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US military branches mark 74th anniversary of D-Day landings

Soldiers crowd a landing craft on the way to Normandy during the Allied invasion on June 6, 1944. (U.S. Army)
June 06, 2018

Today marks the 74th anniversary of the day Allied forces landed on Normandy beaches during World War II to liberate western Europe from Nazi-German control.

The Normandy assault was the largest amphibious assault in history to date, involving more than 150,000 troops and 5,000 vessels crossing the English Channel.

U.S. military branches on Wednesday marked the 74th anniversary of what was later seen as the beginning of the trek across Europe that eventually allowed the Allies to defeat Nazi Germany.

The landings stretched over 50 miles and had five different codename sectors: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword Beach.

The name of the operation, Operation Overlord, was crafted in the months leading up to the landings.

To deceive German forces from finding out the date and location of the invasion, Allied forces created Operation Bodyguard. The operation was a success in that German forces believed the invasion was coming later than expected, delaying reinforcements to the region.

German forces were aware that an attack on France was imminent and prepared forces in the region so that they could push Allied forces off the mainland and back into the sea. They prepared most prominently at the Pas de Calais area, where the English Channel was most narrow.

For the invasion to be successful, Allied forces had to plan it so that conditions would be ideal for the attack, and for the phase of the moon and the tides to be right.

The invasion was set for June 5th, but due to poor weather conditions, the invasion way delayed an extra day until the bad weather cleared out.

Field Marshal Erwin Rommel was tasked by Adolf Hitler to fortify the defenses in the region. The Germans set up mines and anti-invasion obstacles in case an invasion occurred.

Allied forces landed on the beaches around 6:30 a.m to meet with the rising tide on June 6, 1944.

Most casualties occurred at Omaha Beach due to the region’s difficult natural barriers. The area had high cliffs, and strong winds were blowing to the east, throwing Allied forces off course.

German casualties were roughly 1,000 men and Allied forces were at least 10,000 men.

Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower called the operation a crusade in which “we will accept nothing less than full victory.”