Normandy Landings: a pivotal event of the Second World War

D-Day and the Battle of Normandy
75th anniversary — 1944–2019

On June 6, 1944, Allied troops stormed the beaches of Normandy (France) to open the way to Germany from the West. Victory in the Normandy campaign would come at a terrible cost. The Canadians suffered the most casualties of any division in the British Army Group.1

June 6, 2019, marks the 75th anniversary of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy.1
 

What Does D-Day Mean?

When planning a military operation, the specific date on which the attack would occur was not always known in advance. For that reason, the term D-Day was used to refer to the day on which an attack was to begin. Though the term was used to plan many operations, it is now most associated with the Allied invasion of Normandy, France, on 6 June 1944.2

 

Juno Beach: Canada on D-Day

Originally scheduled for 5 June, the invasion was postponed for a day by bad weather. Finally, in the early pre-dawn hours of 6 June — D-Day — waves of aircraft and gliders began delivering paratroopers into the Norman countryside, many of them missing their landing zones due to anti-aircraft fire and confusion. Many paratroopers also drowned after landing in fields flooded by the Germans.2

In the English Channel, an armada of more than 6,900 ships, including 110 Canadian warships, approached the coastline towards daybreak.2

After a naval and aerial bombardment of German shoreline defences, the first waves of landing craft headed for the beaches, packed with anxious, often sea-sick soldiers. The Allied bombardment did little to destroy enemy positions, and soldiers faced resistance as they came ashore on all the beaches, dodging bullets while wading through chest-high seas. But none of the landings were as severe as on Omaha Beach, where US forces were cut down as they struggled first to cross the wide sands and then scale high bluffs overlooking the beach. More than 2,000 Americans were killed or wounded before Omaha was finally secured, the surf turning red with the blood of the dead and dying.2

Total Allied casualties on D-Day reached more than 10,000, including 1,074 Canadian casualties, of which 359 Canadians were killed in action. Hundreds of Germans were also killed and captured, and French civilians also died as bullets and bombs rained around their seaside villages. Although none of the Allied forces succeeded in reaching their inland D-Day objectives, the Normandy beachhead itself was secured, allowing successive waves of troops, tanks, artillery and other supplies to come ashore. On Gold Beach the British began constructing floating “Mulberry” harbours made from massive barge pieces towed across the Channel.2


On June 6, 1944, more than 150 000 Allied troops took part in the Normandy landings, extending over a front of more than 80 km. Among them, 14 000 Canadians invaded Juno Beach while others were parachuted in the east.3

Seventy-five years later, it’s hard to conceive the horrors of the Second World War as there are fewer grandparents and parents alive to tell the story. D-Day was a day when many sacrifices were made in the name of freedom. 

 

Sources: 
1 Anciens Combattants Canada
2 L’Encyclopédie canadienne 
3 Sympatico.ca