D-Day: “That's the Way It's Going to Be"

Assault on Omaha Beach, D-Day
Assault landing, one of the first waves at Omaha. (Photo: Center of Military History)

"This operation is not being planned with any alternatives. This operation is planned as a victory, and that's the way it's going to be. We're going down there, and we're throwing everything we have into it, and we're going to make it a success." -- General Dwight D. Eisenhower

"We were the ones, who gave France their freedom. Seeing this -- being honored and knowing that those who gave their lives have not been forgotten -- that is what's important." -- Charles Wilson, U.S. Army 4th Division, Battery C tank driver

June 6, 1944: it was perhaps the most pivotal day in World War II. Over 160,000 Allied troops landed along a 50-mile stretch of heavily-fortified French coastline, to fight Nazi Germany on the beaches of Normandy, France, with the support of 5,000 ships and 13,000 aircraft. The Normandy beaches were chosen for D-Day because they lay within range of air cover, and were less heavily defended than the obvious objective of the Pas de Calais, the shortest distance between Great Britain and the Continent. Airborne drops at both ends of the beachheads were intended to protect the flanks, as well as open up roadways to the interior. Six divisions were to land on the first day; three U.S., two British and one Canadian. Two more British divisions and one U.S. division were to follow up after the assault had cleared the way through the beach defenses.

Disorganization, confusion, incomplete or faulty implementation of plans characterized the initial phases of the landings. This was especially true of the airborne landings which were badly scattered, as well as the first wave units landing on the assault beaches. To their great credit, most of the troops were able to adapt to the disorganization. In the end, the Allies achieved their objective.

The cost in lives on D-Day was high. More than 9,000 Allied soldiers were killed or wounded, but their sacrifice allowed more than 100,000 soldiers to begin the slow, hard slog across Europe, to defeat Adolf Hitler's crack troops. As General Dwight D. Eisenhower said in a broadcast to the citizens of occupied Europe following D-Day, "Although the initial assault may not have been in your own country, the hour of your liberation is approaching."

Military.com salutes the people who made the Allied invasion of Normandy a success with these featured articles. Read soldiers' first-hand accounts of their D-Day experiences, and learn more about the key leaders and how events unfolded on that fateful day.

D-Day Leaders

General Omar Bradley: The general known for his modesty would command the 1st U.S. Army in the invasion of Normandy.

Miles Dempsey: Because of his strategic acumen, this lieutenant general was selected to command the 2nd Army in the invasion.

Dwight D. Eisenhower: The future U.S. president was Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force for the invasion of Europe.

Trafford Leigh-Mallory: As AEAF Commander in charge of all tactical air forces based in England, the Air Vice-Marshal was a proponent of a "transportation plan" which would prove to be crucial during the invasion.

Bernard Montgomery: The British general commanded all Allied Ground troops during the D-Day invasion.

Bertram Ramsay: The admiral's experience in commanding invasion fleets made him Eisenhower's natural choice to lead the naval forces in Operation Overlord.

Erwin Rommel: The general known as the "Desert Fox"was perhaps the greatest commander on the German side.

Carl Spaatz: The general from Pennsylvania commanded the U.S. Strategic Air Forces in Europe during the invasion.

D-Day Stories

Roy Arnn: "I was trying to get the mine detector out of the box but couldn't as the lid was jammed. There was no place to hide in the open and people in the house kept firing."

William John Arnold: "While I was strolling up and down trying to work out what was happening, I met General Montgomery. He spoke to me and asked if I was still doing the same job as when we met on the beach in Sicily, just under a year before."

Garwood Bacon: "Terror seized me as I gazed horrified at the burned and bleeding, frantically rushing and stumbling past me trying to get away from the blinding fire and smoke."

Sherman Baxter: "Sergeant Martin, my platoon sergeant, yelled to me, 'Let's go ashore and keep them running.' I yelled, 'I'll be waiting for you in Berlin.'"

Frank Beetle: "It was in the bloody middle of the night and a terribly rough sea. Very rough, terribly rough and we guys were sick. Throwing up terribly."

Joseph Beryle: "I crawled over a hedgerow and landed in a German machine gun position manned by 10-12 Germans."

George Bonadio: "I was one of the 163 persons holding a 'BIGOT' card, which was overprinted with large red letters spelling out 'BIGOT' so that we would not show it to anyone because a bigot is a real nasty personality, and it was nothing to gloat about, was it?"

John G. Burkhalter: "I had been praying quite a bit through the night as we approached the French coast but now I began praying more earnestly than ever."

Joseph A. Dragatto: "We heard someone yell, 'Look out behind you.' I turned around and I saw a group of men dressed in white coming out of the mist. Without thinking, I grabbed the 30-caliber, swung it around, and started firing."

Edward A. Bunton: "I was looking right at her but I had no idea whether she had been hit by a torpedo or a mine, and I instantly sounded general quarters."

I.J. "Irish" Degnan: "Our antennae stuck up in the air about 15 feet, making our presence a prime target. The infantry men on the beach let us know in no uncertain terms that we were not welcome in their area."

Malcolm Edwards: "It was sort of strange to be up there with this tremendous thing happening and nobody, none of the civilians knew about it."

Joseph Henry Esclavon: "Your mind would look at it and see it, but your brain couldn't grasp the multitude of ships that were already on fire and sinking."

Bernard S. Feinberg: "No sense dying here, men. Let's go up on the hill and die." And with these words, he started to tap soldiers on their butts and said, "29 -- Let's go!"

Maro P. Flagg: "The chaplain offered prayers, and to tell the truth, his knees were really shaking."

Roy Aaron Ford: "As we arrived on the beach, we could see human bodies floating around in the shallow water like logs."

Sam G. Gibbons: "I jumped up out of the ditch, took about six fast paces and took cover behind a concrete telephone pole. It wasn't very good protection, but it was better than I had had."

George Thomas Poe: "Some say it was the longest day, but it was kind of short for me."

Charles Roland: "All that day and night and the following day we were assaulted front and flank."

William D. Townsley: "I thought if I live through this it would have been the biggest Fourth of July I have ever seen in my whole life."

More D-Day Features

10 Incredible Facts About D-Day

A Hero of D-Day made VE Day Possible

5 Things You Don't Know About D-Day

What If D-Day Failed? A Message from General Eisenhower

'Tactical Surprise': The Assault on Utah Beach

D-Day 74: Jumping to Honor the Greatest Generation

From 'Big Week' to the Big Day: Aerial Attacks Prior to D-Day

Freeing a Continent: Airborne Forces on D-Day

The Fate of One American D-Day Flag

British D-Day Hero's Emotional Return to Normandy

D-Day 1944: A Day of Battle in France and Prayer at Home

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