The Normandy Invasion, also known as Operation Overlord, was a pivotal military campaign during World War II that forever altered the course of history. Sixty years ago this month, on June 6, 1944, a military force, under the command of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, of about 150,000 Allied soldiers from Britain, Canada, and the United States, stormed the beaches of Normandy in German occupied northern France, where they were supported by 23,000 paratroopers who had dropped in 6 hours earlier. D-Day, code-named Operation Overload, was the largest seaborne invasion in history. Bad weather had almost thwarted Eisenhower’s plans for the attack, but the D-Day invasion succeeded in surprising the Germans and establishing a vital allied beachhead on the French channel coast.
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The plan had been conceived, prepared, and intensely rehearsed since 1943. In May 1944, tactical bombing was begun by the Allies in order to destroy German communications in Northern France. Just after midnight on June 6, American and British airborne forces landed behind the German coastal fortifications known as the Atlantic Wall. They were followed after daybreak by the seaborne troops of the U.S. First Army, under General Omar Bradley, and the British Second Army, under General Miles Dempsey. British Field Marshal B. L. Montgomery was in command of the Allied land forces. Approximately 4,000 transports, 800 warships, and innumerable small craft, under British Admiral Sir B. H. Ramsay, supported the Normandy invasion, along with more than 11,000 aircraft, under British Air Chief Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory. While naval guns and Allied bombers assaulted the beach fortifications, the soldiers swarmed ashore. At the base of the Cotentin peninsula the American forces established two beachheads – Utah Beach, West of the Vire River, and Omaha Beach, East of the Vire. Omaha was the scene of the fiercest and bloodiest fighting. Landing near the city of Bayeux, British troops stormed the beaches called Gold and Sword, while the Canadians disembarked on Juno beach. The invasion at Normandy took the Germans by surprise, because they expected an invasion to come from farther north, near the port-city of Calais, at the narrowest part of the English Channel. The German resistance was fierce, and the footholds for Allied armies were not as good as they had expected. Nevertheless, the powerful counterattack with which German Fureur Adolf Hitler had proposed to repel the Allies off the beaches did not materialize, neither on D-Day nor later. Enormous Allied air superiority over northern France made it difficult for German commander Erwin Rommel to move his reserve troops. Moreover, Hitler became convinced that the Normandy landings were a diversion and the main invasion would come north of the Seine River. Consequently, he refused to release the divisions he had there and insisted on drawing in reinforcements from more distant areas. The Nazi troops fought the Normandy invasion fervently but by the end of D-Day all five beaches were secured by the Allies. By the end of June, the Allies had 860,000 men and 155,000 vehicles ashore in Normandy and were poised to retake Western Europe. Eleven months later, Germany surrendered.
This address by Supreme Allied Commander General Eisenhower was delivered to troops participating in the Normandy invasion.
General Eisenhower’s D-Day Proclamation Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force!
You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.
Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely.
But this is the year 1944! Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of 1940-41. The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats, in open battle, man-to-man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our Home Fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men. The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to Victory!
I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full Victory!
Good Luck! And let us all beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.
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