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D-Day: 70 Years Ago Today

On June 6th, 1944, Allied forces began landing alongthe coast of Normandy, in France. The event is knownas D-Day. It was the beginning of a campaign by theUnited States and its allies to end the Germanoccupation of Europe. D-Day was a turning point inWorld War II.

By the end of 1943, the German military had suffereddefeats and was weakened. But it was still powerfulenough to control France, Belgium, and much of therest of Western Europe.

The time had come for the United States and its Alliesto liberate the continent. The Supreme AlliedCommander, American General Dwight Eisenhower,used radio to speak to the troops preparing to land onNormandy.

“Soldiers, sailors and airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force: you are aboutto embark upon the great crusade, toward which we have striven these manymonths. In company with our brave allies and brothers in arms on otherfronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, theelimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, andsecurity for ourselves in a free world.”

The German leader Adolf Hitler had known an invasion was coming. But hedid not know where the Allied force would strike. Most Germans expected theAllies would attack at Calais, in northern France. But they were wrong. General Eisenhower planned to attack Normandy, across the EnglishChannel.

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France D-Day Media

Eisenhower had 150,000 men and 12,000 airplanes for the attack. But mostimportantly, he had surprise on his side. Even after the invasion began,General Erwin Rommel and other German military leaders could not believethat the Allies had really attacked at Normandy. But attack they did. On thenight of June 5th, tens of thousands of Allied soldiers parachuted behindGerman lines.

Then, Allied planes began dropping bombs on German defenses. And in themorning, thousands of ships approached the coastline, carrying men andsupplies.

The battle quickly became fierce and bloody. American, British and otherAllied forces moved on five beaches from their landing craft. The Germanshad strong defenses. They were better-protected than the Allied troops on theopen beaches. But the Allies had more troops.

On all but one of those areas, German resistance was lighter than expected. At Omaha Beach, two American divisions were slowed by the rising tide andheavy German gunfire. It was the fiercest and bloodiest battle of D-Day.

Slowly, the Allied soldiers moved forward on one part of the Normandy coast,then another. The Allies continued to build up their forces in France. Withinone week they had brought nearly 90,000 vehicles and 600,000 men intoFrance. And they pushed forward.

A total of 3,000 American soldiers died on Omaha Beach alone 70 years ago. On the first day of the invasion, almost 10,000 Allied troops were killed orwounded.

The Battle of Normandy continued through August, as Allied troops fought theGermans through France. In less than four months, General Eisenhower and the Allied forces had regained almost all of France. More than 400,000 Alliedand German troops were wounded, killed or missing in action.


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