On 6 June 1944 Allied Forces began the liberation of Western Europe. They came from the United States, the British Commonwealth, and other forces from occupied countries.
It was the largest sea invasion in history and resulted in about 4,000 deaths on each side.
The mission was officially called Operation Neptune but is commonly known as D-Day. The term D-Day was given by the U.S. military in an attempt to conceal important dates from spies.
It had been planned for the 5th of June but bad weather forced them to delay for a day. The Germans thought the allies will attack during high tide so to decrease the time they will be under open fire.
That is why the Germans installed obstacles that will be underwater and wreck the boats of the allies. The underwater obstacles were spotted by the Allied forces' aircraft.
That changed their plans. First, they realized they needed to cross the English Channel in darkness.
However, their naval artillery needed about an hour of daylight to bombard the coast before the soldiers could land. At this point, the low tide had to coincide with the first light.
At the same time, airborne drops had to take place the night before. The paratroopers needed to land in darkness but with enough moonlight to see their targets: this was only possible with a late-rising Moon.
In June, there were only three days that met these criteria: 5, 6, and 7 June.
So the 6th of June was almost their last chance to make it happen.
They landed on five fiercely defended beaches spread across 80 kilometers of the Normandy coast.
High winds forced them to land east of their original targets. The war had been limited to air battles on the Western Front since the Fall of France four years earlier.
The sea invasion encountered beaches covered in mines, barbed wire, physical obstacles, and machine-gun nests that slowed the progress.
Allied forces failed to achieve the goals set for the first day. The beachheads were not linked for nearly a week and neighboring towns were not captured.
However, Nazi forces failed to repel the invasion and gradually lost ground. The war would end eleven months later after the Battle of Berlin.
Many famous photographs have been taken during these battles. We have created a special category entirely dedicated to war photography, to commemorate such important historical events.