The Normandy landings, which began on June 6, 1944, sparked a brutal battle that lasted nearly two months. Although Operation Overlord’s known casualties exceeded 400,000, D-Day will be remembered as the “beginning of the end” of the Second World War.
D-Day Museum reports the term D-Day has been used to describe numerous military operations. However, it is most widely used to refer to the Normandy landings.
Although the Normandy invasion was originally scheduled to begin on June 5, 1944, the landings were delayed due to inclement weather.
Between June 5 and June 11, hundreds of thousands of troops landed on a 50-mile stretch along Normandy’s coast. Within five days, Gold Beach, Juno Beach, Omaha Beach, Sword Beach, and Utah Beach were swarming with more than 326,000 troops and more than 50,000 military vehicles.
The subsequent Battle of Normandy resulted in a decisive Allied victory, which is credited with prompting the end of WWII. However, hundreds of thousands were killed in the quest for that victory.
Seventy-two years later, veterans and their families are commemorating the Normandy landings and remembering those who were injured or lost their lives.
Although the invasion of Normandy sparked the end of a long and bloody war, hundreds of thousands were injured, lost, or killed, amid the two-month battle. For some veterans, the memories of D-Day are specifically painful.
Fred Colton, 91, was a 20-year-old corporal serving as a vehicle mechanic during the infamous battle. In an interview with Plymouth Herald, the decorated veteran recalls the Normandy landings in vivid detail.
“You just couldn’t prepare yourself for what we saw. We were frightened. Everyone was deep down, we just tried not to show it… The beach itself was chaotic. There were damaged vehicles and bodies everywhere. Medics were busy treating the wounded and dealing with the dead. You just tried to ignore what your eyes were seeing.”
Although he granted an interview about the Normandy landings, Colton said he never returned to the site. He said he simply does not “want to remember” any more details about that fateful day.
PHOTOS: A look back at Normandy landing 72 years ago. https://t.co/AYQS1z3RV2 pic.twitter.com/yKrhAbu3sk
— FOX5 Las Vegas (@FOX5Vegas) June 6, 2016
Augusta, Maine, resident Henty Breton said he has similarly painful memories about the invasion of Normandy and the subsequent battle. However, during a D-Day ceremony at France’s American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer, Breton said “it’s all worth it.”
As reported by Military Times, the 91-year-old man acknowledged the Normandy invasion was terribly violent. However, he was willing to share his experiences, both good and bad, during the solemn ceremony.
Although the Normandy Landings resulted in a devastating number of casualties, it remains one of the largest and most intricately planned seaborne invasions in history.
— Maurizio Molinari (@Maumol) June 6, 2016
According to reports, the Allies spent years developing and implementing “a large-scale deception campaign designed to mislead the Germans about the intended invasion target.”
Within two months following the Normandy landings, the Allied troops reached the Seine River. They subsequently liberated Paris, France, and the German troops were removed from northwestern France.
History reports, the Normandy invasion negatively impacted Adolph Hitler’s plan to reinforce the Eastern Front against the Soviet Union.
— NormandyWarGuide (@NormandyGuide) April 13, 2016
Less than one year after the Normandy Landings, Hitler was declared dead following an apparent suicide. One week later, on May 8, 1945, Nazi Germany surrendered to the Allies.
The Normandy landings are commemorated each year on June 6, which is also referred to as D-Day. Although the memories are bittersweet for the surviving veterans who served during the Battle of Normandy, the invasion remains a significant part of world history.
[Image via Everett Historical/Shutterstock]