On June 6, 1944, 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. It is the largest amphibious invasion of all time, with more than 5,000 ships and 13,000 aircraft supporting the mission.The assault was conducted in two phases: an air assault landing of 24,000 American, British, Canadian and Free French airborne troops shortly after midnight, and an amphibious landing of Allied infantry and armored divisions on the coast of France commencing at 6:30 AM.
The cost was high, with more than 9,000 Allied soldiers killed or wounded, but by day’s end the Allies had gained a foot-hold in Normandy so that a march across Europe could begin. In subsequent days an enormous armada would continue to land. By June 30, it would consist of more than 850,000 men, 148,000 vehicles and 570,000 tons of supplies. By July 4, more than one million men had been landed.
Our own D-Day story: My father-in-law was one of those one million men. An artillery sergeant, he was part of a unit staged in England that was scheduled to go in on the initial invasion, but a last minute change of orders sent a more experienced unit in its place. Most of the men in that unit were killed in action. My father-in-law’s unit landed on D-Day+13 and was part of the vast Allied force that fought its way through France and into Germany until the conclusion of the war. Following his military service, my father-in-law returned to Kansas to his young wife and a 3-year-old son he had never met. He went on to father four more children and enjoy a great life on a Kansas farm, leaving all of us whose lives have been shaped by his life to ponder the quirks of fate that send some young men home from war and leave others forever on the beaches of Normandy.