June 6, 1944 - D-Day!

By 1944 the Western Allies felt ready to begin the liberation of Western Europe. The first challenge was to establish a beachhead on the northern coast of France, that would then allow over four million Allied soldiers and their equipment to defeat the German army and end the war. The task was a daunting one.The Germans had spent three years fortifying the northern coast of France. They called it the "Atlantic Wall". There were hundreds of kilometres of mine fields, steel barriers along the beaches, and concrete gun turrets.

After the Dieppe disaster the Allies learned not to attack existing fortified ports, but rather to attack less-well defended beaches and then to construction two massive temporary man-made harbours. On the evening of June 5th, over 150,000 Allied troops sailed on a 5,000 ship invasion force across the English Channel. The force included 15,000 Canadian soldiers. Their objective was to establish five beachheads on the northern shore of France and then to open up a second front against the Germans. This was the largest amphibious invasion force in history.

Despite almost 14,000 casulaties the operation was a decisive success. Five Allied armies landed on the beaches of Normandy, supported by 9,500 aircraft and 1,200 warships. Over the next three weeks over 800,000 Allied soldiers arrive in France. Historians have called D-Day the single most important day of the Twentieth Century