June 6, 2019 marks the 75th Anniversary of D-Day, Operation Overlord, the liberation of occupied Europe. 75 years ago on June 6th, 1944 more than 156,000 American, British, and Canadian troops stormed 50 miles of Normandy’s beaches in northern France along with nearly 5,000 landings and assault craft, 289 escort vessels, and 277 minesweepers. The coastline was fiercely defended, in an operation that proved to be a critical turning point in World War II. It was the largest amphibious invasion in the history of warfare. There would be over 875,000 men joining by the end of June. The Allies successfully pushed the Nazis out of Western Europe to turn the tide of the war for good. Germany would surrender less than a year later on May 7, 1945, ending the war in Europe.
Due to bad weather, the initial beach landings were bloody and chaotic suffering terrible losses. The Americans at Omaha, and the Canadians at Juno in particular. With the collective raw strength, grit and perseverance the Allies overcame and took all five Normandy beaches by nightfall on June 6, 1944. After the first day, Allied casualties were at least 10,000 with 4,414 confirmed dead. German casualties have been estimated to be between 4,000 to 9,000 men. Civilian casualties are estimated at 3,000 people.
The most brutal fighting on D-Day occurred at Omaha Beach, a 7km stretch of coastline known as ‘Bloody Omaha’ to US veterans. More than 7 decades on – 75 years, little evidence remains of the carnage that took place here on June 6, 1944, except for the memorial, American cemetery, concrete German bunkers, and a few remnants of Mulberry Harbour during low tide.
Image 02 Today over 2 million tourists and visitors visit the memorials each year, with around 200,000 in attendance during the D-Day ceremonies alone on, June 5th, 6th and 7th. The beaches today are filled with those standing sombre, imagining, remembering; but also families having a picnic, young children laughing and playing on the beach, surfers catching waves, and occasional harness horse racing events on the shore during low tide. While life continues to carry on 75 years later, the events of June 6, 1944, in Normandy will never be forgotten and are replayed through the memory of the last remaining veterans and the imagination of the people. The stories of sacrifice for freedom, liberty, and independence will never be forgotten.