"We aren't just capturing some town, we have to create a strong foothold!" claimed the British General Bernard Montgomery during a discussion of the Normandy landings. Allied forces began pooling in England months in advance of the operation. By June 6th, they numbered 2.8 million.
The operation was scheduled to start on June 5th, but a storm prevented the landing. Only at 21:30 did meteorologists report that June 6th would be comparatively calm. Dwight Eisenhower, the commander of the Allied forces made the decision: "I am certain that we must give the order. I don't like it, but I don't see another choice." Time showed that this decision was correct.
From June 6th to 11th, 1944, nearly 330,000 soldiers landed in Normandy with over 54,000 vehicles. Later, survivors would call June 6th the longest day of their lives. Here are some photographs of the events.
0:15 Paratroopers land in France. Saint-Maire-Eglise, Carentan, and passages to Utah beach are captured. A battery in Merville threatening Sword beach is captured.
1:30 Paratroopers of the 82nd and 101st divisions keep landing. Bridges over the Orn river and Caen channel are captured.
2:00 Aircraft of the 8th Air Army begin bombing France to cover the Allied landing.
2:30 All German units are no alert. No one believes that the Allies are landing in Normandy, the prevalent opinion is that this is a feint before a landing in Pas-de-Calais.
6:00 Ships open fire at coastal defenses. The enemy sees the fleet of ships filling La Manche.
6:30 The first wave of landings hits the shore.
7:30 The second wave lands. Reinforcements, additional armament, and commanders arrive. Forces from the 2nd British Army land at Sword beach.
8:10 The 8th Canadian Brigade lands at Juno beach. The 21st tank division moves out to Caen, one of the key targets of Operation Overlord.
8:30 American soldiers at Omaha beach make it to the cliffs between German fortifications. The situation looks grim.
9:00 The commander of the 1st Army, General Omar Bradley, declares that the situation at Omaha beach is catastrophic. American soldiers continue to slowly push through enemy defenses.
9:30 London radio stations officially announce that a landing in Normandy began.
12:00 Forces in Juno sector begin heading into the continent. The situation in Omaha sector is stabilizing. Paratroopers capture four passages to Utah beach. American forces reach Saint-Laurent.
13:30 The Germans report that forces at Omaha beach were pushed back into the sea. This information does not reflect reality. Americans have bitten into enemy defenses in four points.
15:00 German counterattacks plague troops at all landings. More reinforcements arrive.
16:00 An attack by the German 21st tank division at Sword beach is deflected. British soldiers capture the shoreline and the Le Amelle village at Gold beach.
17:00 The situation at Omaha beach has stabilized. The captured foothold is still small, 3 km deep and 10 km wide.
20:00 The allies have fortified at the footholds and are preparing for further offensives. The landing is a success.