It was 75 years ago today that some 156,000 Allied troops – half of them American – stormed the beaches of Normandy, France in the D-Day invasion.
The men came by air and by sea in the early morning hours to face 50,000 German soldiers and the Nazi’s fierce coastal fortifications that included 4 million mines.
It was the largest seaborne attack in the history of the world but began with overnight parachute and glider landings, massive air attacks and naval bombardments.
The early morning water landings targeted five beaches code-named Sword, Juno, Gold, Omaha and Utah. U.S. troops landed on Omaha and Utah, the British on Gold and Sword, and the Canadians on Juno.
During the evening the remaining elements of the airborne divisions landed. Land forces used on D-Day sailed from bases along the south coast of England.
The landings and ensuing battles were fierce, bloody and chaotic. An estimated 4,400 Allied soldiers were killed on D-Day alone. German numbers were not well recorded, but it’s estimated that between 4,000 and 9,000 were killed.
Code-named Operation Neptune, D-Day marked the beginning of the end of WWII. Led by future president General Dwight D. Eisenhower, it was meticulously planned and executed despite the large number of anticipated casualties.
D-Day was the first attack of the Battle of Normandy, which lasted until mid-July. It launched the successful invasion of German-occupied Western Europe during the war.
A little more than a year later, the final stages of the war were fought in the Pacific with victory coming in September 1945 after the U.S. dropped nuclear bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki the month before.
An estimated 70 to 85 million people – civilians and military – perished during WWII, which began shortly after Germany invaded Poland on Sept. 1, 1939.
Approximately 420,000 Americans died during the war, 407,000 U.S. service members.
Kissimmee resident and WWII veteran Bernard Levore was deployed to Europe as a flight engineer on the B2 bomber shortly after D-Day in June 1944.
Although he wasn’t part of that operation, he flew missions over Germany from June 1944 to March 1945.
The 96-year-old said that WWII history has all but been forgotten by most Americans.
“It’s history that should be remembered because it’s why we’re free. It’s history that’s not being taught,” Levore said. “If we hadn’t of won that war we might be speaking Japanese or German now.”