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On the 75th anniversary of Operation Neptune, a portfolio of selected armaments and artifacts.


At 06:30 hours on June 6, 1944—D-Day—Allied infantry and armored divisions began landing in monumental numbers along a 50-mile stretch of the Normandy coast. Their mission: to liberate German-occupied France (and, in time, the rest of Europe) from Nazi control and to pave the way for an Allied victory on the Western Front in World War II. Nearly 160,000 men crossed the English Channel that day, and by the end of August more than two million Allied troops would be in France. Eight months later, as the Battle of Berlin raged above his führerbunker, Adolf Hitler committed suicide, and within a week the German Armed Forces High Command had unconditionally surrendered to the Allies.

On D-Day, British prime minister Winston Churchill went before the House of Commons to report that everything was going as planned (though in fact it wasn’t). “This vast operation,” he said, “is undoubtedly the most complicated and difficult that has ever taken place.” On this page we present some memorable objects from that operation, beginning with the message to troops issued by General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the supreme commander of the Allied forces in Western Europe, and the M1 Garand semiautomatic rifle, which General George S. Patton famously branded “the greatest battle implement ever devised.”