A Step-By-Step Guide To How D-Day Unfolded

Since 1940, the Allied forces had been waiting to return to France to take on Hitler's forces. In 1944, on a day known as D-Day, they finally got their chance.

D-Day

1. Prelude

Teheran, November 1943: a historic meeting occurred between Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin. Stalin's forces were taking huge casualties battling Germany on the Russian frontier and he demanded his Western allies open up a second front in Nazi-occupied Europe.

2. Operation Overlord

Although Stalin was co-operating at the Teheran conference, he was also wary of collaborating with the West. His mistrust had been exacerbated by the Allies promising troops twice before. However, despite some setbacks, the meeting ended with the Allies promising to mount a major offensive in 1944. A European battlefront, named Operation Overlord, was planned under General Dwight Eisenhower.

3. Build-up

The logistics involved in the Allied assault were huge. Eisenhower was in charge of two million support personnel and an initial one million troops. The plan, drawn up by British and US generals, involved landing on five beaches west of the Orne River, near Caen.

Over 150,000 troops descended onto the beaches of Normandy

Over 150,000 troops descended onto the beaches of Normandy

4. D-DAY

D-Day, 6 June 1944, would go down as the most successful invasion in history. Four thousand ships released 133,000 troops onto the Normandy beaches. A further 23,000 parachuted from 822 aircraft - only a small part of the 13,000 planes flying that day. Bombers pounded German fortifications, communications and bridges, with Allied planes flying over 14,000 sorties in one day.

5. FIERCE FIGHTING

The Allies faced 50 enemy divisions and losses were huge. At Omaha, the high-cliff terrain favoured the Germans, resulting in 2,500 US casualties there. Meanwhile, 6,000 paratroopers died and a further 10,300 Allied casualties occurred over the next few days. Once the beaches were taken, the Allied troops had to contend with heavy German counter assaults.

6. CLOSE CALL

The Germans drove at the Allied troops at Caen, almost forcing them back into the sea. However, fierce resistance from Allied anti-tank gunners ensured a successful landing. By 7 June, Allied troops stretched from Bayeux to Caen, but the area was not secured until Carentan was captured on 12 June. The historic invasion paved the way for the ultimate Allied victory, bringing about the liberation of Western Europe.