It was the beginning of the end for the Axis powers in World War II — 160,000 Allied troops storming the beaches of Nazi-occupied France at Normandy. Now 70 years later, the world looks back. (Via U.S. Coast Guard, U.K. Ministry of Defence, U.S. National Archives)
“Men and women of the United States, this is a momentous hour in world history. This is the invasion of Hitler’s Europe, the zero-hour of the second front.” (Via NBC)
“On the evening of June 5, the harbor came alive. This was it. We would hit the beach the next morning, at 6:30 a.m. June 6, 1944, to be-called D-Day.” (Via U.S. Army)
The American leader? Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower. (Via U.S. Army)
“The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. We will accept nothing less than full victory.” (Via U.S. Army)
And the casualties could’ve been worse. As part of a massive counterintelligence operation, the Allies successfully convinced the Nazis they’d try to invade at Calais where the English Channel was more narrow. Amassing more Nazi forces in the wrong spot was a crucial part of the Allied strategy. (Via Google Maps)
And as Business Insider reports, Gen. Eisenhower had a backup plan, should the offensive have gone wrong.
A draft of a letter, reportedly found in his pocket weeks after the invasion at Normandy and meant to be a potential press release, read in part: "Our landings ... have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. … The troops, the air and the Navy did all that Bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone." (Via U.S. National Archives)
Thankfully, that address was never made, as those troops did not fail. Now, nearly three-quarters of a century since that fateful day, those who are still with us recall the fighting. (Via Sky News)
“It was like opening the door and stepping into hell. It was horrific — and the screams, and the people dying. They were dying all over the beach.” (Via British Forces News)
“By the time that ramp dropped and I went in, there were a lot of bodies in front of us, and we was in water about waist deep. … There’s a lot of my men that did a lot more than I did.” (Via Charlotte Observer)
As The Telegraph reports, some veterans, including British paratrooper Jock Hutton, are commemorating the event by reliving it — parachuting into the same field they did 70 years ago.
Finally, you might be wondering what that “D” in D-Day actually stands for. And unlike the “V” for victory, you might be surprised to find the answer is … nothing.
A the U.K.’s D-Day Museum writes, “The ‘D does not stand for ‘Deliverance’, ‘Doom’, ‘Debarkation’ or similar words. In fact, it does not stand for anything. The ‘D’ is derived from the word ‘Day’. ‘D-Day’ means the day on which a military operation begins.”
As The Guardian reports, world leaders including President Barack Obama, Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will join World War II veterans to commemorate D-Day at Normandy Friday.