Published On: Jun 04 2014 11:52:45 AM EDTUpdated On: Jun 06 2014 08:45:00 AM EDT
In an operation commonly known as D-Day, nearly 160,000 Allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy in France on June 6, 1944, launching the invasion of German-occupied western Europe that helped turn the tide of World War II. Take a look back at this historic event 70 years later.
General Dwight D. Eisenhower commanded the operation. Here, U.S. soldiers prepare to load into boats on the coast of England.
The "D" stands for Day. D-Day and H-Hour stand for the secret time and day an operation is scheduled to begin.
The code names for the five beaches where the Allies landed were Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword.
The date June 5, 1944, was originally chosen for the invasion, but bad weather forced the Allies to postpone one day.
Discussions and preparations for an Allied invasion of France across the English Channel began after an Aug. 19, 1942, raid on the French port of Dieppe resulted in heavy losses.
The Germans expected an invasion along the north coast of France in 1944, but they did not know where.They built up their troops and artillery near Calais, where the English Channel is the narrowest.
Overnight heading into June 6, 1944, a military armada and more than 156,000 troops crossed the English Channel. Minesweepers went ahead to clear the waters in preparation for the more than 2,300 landing crafts carrying men, vehicles and supplies.
Between midnight and 8 a.m.on June 6, Allied forces of more than 11,000 aircraft flew 14,674 sorties, which means they came from a defense position to attack.
At 6:30 a.m., troops began coming ashore on a 60-mile front. In a broadcast to the people of occupied Europe, Eisenhower said: "Although the initial assault may not have been in your own country, the hour of your liberation is approaching."
Several ships carrying troops came under enemy fire and capsized. Here, soldiers rescue shipwrecked comrades.
Six parachute regiments of more than 13,000 men were flown from nine British airfields in more than 800 planes. More than 300 planes dropped 13,000 bombs over coastal Normandy immediately in advance of the invasion.
By nightfall on June 6, more than 9,000 Allied soldiers were dead or wounded, but more than 100,000 had made it ashore, securing French coastal villages.
Pressing forward, American and Free French forces eventually liberated Paris on Aug. 25, 1944.