While ‘D-Day’ is routine military lingo for the day on which an event or operation is to take place, for the great majority of people it is synonymous with the date of 4th June 1944 – the day on which the Allies crossed the English Channel and landed on the Normandy beaches in France, starting the Western Europe liberation from the forces of the Nazis in World War II.
The north of France was freed within three months and the invasion force were getting ready to enter Germany, where it would join up with the Soviet forces that were moving in from the east. With most of mainland Europe controlled by Hitler’s armies, the Allies knew that it was crucial to the war effort to successfully invade the continent. Hitler was also aware of this and was anticipating an attack on the northwest of Europe in early 1944; he hoped to repel the attack with such a forceful counterattack that any future attempts at invasion would be delayed, allowing him time to defeat the Soviet Union and all-out victory would follow.
The go-ahead for the biggest amphibious military operation in history, Operation Overload, was given by General D Eisenhower, Europe’s supreme commander of Allied forces, on the morning of 5th June 1944.
176,000 troops on 6,000 ships, landing crafts and other vessels started to leave the United Kingdom for France. 822 aircraft carrying parachutists started heading for Normandy landing grounds in the evening, 18,000 of which were on the ground by the dawn of 6th June.