Battle of Normandy

During the summer of 1944, the Allied nations entered France for a historic battle. Now known as the battle of Normandy, this event was the largest seaborne invasion in modern history. More than three million Allied troops swept across the English Channel to enter occupied France during this World War II battle.

Operation Overlord

The codename for the Allied invasion was known as Operation Overlord. Twelve different nations took part in the battle. These countries included the United States, Belgium, Australia, Poland, the United Kingdom, Canada, France, New Zealand, Greece, Czechoslovakia, the Netherlands and Norway. As these nations entered the assault phase of the invasion, the changed the codename of the invasion to Operation Neptune. The beginning of Operation Neptune was on June 6, 1944. After this invasion, June 6 became known as D-Day in the annals of history.

To prepare for the battle, the Allied bombers started dropping bombs on the coast line months in advance. Their goal was to destroy German transportation centers, seize landing fields, blow up bridges and harm Germany’s ability to build-up troops. Over the course of a few months, 300 Allied planes dropped more than 13,000 bombs.

No invading force had managed to cross the English Channel since 1688. To skillfully wage the battle, General Dwight D. Eisenhower had to move his military forces 100 miles and break through the German resistance. The German Army was commanded by Erwin Rommel and had better generals and weapons. Only 15 percent of the Allied military personnel had ever been in a battle before D-Day.

The Battle Begins

On the night of June 6 more than 5,000 vessels started the journey across the English Channel. After fighting began, 9,000 of the Allied soldiers were dead or wounded. Within five days from the start of the battle, the Allies managed to establish a strong base within Normandy. They had amassed 55,000 vehicles, 326,000 soldiers and 105,000 tons of supplies. Although there are no official casualty numbers from the battle, historians estimate that there were 209,000 casualties for the Allied forces. At the same time, more than 200,000 German troops were wounded or killed. From D-Day until Christmas of 1944, 30,000 captured German military personnel were sent to prisoner-of-war camps within the United States. In addition, almost 20,000 French civilians lost their lives during the battle.

Getting the Intelligence

For the Allied forces to be successful, they had to receive intelligence about the situation in Normandy. Allied cryptographers worked around the clock to decode messages being sent out of Germany. These cryptographers dealt the final blow to the German forces. Germany believed that the messages they were sending were unbreakable. In reality, many of these messages were available for Eisenhower to read within hours of the Germans sending them. Additional intelligence was gathered by reconnaissance teams. They scoured the German coast and took infrared pictures of Omaha Beach.

Even with all of the military intelligence gathered, the Allied forces were against insurmountable odds. Invading militaries have to fight on unfamiliar territory and the Allied generals were facing an extremely experienced German military. In the end, it was the exceptional amount of Allied troops that won the battle. Within one month of D-Day, over one million Allied troops were sent into Normandy. The total number of soldiers shipped out of Allied military bases totaled more than three million. Against these exceptionally high numbers, the fatigued German military could not withstand. After the battle of Normandy, the tide of the war was turned. The war continued until September 2, 1945, but the face of the war had changed. Allied troops became heartened by the win in Normandy and pushed onward to take the rest of the European continent.