On June 6, 1944, Allied commanders launched Operation Overlord, a cross-Channel invasion of occupied Europe and the largest seaborne mission in military history. As 160,000 troops stormed the heavily-defended beaches of Normandy, France, to take on German forces. Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces Dwight D. Eisenhower called the operation a “great crusade” in which, “we will accept nothing less than full victory.” 

The Allied plan included several efforts such as deception tactics to lure the Germans into thinking the invasion would take place elsewhere, to aerial bombardment of German facilities, airfields, and supplies along the Normandy coast in the days leading up to the attack. 

The assault portion of Overlord, known as Operation Neptune, involved amphibious landings by Allied armored and infantry divisions along five beaches on Normandy’s coast—code-named Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword. 

The men were met with strong enemy defenses, with the highest casualties occurring on Omaha due to the high cliffs where the Germans were established well-built fortifications.

After nearly a month of long and bloody fighting, the Allies were able to establish a foothold on the European continent, making Nazi Germany’s defeat inevitable.