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The largest amphibious operation in history, D-Day marked the beginning of the liberation of France and Western Europe and was years in the planning. It drew on the knowledge of meteorologists, scientists, inventors, the combined might of militaries of 13 nations and assistance of tens of thousands of members of the French Resistance. It involved vast deceptions and secret operations to ensure success.

It's no surprise then that D-Day has earned it’s place as one of the most significant battles in history.

On the 6 June 1944 Operation Overlord, was finally launched as the first step to freeing Western Europe from Axis domination. The D-Day landings, codenamed Operation Neptune, would include an armada of over 5,000 vessels and ships, nearly 11,000 aeroplanes and over 130,000 ground troops. These vast forces were coordinated from Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force with US General Dwight D Eisenhower appointed supreme commander of this huge conglomerate of troops and resources from different nations.

The landings had been shrouded in secrecy as part of a large coordinated deception effort the Allied secret services launched Operation Fortitude. Split into two parts Fortitude North and Fortitude South the aim was to convince Hitler that the planned invasion would be aimed at Norway (Fortitude North) or the Pas de Calais (Fortitude South).

As a result of these operations Hitler mistakenly moved troops from France to Norway and the German High Command moved divisions away from Normandy and towards Pas-de-Calais. BBC radio messages were broadcast on the eve of D-Day alerting Special Operation Executive Agents and French Resistance forces, encouraging them to make ‘maximum effort’ in carrying out acts of sabotage.

Preparing for D-Day

The main switchboard underground at Fort Southwick, a mass of tunnels dug into the cliffs earlier in the war and,used as the communications ‘nerve centre’ in the build-up to the invasion of mainland Europe.

Preparing for D-Day

The main switchboard underground at Fort Southwick, a mass of tunnels dug into the cliffs earlier in the war and,used as the communications ‘nerve centre’ in the build-up to the invasion of mainland Europe.

On the 6 June shortly after midnight 23,400 Allied paratroopers were dropped into Normandy to provide tactical support to the troops landing on the beaches. Allied air forces would go on to conduct over 14,000 sorties in support of the landings.

Just after 05:20 the Allied fleet opened up their guns all along the Normandy beaches. Between 06:30 and 07:30 across five beaches which encompassed 50 miles of coastline the Allied armies were landed.

By the end of D-Day Allied forces had suffered nearly 10,000 casualties, of which 4,000 were fatalities.

The sacrifice and courage of the men and women who played their part in D-Day whether as service personnel, nurses, engineers, meteorologists, SOE agents or logistical support would secure for the Allies a foothold in mainland Europe for the first time since 1941.

The man in command of German forces in France, Field Marshall Erwin Rommell, had said in anticipation of the landings that “The first twenty-four hours of the invasion will be decisive... [T]he fate of Germany depends on the outcome. For the Allies as well as Germany, it will be the longest day.

This prophetic statement demonstrated just how crucial success on D-Day was. D-Day represented a triumph of international collaboration, planning and ingenuity, but much more it gave the Allies a springboard from which they were able to liberate Western Europe.

The Stories of D-Day

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