The Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe on June 6, 1944, was the largest amphibious invasion in history. Some facts that convey the scope of the event and the sheer numbers of combatants, for those of us in their debt:
What does the “D” mean?
D-Day denotes the beginning of a military operation, since the actual date may vary. For example, the invasion of Normandy was delayed a day because of bad weather and rough seas. The code name was Operation Overlord. The sea portion was Operation Neptune.
Who was involved?
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Allied invasion forces came mainly from Great Britain, Canada and the United States. Some came from Australia, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, France, Greece, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and Poland.
How many troops?
• 156,000 troops or paratroopers came ashore on D-Day: 73,000 from the U.S., 83,000 from Great Britain and Canada.
• 195,700 naval personnel were used in Operation Neptune, led by 53,000 U.S. and 113,000 British troops.
• By the end of June 11 (D+5), 326,547 troops, 54,186 vehicles and 104,428 tons of supplies had come ashore.
How many machines?
• 11,590 Allied aircraft flew 14,674 sorties on D-Day. Of those, 127 planes were lost. Some 2,395 aircraft and 867 gliders delivered the airborne assault.
• 6,939 vessels were in the armada: 1,213 combat ships; 4,126 landing ships/craft; 736 support ships; 864 merchant ships.
Casualties refers to all losses: killed, wounded, missing in action and prisoners of war. Like so much of World War II, an accurate casualty count for D-Day may never be known. Recent research by the U.S. National D-Day Memorial Foundation has achieved a much higher figure for Allied soldiers killed in action:
• U.S. casualties on D-Day: 2,499 dead, 3,184 wounded, 1,928 missing, 26 captured.
• Other Allied casualties on D-Day: approximately 2,700 British, 946 Canadians.
• German casualties: 4,000-9,000.
• Total killed, wounded or missing in the Battle of Normandy (June 6-25) for both sides: 425,000.
• French civilians killed in Normandy: 15,000-20,000, mainly from Allied bombing.
• Today, 27 cemeteries hold the remains of more than 110,000 dead, including 9,386 Americans, 17,769 British, 5,002 Canadians, 650 Poles, and tens of thousands of Germans.
How to learn more
Hundreds of books have been written about D-Day. Among the best:
Stephen Ambrose, “D-Day June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II”
Rick Atkinson, “The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945”
Joseph Balikoski, “Omaha Beach”
Carlo d’Este, “Decision in Normandy”
Max Hastings, “Overlord”
John Keegan, “Six Armies in Normandy”
John C. McManus, “The Dead and Those About to Die: D-Day: The Big Red One at Omaha Beach”
Cornelius Ryan, “The Longest Day”
“Saving Private Ryan,” noted for its harrowing depiction of the Normandy landing.
“The Longest Day”
“Band of Brothers,” the HBO miniseries based on the Stephen Ambrose book.
Britain’s D-Day Museum, Portsmouth, England; U.S. National D-Day Memorial Foundation