On 6 June 1944, the Allies launched the greatest amphibious invasion in history. Codenamed “Overlord” but best known today as “D-Day”, the operation saw Allied forces landing on the beaches of Normandy in Nazi-occupied France in huge numbers. By the end of the day, the Allies had established a foothold on the French coastline.
By midnight on 6 June, 132,000 Allied forces had landed in France, while more than 2 million were eventually shipped there in total, comprising a total of 39 divisions.
Thousands of vessels took part in the operation, including 139 major warships; 221 smaller combat vessels; more than 1000 minesweepers and auxiliary vessels; 4,000 landing craft; 805 merchant ships; 59 blockships; and 300 miscellaneous small craft.
The D-Day operation began shortly after midnight with an Allied assault by three airborne divisions – the US 82nd and 101st on the right flank of the American forces, and Britain’s 6th Airborne on the left flank of the British.
Seaborne forces were then put ashore on five Normandy beaches. These beaches were codenamed (from east to west) Sword, Juno, Gold, Omaha and Utah.
Between 6 June and the end of August, the American armies suffered 124,394 casualties, of whom 20,668 were killed. Casualties within the First Canadian and Second British Armies are placed at 83,045: 15,995 killed, 57,996 wounded, and 9,054 missing. Of these, Canadian losses amounted to 18,444, with 5,021 killed in action. The Allied air forces, having flown 480,317 sorties in support of the invasion, lost 4,101 aircraft and 16,714 airmen (8,536 members of the USAAF, and 8,178 flying under the command of the RAF). The Free French SAS paratroopers suffered 77 killed, with 197 wounded and missing. Allied tank losses have been estimated at around 4,000, with losses split evenly between the American and British/Canadian armies. Historians slightly differ on overall casualties during the campaign, with the lowest losses totaling 225,606 and the highest at 226,386.