedly asked British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and American President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to open a second front on the Atlantic Coast of Europe, to provide his army on the east with relief.

General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the supreme allied commander in Europe, planned and carried out the liberation of Western Europe and invasion of Germany, code-named Operation Overlord. This large-scale invasion required hundreds of thousands of troops to be assembled and trained for amphibious landing. The plans had to account for beach attacks and required information on the terrain and weather tracking.

Before the invasion began, Eisenhower sent a message of encouragement and support to the troops. He compared the invasion with a “crusade” and noted that their goal was nothing less than “security for ourselves in a free world.” He expressed “confidence in your courage and devotion to duty and skill in battle,” while noting, “We will accept nothing less than full victory.”

He ended with a request for assistance from “God Almighty upon this great and noble undertaking.”

The invasion began on June 6, 1944. It included nearly 3 million soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines, some 11,000 planes and nearly 7,000 vessels carrying close to 200,000 tanks and other vehicles.

That night, Roosevelt broadcast his prayer. Biographer Jon Meacham noted, “the White House had distributed the text beforehand so that the audience — an estimated 100 million Americans — could recite the words with Roosevelt.”

“My fellow Americans: Last night, when I spoke with you about the fall of Rome, I knew at that moment that troops of the United States and our allies were crossing the Channel in another and greater operation. It has come to pass with success thus far. And so, in this poignant hour, I ask you to join with me in prayer.”

Imagine 100 million Americans reciting the words of this prayer with their president.

“Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.

“Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith. …

“They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest — until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men’s souls will be shaken with the violences of war.

“For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and good will among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.

“Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.

“And for us at home — fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters and brothers of brave men overseas — whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them — help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice.

“Many people have urged that I call the nation into a single day of special prayer. But because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts.

“Give us strength, too — strength in our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and the material support of our armed forces. …

“With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogancies. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister Nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace, a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. …

“Thy will be done, Almighty God. Amen.”

There were more than 10,000 casualties among the U.S., British and Canadian troops, but the invasion succeeded in changing the direction of the war. Less than a year later, on May 7, 1945, the Germans surrendered unconditionally to the Allies.

Take the time today to say a prayer of thanks and gratitude for those who fought for our country and won.