D-Day: Changing the course of World War II

American paratroopers, heavily armed, sit inside a military plane as they soar over the English Channel en route to the Normandy French coast for the Allied D-Day invasion of the German stronghold during World War II, June 6, 1944. Nearly 160,000 Allied troops landed in Normandy on June 6, 1944. Of those, 73,000 were from the United States, 83,000 from Britain and Canada. Forces from several other countries were also involved, including French troops fighting with Gen. Charles de Gaulle. The Allies faced around 50,000 German forces.

American paratroopers, heavily armed, sit inside a military plane as they soar over the English Channel en route to the Normandy French coast for the Allied D-Day invasion of the German stronghold during World War II, June 6, 1944. Nearly 160,000 Allied troops landed in Normandy on June 6, 1944. Of those, 73,000 were from the United States, 83,000 from Britain and Canada. Forces from several other countries were also involved, including French troops fighting with Gen. Charles de Gaulle. The Allies faced around 50,000 German forces. AP FILE PHOTO

American reinforcements, arrive on the beaches of Normandy from a Coast Guard landing barge into the surf on the French coast on June 23, 1944 during World War II. They will reinforce fighting units that secured the Norman beachhead and spread north toward Cherbourg.

American reinforcements, arrive on the beaches of Normandy from a Coast Guard landing barge into the surf on the French coast on June 23, 1944 during World War II. They will reinforce fighting units that secured the Norman beachhead and spread north toward Cherbourg. AP PHOTO/U.S. COAST GUARD

This photograph is believed to show E Company, 16th Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, participating in the first wave of assaults during D-Day in Normandy, France, June 6, 1944. The greatest armada ever assembled, nearly 7,000 ships and boats, supported by more than 11,000 planes, carried almost 133,000 troops across the Channel to establish toeholds on five heavily defended beaches stretched across 80 kilometers (50 miles) of Normandy coast. More than 9,000 Allied soldiers were killed or wounded in the first 24 hours.

This photograph is believed to show E Company, 16th Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, participating in the first wave of assaults during D-Day in Normandy, France, June 6, 1944. The greatest armada ever assembled, nearly 7,000 ships and boats, supported by more than 11,000 planes, carried almost 133,000 troops across the Channel to establish toeholds on five heavily defended beaches stretched across 80 kilometers (50 miles) of Normandy coast. More than 9,000 Allied soldiers were killed or wounded in the first 24 hours. AP FILE PHOTO/CHIEF PHOTOGRAPHER’S MATE ROBERT M. SARGENT, U.S. COAST GUARD

American soldiers and supplies arrive on the shore of the French coast of German-occupied Normandy during the Allied D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944 in World War II. Nearly 160,000 Allied troops landed in Normandy on June 6, 1944. Of those, 73,000 were from the United States, 83,000 from Britain and Canada. Forces from several other countries were also involved, including French troops fighting with Gen. Charles de Gaulle. The Allies faced around 50,000 German forces.

American soldiers and supplies arrive on the shore of the French coast of German-occupied Normandy during the Allied D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944 in World War II. Nearly 160,000 Allied troops landed in Normandy on June 6, 1944. Of those, 73,000 were from the United States, 83,000 from Britain and Canada. Forces from several other countries were also involved, including French troops fighting with Gen. Charles de Gaulle. The Allies faced around 50,000 German forces. AP FILE PHOTO

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Published: 06-05-2024 3:11 PM

OMAHA BEACH, France — The June 6, 1944, D-Day invasion of Nazi-occupied France was unprecedented in scale and audacity, using the largest-ever armada of ships, troops, planes and vehicles to punch a hole in Adolf Hitler’s defenses in western Europe and change the course of World War II.

With veterans and world dignitaries gathering in Normandy to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the landings, here’s a look at some details about how the operation unfolded.

Who took part

Nearly 160,000 Allied troops landed in Normandy on June 6, 1944. Of those, 73,000 were from the United States and 83,000 from Britain and Canada. Forces from several other countries were also involved, including French troops fighting with Gen. Charles de Gaulle.

The Allies faced around 50,000 German forces.

More than 2 million Allied soldiers, sailors, pilots, medics and other people from a dozen countries were involved in the overall Operation Overlord, the battle to wrest western France from Nazi control that started on D-Day.

Where and when

The sea landings started at 6:30 a.m., just after dawn, targeting five code-named beaches: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, Sword. The operation also included actions inland, including overnight parachute landings on strategic German sites and U.S. Army Rangers scaling cliffs to take out German gun positions.

Around 11,000 Allied aircraft, 7,000 ships and boats, and thousands of other vehicles were involved.

Deaths on all sides

A total of 4,414 Allied troops were killed on D-Day itself, including 2,501 Americans. More than 5,000 were wounded.

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In the ensuing Battle of Normandy, 73,000 Allied forces were killed and 153,000 wounded. The battle — and especially Allied bombings of French villages and cities — killed around 20,000 French civilians.

The exact German casualties aren’t known, but historians estimate between 4,000 and 9,000 men were killed, wounded or missing during the D-Day invasion alone. About 22,000 German soldiers are among the many buried around Normandy.

Survivors

Inevitably, the number of survivors attending major anniversary commemorations in France continues to dwindle. The youngest survivors are now in their late 90s. It’s unclear how many D-Day veterans are still alive. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says it doesn’t track their numbers.