The Allied invasion of Normandy on June 6,
1944, was history’s largest amphibious op-
eration. Nothing of its scale had ever been
attempted before, nor is it likely to be at-
tempted in the future. Following years of de-
bate and planning, the Americans had gotten
their way, overriding both British prime
minister Winston Churchill’s fears that an
invasion of France would be a bloodbath
comparable to World War I in Flanders and
his oft-stated preference for a Mediterranean
option. On the first day some 130,000 men
came ashore, and 1 million men had landed
within a month. The logistics of all of this
were staggering, as were the risks. There
was no way to conceal the preparations, and
the likelihood of the Germans learning the
location of the landings was considerable,
but an elaborate deception worked to
Deciding on June 6 was a considerable
risk. Bad weather had delayed the invasion
and supreme commander of the Allied Expe-
ditionary Force General Dwight D. Eisen-
hower made the decision on the advice of his
meteorologists that a break in the weather
appeared likely. Indeed, the foul weather
worked to the Allied advantage, for although
poor conditions did have negative impacts
on the landing operations, the Germans were
convinced that the invasion would not then
occur, and it thus caught them off guard.
The invasion of Normandy was, above all,
an Allied effort. One of the enduring myths
about D-Day (“D” stands simply for “Day”),
for Americans at least, is that it was largely a
U.S. operation. Indeed, the British bore the
brunt of it. Of the 1,213 warships involved,
200 were American and 892 were British; of
the 4,126 landing craft involved, 805 were
American and 3,261 were British. Some 31
percent of all supplies used by U.S. forces
during D-Day came directly from Britain.
Two-thirds of the 12,000 aircraft involved
were also British. Of those who landed in
occupied France on June 6, 75,215 were
British and Canadian troops, and 57,500
were from the United States.
The invaders sustained some 10,300 casu-
alties—4,300 British and Canadian and
6,000 U.S. The higher U.S. losses were
largely a result of the fighting for Omaha
Beach, one of the three designated American
landing beaches, where there was strong op-
position and indeed fears that the men there
might have to be evacuated, but the Ameri-
cans ultimately persevered.
Although the landing was successful at all
five beaches, the initial goals were not met.
The British had hoped to take Caen by mid-
night the first day. Caen to the Orne River
was not secured until July 9. The Americans
had hoped to take the important English
Channel port of Cherbourg in 15 days.
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