Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower issued a message to troops taking part in the historic D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944, and his speech has since stood the test of time.
The message was his printed Order of the Day that day, which was distributed to the 175,000-member expeditionary force on the eve of the invasion of Normandy beach in France. The assault was code-named Operation Overlord.
Listen to Eisenhower’s message:
Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force!
You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hope and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.
Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is will-trained, well-equipped and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely.
But this is the year 1944! Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of 1940-41. The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats, in open battle, man-to-man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our Home Fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men. The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to Victory!
I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full Victory!
Good luck! And let us beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.
On June 6, 1944, the Allies invaded German-occupied western Europe by way of Normandy, France, during World War II. This would become a huge turning point in the war, and it would forever change the course of history.
From D-Day through August 21, the Allies sent more than two million soldiers into northern France and suffered more than 226,386 casualties. The Allied countries included the United States, Great Britain, France, Canada, Australia and China.
More than 160,000 Allied troops landed along the 50-mile stretch of French coastline on D-Day to fight Nazi Germany on the Normandy beaches.
Eisenhower called the operation a crusade in which “we will accept nothing less than full victory.”
More than 5,000 ships and 13,000 aircraft supported the invasion.
By the end of the day, the Allies had gained a foothold in Europe.
But it came at a high price.
More than 9,000 Allied soldiers were killed or wounded.
Although thousands died, that day paved the way for more than 100,000 soldiers to begin the trek across Europe and ultimately defeat Nazi Germany and Adolf Hitler.
The U.S. Army Divisions involved in D-Day were the 1st Infantry Division, 4th Infantry Division, 29th Infantry Division, 82nd Airborne Division and the 101st Airborne Division, as well as other non-divisional units.
U.S. Allies included the 3rd Infantry Division (U.K.), 50th Infantry Division (U.K.), 6th Airborne division (U.K.), elements of the 79th Armoured Division (U.K.), elements of the 8th Armoured Brigade (U.K.) and the 3rd Canadian Division.
The beaches of Normandy were selected for the invasion because they were within range of air cover and were less heavily defended than the obvious objective, which was the Pas de Calais – the shortest distance between Great Britain and the continent.
Airborne drops took place at both ends of the beachheads to protect the flanks and open up roadways to the interior.
Six divisions – three U.S., two U.K. and one Canadian – landed the first day, and they were later joined by two more U.K. divisions and another American division.
The airborne landings were badly scattered, and the initial wave of units that took the beaches was also rather chaotic. But the troops adapted and fought hard, and the objective was ultimately achieved.
In addition to the airborne assault, assaults took place on Utah Beach, Omaha Beach, Gold Beach, Juno Beach and Sword Beach.
Editor’s Note: This story has been published previously on American Military News.