D-Day: Here’s how the Allies began to reclaim Europe from the Nazis

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BiblioArchives / LibraryArchives

On June 6, 1944, Allied forces crossed the English Channel and began to reclaim the European mainland.

That day, 73 years ago, marked a turning point on the western front and in World War II.

The following images give you some idea of what those American, British, and Canadian troops saw when they left their landing craft and waded into history.


It was overcast and foggy on June 6, 1944, when 160,000 troops landed on France’s Normandy coastline.

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dynamosquito via flickr

Beaches along a 50-mile section of the Normandy coast were given five names — Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword. Each was heavily defended by German troops.

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France for Visitors

The clouds kept Allied bombers from targeting the German forces and softening up their defenses.

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BiblioArchives / LibraryArchives

The Germans saw the Allied ships and troops coming from miles away.

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frenchy via flickr

Once within range, Navy ships shelled German positions, but it wasn’t enough to soften the onslaught that awaited the Allied troops.

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BiblioArchives / LibraryArchives

The Germans had been in France for four years and had built a system bunkers all along the beach.

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dynamosquito via flickr

The only way to take out the bunkers was with ground troops.

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BiblioArchives / LibraryArchives

The first wave of assault troops hit the beach at 6:30 a.m.

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BiblioArchives / LibraryArchives

More than 13,000 paratroopers had been dropped behind enemy lines before the sun came up. But they had been scattered widely, often missing their target areas and offering little aid to the men coming ashore.

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dynamosquito via flickr

German anti-aircraft guns, like the one that would’ve been at this position, took a toll on these planes. Lingering clouds also made navigation difficult.

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dynamosquito via flickr

As gliders full of paratroopers troops flew in overhead, Allied troops continued to hit the beach.

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BiblioArchives / LibraryArchives

Those fortunate enough to make land unhurt often helped pull wounded men ashore with them.

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BiblioArchives / LibraryArchives

It took a special type of man to stop in the middle of blistering machine-gun fire and help another soldier, but it happened all day long.

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BiblioArchives / LibraryArchives

In mid-afternoon, the Germans fired 18 torpedoes on an Allied destroyer, breaking it in two. This sent 219 men into the sea.

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BiblioArchives / LibraryArchives

Men kept dragging themselves ashore.

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BiblioArchives / LibraryArchives

Patching each other up as they went.

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http://www.flickr.com/photos/lac-bac/

And, slowly, the sheer number of Allied troops and steady bombardment began to overwhelm the German defenses.

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BiblioArchives / LibraryArchives

As sections of beach were secured, the machinery needed to move deeper into France arrived ashore as well.

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BiblioArchives / LibraryArchives

Allied troops kept moving forward into heavy fire and bunkers filled with Germans.

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BiblioArchives / LibraryArchives

And one-by-one the Allies took the bunkers.

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BiblioArchives / LibraryArchives

Only burying the dead when the battle was done.

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BiblioArchives / LibraryArchives

A staggering 22,000 Allied troops were killed or wounded that day in the landing alone.

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BiblioArchives / LibraryArchives

Some of the dead remained where they fell. Today there are 9,238 white crosses and 149 Stars of David dotting cemeteries throughout the area.

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Wikimedia Commons

420,000 men from both sides were killed, wounded, or went missing during the Battle of Normandy. But the invasion succeeded.

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BiblioArchives / LibraryArchives

Less than one year later, Berlin fell and Hitler was dead.

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Wikimedia Commons

What it was like in the room when Nazi Germany finally surrendered to end World War II in Europe


Six months after that, Japan surrendered, and World War II was over.

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Wikimedia Commons

If not for the Allied troops who invaded Normandy on June 6, 1944, the war might have lasted indefinitely.

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Wikimedia Commons