Topic

D-Day and the Normandy Campaign

On June 6, 1944, the Allies launched the long-anticipated invasion of Normandy, France. Soldiers from the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and other Allied nations faced Hitler's formidable Atlantic Wall as they landed on the beaches of Normandy.

U.S. Troops wading through water and Nazi gunfire

Top Photo: "Into the Jaws of Death" — US troops wade through water and Nazi gunfire, June 6, 1944. Records of the US Coast Guard (NAID 355).


Buildup and Training

The planning for an invasion in northwest Europe began years in advance, although it was not until December 1943, when General Dwight D. Eisenhower was appointed Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force, that preparations for the future operation, code-named Overlord, intensified. 

The Plan

Operation Fortitude successfully deceived German High Command into expecting a landing at Pas-de-Calais. Instead, the Allies targeted a 50-mile stretch of Normandy coastline. The plan had two components: Operation Neptune, the naval assault phase, and Operation Overlord, the broader invasion strategy. Approximately 160,000 Allied troops were to land across five beaches: Sword, Juno, Gold, Omaha, and Utah, with British and American airborne forces landing inland.

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Planning for D-Day: Preparing Operation Overlord

Despite their early agreement on a strategy focused on defeating “Germany First,” the US and British Allies engaged in a lengthy and divisive debate over how exactly to conduct this strategy before they finally settled on a plan for Operation Overlord.

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D-Day

Initially set for June 5, D-Day was delayed due to poor weather. With a small window of opportunity in the weather, Eisenhower decided to go—D-Day would be June 6, 1944. Paratroopers began landing after midnight, followed by a massive naval and aerial bombardment at 6:30 a.m. American forces faced severe resistance at Omaha and Utah Beaches. Despite challenges, including mislandings and fierce opposition, Allied forces established a critical beachhead in Normandy.

Hedgerow Fighting

For all of the preparations made for Overlord, the Allied forces were ill-equipped to fight in the hedgerows they quickly encountered in Normandy. The Normandy bocage presented unexpected challenges with its dense hedgerows and narrow roads. German forces used the hedgerows defensively, creating deadly killing fields that Allied troops had to cross. The Allies had to adapt their tactics to overcome these obstacles and advance.

The End of the Normandy Campaign

American forces isolated and captured Cherbourg by June 27, while British forces secured Caen by July 9. Despite these victories, progress was slow. On July 24–25, American forces launched Operation Cobra, breaking through German lines near Saint-Lô. This marked the end of the Normandy Campaign and the beginning of the Allied push to liberate northern France and Paris.

D-Day Related Videos

Watch videos about the D-Day invasion of Normandy and listen to oral histories and firsthand accounts from WWII veterans.

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80th Anniversary of
D-Day Events

To commemorate the 80th anniversary of D-Day—a day now known as the greatest amphibious landing in history—The National WWII Museum will explore the epic battle through events on Thursday, June 6, and Friday, June 7, 2024, on its campus in New Orleans.

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