On this day, 73 years ago, the Allies stormed into Normandy, France, and led an invasion to liberate Western Europe from the Germans. These men risked everything to bring an end to one of the most evil regimes in history.

American, British, and Canadian soldiers took part in Operation Overloard, also known as D-Day, along the 50 miles of five beaches. D-Day is “one of the largest amphibious military assaults in history.”

Preparations

General Dwight Eisenhower took control of Operation Overlord in January 1944. From History:

In the months and weeks before D-Day, the Allies carried out a massive deception operation intended to make the Germans think the main invasion target was Pas-de-Calais (the narrowest point between Britain and France) rather than Normandy. In addition, they led the Germans to believe that Norway and other locations were also potential invasion targets. Many tactics was used to carry out the deception, including fake equipment; a phantom army commanded by George Patton and supposedly based in England, across from Pas-de-Calais; double agents; and fraudulent radio transmissions.

German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel knew the vulnerability of these beaches. He knew the Germans had to defend the beaches, but no one believed him. He wanted to secure the entire Atlantic Wall. Luckily for the Allies, Adolf Hitler insisted this not happen…

Right Before the Invasion

Eisenhower sent out this speech the night before the invasion.

Everyone knew the importance of this invasion. It would make or break the Allies.

Victory was not a guarantee. Even Eisenhower knew that:

The Invasion

The airborne operations of D-Day began at midnight to destroy bridges and road crossings. The bombings would also help the amphibious forces advance once they conquered the beaches.

On June 6, 1944, at 6:30AM, the amphibious invasions began in the sea. Since Hitler didn’t listen to Rommel, the Allies did not face the opposition that could have destroyed them. From History:

The British and Canadians overcame light opposition to capture beaches codenamed Gold, Juno and Sword, as did the Americans at Utah Beach. U.S. forces faced heavy resistance at Omaha Beach, where there were over 2,000 American casualties. However, by day’s end, approximately 156,000 Allied troops had successfully stormed Normandy’s beaches.According to some estimates, more than 4,000 Allied troops lost their lives in the D-Day invasion, with thousands more wounded or missing.

Uncertainty. But look at these brave men. The GREATEST GENERATION venturing into the cold waters into oncoming fire to save a place most have never visited, people they did not know. Bravery.

Survivors

Unfortunately, the Greatest Generation has grown old and we are losing their valuable voices. PLEASE watch these videos and listen to their stories.

Here is a documentary of Easy Company of the 101st Airborne, which HBO made into a miniseries, Band of Brothers.