This article originally appeared on Task & Purpose, a digital news and culture publication dedicated to military and veterans issues.
The invasion of Normandy, which was named Operation Overlord, launched on June 6, 1944, and was one of the largest amphibious military assaults in history.
Saturday, June 6, marks the 72nd anniversary of Operation Overlord, commonly referred to as D-Day. A major operation during World War II, and the largest seaborne invasion in history, it marked the turning point in the fight against Axis powers in Europe. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the supreme commander of Allied forces in Europe, gave this speech just prior to giving the order to begin the operation.
You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.
156,000 allied troops landed on five beaches, code named Gold, Juno, Sword, Utah and Omaha. British and Canadian troops overcame light opposition at Gold, Juno and Sword, as did U.S. troops at Utah. American forces landing on Omaha beach faced the fiercest resistance, suffering 2,400 casualties. In total, the beach landings claimed the lives of 4,313 Allied troops, 2,499 Americans, and 1,914 others from Allied nations.
In conjunction with the beach landings, 13,000 paratroopers landed behind German lines and secured key towns, bridges, and crossroads in order to break German supply lines and limit reinforcements.
Today, Eisenhower’s words still ring true for the men who fought and died on the beaches, fields, and among the hedgerows of Normandy: “The eyes of the world are upon you.”
Below are six historic photos from the days leading up to, during, and after one of the most brutal battles in contemporary history. Click on the photos to open larger versions of each image.
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