On the beaches of Normandy, 73 years ago today, the Allied forces led by Supreme Commander Dwight Eisenhower landed to retake France from Nazi Germany, and ultimately to liberate Europe from the fascists. Read more on Dick and Debbie Young’s trip to Utah Beach and Normandy here.
For over two and a half years the Allies planned and gathered their military strength to hurl into the decisive amphibious invasion of northern France and strike a mortal blow against the empire of Nazi Germany. In anticipation, Adolf Hitler stockpiled reserves across French coastlines into the Atlantic Wall defenses, determined to drive the Allied forces back into the sea.
There will be no second chance for the Allies: the fate of their cause hangs upon this decisive day.
After bad weather forces a delay, an expected break in the weather for Tuesday, June 6, is reported to General Dwight D. Eisenhower at rain-lashed Southwick House at 21:30 hours on the night of Sunday, June 4. Eisenhower makes the decision only he can make: Operation OVERLORD is unleashed by the Supreme Commander to begin the liberation of Europe from Hitler’s Third Reich.
As word of his decision spreads to the Allied forces after midnight, men across southern England prepare to enter the climactic battle.
Before dawn on June 5, Eisenhower meets with his staff one last time to hear the latest weather report. With ships sailing into the English Channel, the last opportunity to halt the invasion is upon him. He confirms his previous order, and in less than a minute he is left alone in the room in Southwick House as his subordinates rush to comply. There is no turning back now. The invasion must succeed, for no plan has been made to evacuate the forces in the event of failure.
In the early minutes of June 6, 1944, Allied paratroopers and gliders descend from the night sky to wrest control of key bridges and roadways from the Germans. Behind them in the darkness of early morning an initial force of over 130,000 servicemen from the Allied nations cross a choppy English Channel aboard an armada of over 5,000 ships. Their destination is Normandy, where they will assault the German enemy and make history.
Read the timeline here.