Fact Sheet D-Day, 6 June 1944 Normandy, France


Prelude to Operation Overlord

During the first six months of 1944, the United States and Great Britain concentrated land, naval, and air forces in England to prepare for Operation Overlord, the assault on Hitler's "Fortress Europe." While the Soviet Union tied down a great portion of the enemy's forces, the western Allies marshaled their resources, trained their forces, separately and jointly, for the operation, and fine tuned the invasion plans to take full advantage of their joint and combined capabilities.

Before the invasion, the air and sea components played major roles. The 12,000 planes of the Allied air forces swept the Luftwaffe from the skies, photographed enemy defenses, dropped supplies to the resistance, bombed railways, attacked Germany's industries and isolated the battlefield. The Allies' naval component was similarly active during the buildup. The navies escorted convoys, patrolled and protected the English Channel, reconnoitered beaches and beach defenses, conducted amphibious rehearsals and organized and loaded a mighty flotilla to land the assault forces in France.

Meanwhile, the nine army divisions (three airborne and six infantry) from the United States, Britain and Canada trained and rehearsed their roles in the carefully choreographed operation. Rangers climbed cliffs, engineers destroyed beach obstacles, quartermasters stockpiled supplies and infantrymen waded through the English surf as each honed the skills necessary for the invasion's success.


Normandy Invasion

Supreme Commander--General Dwight D. Eisenhower
Allied Expeditionary Naval Forces--Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay
21st Army Group--General Sir Bernard L. Montgomery
Allied Expeditionary Air Forces--Air Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh- Mallory


United States Army      		United Kingdom Land Forces

First Army               		Second British Army
V Corps                  		1st British Corps
VII Corps                		30th British Corps
1st Infantry Division   	 	3rd British Infantry Division
4th Infantry Division   	 	6th British Airborne Division
29th Infantry Division  		50th British Infantry Division
82nd Airborne Division   		3rd Canadian Infantry Division
101st Airborne Division

Air Forces

U.S. Army Air Forces     		Royal Air Forces

Eighth Air Force         		2nd Tactical Air Force
Ninth Air Force

Allied Expeditionary Naval Forces

Western Task Force     	  	Eastern Task Force
(United States)       		 (British)

D-Day Operations

The invasion itself gave prominence to land forces but provided major roles for air and sea components. Allied air forces carried three airborne divisions into battle, protected the force as it crossed the English Channel, and attacked targets throughout the invasion area before and after the landing in support of the assault forces. More than 5,000 ships--from battleships to landing craft--carried, escorted and landed the assault force along the Normandy coast. Once the force was landed, naval gunfire provided critical support for the soldiers as they fought their way across the beaches.

In the invasion's early hours, more than 1,000 transports dropped paratroopers to secure the flanks and beach exits of the assault area. Amphibious craft landed some 130,000 troops on five beaches along 50 miles of Normandy coast between the Cotentin Peninsula and the Orne River while the air forces controlled the skies overhead. In the eastern zone, the British and Canadians landed on GOLD, JUNO and SWORD Beaches. The Americans landed on two beaches in the west--UTAH and OMAHA. As the Allies came ashore, they took the first steps on the final road to victory in Europe.


Omaha Beach

Omaha Beach


The landing by regiments of the 1st and 29th Infantry divisions and Army Rangers on OMAHA Beach was even more difficult than expected. When the first wave landed at 6:30 a.m., the men found that naval gunfire and pre-landing air bombardments had not softened German defenses or resistance. Along the 7,000 yards of Normandy shore German defenses were as close to that of an Atlantic Wall as any of the D-Day beaches. Enemy positions that looked down from bluffs as high as 170 feet, and water and beach obstacles strewn across the narrow strip of beach, stopped the assault at the water's edge for much of the morning of D-Day.

By mid-morning, initial reports painted such a bleak portrait of beachhead conditions that Lt. Gen. Omar Bradley, United States First Army commander, considered pulling off the beach and landing troops elsewhere along the coast. However, during these dark hours, bravery and initiative came to the fore. As soldiers struggled, one leader told his men that two types of people would stay on the beach--the dead and those going to die--so they'd better get the hell out of there, and they did.

Slowly, as individuals and then in groups, soldiers began to cross the fire-swept beach. Supported by Allied naval gunfire from destroyers steaming dangerously close to shore, the American infantrymen gained the heights and beach exits and drove the enemy inland. By day's end V Corps had a tenuous toehold on the Normandy coast, and the force consolidated to protect its gains and prepare for the next step on the road to Germany.

Omaha Beach


Utah Beach

In the predawn darkness of June 6, the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions were air dropped behind UTAH Beach to secure four causeways across a flooded area directly behind the beach and to protect the invasion's western flank. Numerous factors caused the paratroopers to miss their drop zones and become scattered across the Norman countryside. However, throughout the night and into the day the airborne troops gathered and organized themselves and went on to accomplish their missions. Ironically, the paratroopers' wide dispersion benefited the invasion. With paratroopers in so many places, the Germans never developed adequate responses to the airborne and amphibious assaults.

The 4th Infantry Division was assigned to take UTAH Beach. In contrast with OMAHA Beach, the 4th Division's landing went smoothly. The first wave landed 2,000 yards south of the planned beach--one of the Allies' more fortuitous opportunities on D-Day. The original beach was heavily defended in comparison to the light resistance and few fixed defenses encountered on the new beach. After a personal reconnaissance, Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt Jr., who accompanied the first wave, decided to exploit the opportunity and altered the original plan. He ordered that landing craft carrying the successive assault waves land reinforcements, equipment and supplies to capitalize on the first wave's success. Within hours, the beachhead was secured and the 4th Division started inland to contact the airborne divisions scattered across its front.

As in the OMAHA zone, at day's end the UTAH Beach forces had not gained all of their planned objectives. However, a lodgement was secured, and, most important, once again the American soldier's resourcefulness and initiative had rescued the operation from floundering along the Normandy coast.


Utah Beach Today


Utah Beach YesterYear


D-Day, The 6th of June
, Center of Military History Map Guide, Washington, D.C. 1994
Normandy, U.S. Army Campaigns of World War II
pamphlet, Center of Military History, Washington, D.C. 1994
Dwight D. Eisenhower Library, 200 S.E. 4th Street, Abilene, Kansas 67410 (913) 263-4751

June 6, 1944 changed the course of modern history.
Yet in the United States, there had been no national memorial to D-Day
until June 6, 2001.

Byron Dickson & Associates, Architect
Principal Sculptor, Jim Brothers
Sculptor, Matt Kirby


It is hard to conceive the epic scope of this decisive battle that foreshadowed the end of Hitler's dream of Nazi domination. Overlord was the largest air, land, and sea operation undertaken before or since June 6, 1944. The landing included over 5,000 ships, 10,000 airplanes, and 150,000 service men and women.

After years of meticulous planning and seemingly endless training, for the Allied Forces, it all came down to this: The boat ramp goes down, then jump, swim, run, and crawl to the cliffs. Many of the first young men (most not yet 20 years old) entered the surf carrying eighty pounds of equipment. They faced over 200 yards of beach before reaching the first natural feature offering any protection. Blanketed by small-arms fire and bracketed by artillery, they found themselves in hell.

When it was over, the Allied Forces had suffered nearly 10,000 casualties; more than 4,000 were dead. Yet somehow, due to planning and preparation, and due to the valor, fidelity, and sacrifice of the Allied Forces, Fortress Europe had been breached.


What Does "D-Day" Mean

The terms D-Day and H-Hour are used for the day and hour on which a combat attack or operation is to be initiated. They designate day and hour for an operation when the actual day and hour have not yet been determined or announced. The letters are derived from the words for which they stand, "D" for the day of the invasion and "H" for the hour the operation actually begins.

When used in combination with figures and plus or minus signs, these terms indicate the length of time preceding or following a specific action. Thus, H-3 means 3 hours before H-hour, and D+3 means 3 days after D-day. H+75 minutes means H-hour plus 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Planning papers for large-scale operations are made up in detail long before, specific dates are set. Phased orders are planned for execution on D-Day or H-Hour minus or plus a certain number of days, hours, or minutes.

According to the U.S. Army's Center of Military History, the earliest known use of these terms is in Field Order Number 9, First Army, American Expeditionary Forces. It is dated September 7, 1918: "The first Army will attack at H hour on D day with the object of forcing the evacuation of the St. Mihiel Salient."

D-Day for the invasion of Normandy was set for June 5, 1944, but it actually occurred on June 6. Therefore, D-Day, as it applies to Overlord, is June 6, 1944.

Source: The General Service Schools, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, Combat Orders
(Fort Leavenworth, Kansas: The General Service Schools Press, 1922).


D-Day Glossary:

Allied Expeditionary Force (AEF): The Allied force under the command of General Dwight D. Eisenhower. Twelve nations supplied troops and matèriel for the AEF: United States, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Czechoslovakia, France, Greece, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, and the United Kingdom.

Allies: Countries that fought against the Axis Powers.

Axis Powers: The alliance of Germany, Italy, and Japan.

Belgian Gate: A large metal structure hidden by high tides and designed to rip the bottom out of larger landing craft.

Churchill, Sir Winston: Prime Minister of Britain during World War II.

Concrete Bunker: Steel-reinforced concrete casement providing cover and concealment for German guns and gunners.

DUKW: An amphibious 2 1/2 ton utility truck used to deliver supplies, ammunition, and weapons from ship to shore. Pronounced "duck," the acronym reflects the date it entered the inventory (D[ate]: 1942); the kind of vehicle it is (U[tility], amphib.); its forward drive (K or front-wheel drive); and its rear drive (W or two rear driving axles).

Eisenhower, Dwight D.: Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force on D-Day. Eisenhower was named commanding general of the European theatre in June 1942 and the following November assumed command of the Allied Expeditionary Forces for the invasion of western Europe. In December that year, Eisenhower was promoted to the five star rank of General in the Army. He later became the 34th President of the United States.

Fortitude: The shadow operation conceived to conceal Overlord.

Gooseberries: Artificial harbors created by sinking Allied ships.

Hedgehog: Obstacles hidden by high tides and composed of three metal beams welded together designed to scuttle landing craft.

Homefront: A term used to describe the United States mainland during W.W. II.

LCA: Landing craft, assault

LCI: Landing craft, infantry

LCM: Landing craft, medium

LCT: Landing craft, tank

LCVP: Landing craft, vehicle and personnel - (Higgins Boat) Capable of carrying up to 36 men.

LST: Landing ship, tank

Mulberries: Artificial harbors constructed by the British. They were made from caissons and steel sections that were towed across the Channel and positioned near Omaha and Gold beaches on D-Day.

Nazi: Abbreviation for the National Socialist German Workers' Party.

Neptune: The code name for the naval operations supporting Overlord.

Overlord: Code name for the D-Day invasion, June 6, 1944.

Panzer: German battle tanks.

SHAEF: Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force

Teller Mine: German antitank mine. "Waterproof" versions of the Teller mine were mounted atop poles. Hidden by high tides, these mines were formidable obstacles for landing craft.

Tetrahedron: An underwater obstacle taking its name from its geometrical shape; used by the German's to scuttle landing craft.

UDT: Underwater demolition team.

WAAC: Women's Auxiliary Army Corps.

WAC: Women's Army Corps.

WASP: Women's Air Service Pilots.


Point Du Hoc Today


Point Du Hoc YesterYear


D-Day Participant Identification and Profile Project.

A data base is currently being created to collect the names of those who participated in Operation Overlord and Operation Neptune on June 6, 1944, the initial day of the Normandy Invasion. This includes those who participated in D-Day but died after June 6 and before the end of the war, those who died since the end of the war, and those who are still living.

If you were a participant in the D-Day Invasion of Normandy, or if you had a family member or friend who was a participant, please contact:

National D-Day Memorial Foundation
Attention: Carol Tuckwiller
202 East Main Street, P.O. Box 77
Bedford, Va. 24523
(540) 586-DDAY
(800) 351-DDAY
Fax: (540) 586-7200

Click here for more information on the Fourth of July, the Magna Carta, the Mayflower Compact, the Emancipation Proclamation, the Bill of Rights, care of our Flag and more.

Send this page to a friend or colleague:



Copyright ©Emotions Greeting Cards a division of VH Productions 2000-2002


www. EmotionsCards .com