Omaha Beach

The liberation of Western Europe began in Normandy in June 1944. The arrival of the Allied armies brought with it the restoration of freedom but also heavy fighting and large-scale destruction.

Liberation Route Europe

Liberation Route:FranceNormandy

On 6 June 1944 one of the largest fleets ever assembled crossed the English Channel towards France: the Allied invasion of Europe had begun. After the storming and capturing of the beaches a fierce battle broke out In Normandy that was to last for two months. In some of the heaviest fighting of the war many soldiers and civilians lost their lives and the countryside was left completely devastated.

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Highlighted story: D-Day

6 June 1944 entered history under the now legendary name of D-Day, the Allied landings on the beaches of Normandy. It was the most dramatic part of Operation Overlord, that marked the beginning of the liberation of German-occupied Western Europe.

The longest Day
In this picture:
In the area of Pointe du Hoc.

Four years after the crushing defeat of France, Belgium and the Netherlands in the spring of 1940, the Anglo-American Allies launched Operation Overlord. The aim was to gain a foothold in Western Europe in order to defeat Nazi Germany, along with the Soviet Army on the Eastern front.

Normandy was chosen because of its close proximity to the British coast, thus allowing Allied aircraft to effectively support troops landing during the initial phase of the assault (Operation Neptune).

Above all, the German defences along this stretch of the coastline were less formidable than in the north. The German Command expected the Allies to land where the Channel was at its narrowest. A fleet of over 6.900 vessels was required to land the assault forces of more than 156.000 men on five beaches, that received code names (from west to east) Utah and Omaha (U.S.), Gold (British), Juno (Canadian) and Sword (British). About 24.000 airborne troops were also deployed in order to take control of strategic points and to prevent German attacks on the flanks of the assault forces ashore.

Despite poor weather conditions and fierce resistance from German units the operations were successful. On the evening of 6 June 1944, the Allies had gained a foothold on all five beaches. The German defenders were uncertain how to respond.

D-Day was mostly an Anglo-American effort: British, American and Canadian troops made up most of the numbers, but no less than 17 Allied countries participated on the ground, the sea and in the air. The landings of 6 June 1944 entered history under the now legendary name of D-Day.

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