Events Leading Up to D-Day 1941-1944
The world was in constant flux during World War II (1939-1945). During this time, Germany, Japan, and Italy formed the Axis while the Allies were composed of Great Britain, France, Russia and later, in 1941, the United States. In 1940, Germany invaded and later captured France, thereby cutting off land needed for a possible invasion by Allied forces.
During this time, President Franklin D. Roosevelt started planning an invasion that would liberate France and provide support for Russia. Until 1943, the Allies had a tough time planning an invasion through the English Channel due to Germany’s numerous submarines. With most of Germany’s submarine forces vanquished by 1943, the Allies began investing in a plan that would liberate France.
In 1944, General Dwight Eisenhower was appointed as the commander of the invasion forces, which would lead to the creation of Operation Overlord. It would take several months to plan and allow the events of D-Day, WW2’s largest invasion, to take place.
Formation of Operation Overlord in 1943
An early version of Operation Overlord was conceived in 1943 during the Teheran Conference in which Allied leaders, Franklin D.
Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin met to discuss a possible invasion of southern France. Although the date was set in the beginning of June, it would not be until June 6th that the invasion would commence. During this conference, the Allied leaders chose General Dwight Eisenhower to plan the operation.
It took about a year to plan Operation Overlord, which would commence an invasion of southern France along Normandy. This day would be known as D-Day (the “D” meaning “day”). In order to prepare for this attack, the Allied American and English forces began training troops for the invasion as well as marketing a plan of deception that would be used against the Germans. Even though many military tacticians thought the invasion was implausible, the Allied forces crafted ideas that would eventually turn the tide of the war.
Planning and Deception 1943-1944
The Allies’ deception involved leading the Germans to believe that they would invade other places besides Normandy. This involved deceiving the Germans to believe that the Allies would attack Pas-de-Calais or other locations such as parts of Norway. This was helped with phony operations such as allowing false radio information to fall into German hands and the use of double agents. General Patton even commanded a “phantom army” which involved setting up fake models of vehicles and landing craft in areas away from Normandy.
In addition to this deception, the Allies started extensively bombing German production centers in order to help the invasion forces. On May 30th, 1944, Allied forces began mobilizing for the commencement of Operation Overlord. With the forces trained and prepared as well as the diversion of deception, General Dwight Eisenhower awaited for satisfactory weather in order to push the attack.
June 5th, 1944
Eisenhower originally planned the invasion to commence on June 5th; however, bad weather delayed the attack for another day. During
this time, Allied forces began sending air support to lighten up areas that the spearhead forces would encounter the next day. Allied forces also bombed vital bridges and roads in order to delay German forces from engaging Allied troops who were arriving on the beaches.
In addition, several divisions of paratroopers were launched the night before June 6th in order to perform reconnaissance as well as provide sabotage efforts for the invasion forces. The events of D-Day’s WW2 battle were about to take place on June 6th, 1944.
June 6th, 1944
On that day, over 5,000 ships transported over 150,000 troops and 30,000 vehicles to the beaches of Normandy. Many forces were designated to take several beaches codenamed Sword, Juno and Gold. The most famous was Omaha Beach in which American forces advanced in limited cover against the onslaught of German defenses. In total, over 2,000 Americans lost their lives in Omaha Beach; however, they were able to overrun the German defenses.
The Allied forces were successful in their deception and allowed Adolf Hitler to believe that the invasion of Normandy was a diversion. With this in mind, Hitler was slow in sending reinforcements to Normandy and, combined with several key bridges and railways destroyed, the Allied forces were also successful in countering Germany forces from overrunning their positions.
In total, over 4,000 Allied troops lost their lives during D-Day; however, these men were able to push far enough so that Allied forces could camp and reinforce supplies and troops. After June 6th, reinforcements continued to pour into regions around Normandy.
June 11th, 1944
By June 11, over 300,000 troops and 50,000 vehicles were able to set up along Normandy beaches. With these supplies and reinforcements, Allied forces were ready to push deeper in France and later Germany.
August 1944 and Results of D-Day
Allied forces continued pushing into France and by the end of August they had liberated France. With France under control, the Allied
forces were able to provide much needed support for Stalin’s Russian forces. This included providing supplies as well as providing a diversion so that Russian forces could recover. Allied forces were able to fight a two-front war against Germany and effectively force the power to surrender in 1945.
In conclusion, Axis forces provided the catalyst leading up to D-Day events. WW2 saw the miracle of an invasion which was thought impossible by German tacticians; however, the Allied forces were able to prevail due to their deception and remarkable planning. Even though countless men lost their lives during D-Day, it is important to never forget what they strove for–even if it seemed impossible.
- Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum. “D-Day.” https://docs.fdrlibrary.marist.edu:8000/04ddhome.html
- History.com. “D-Day.” https://www.history.com/topics/d-day
- Public Broadcasting Service. “Timeline: World War II in Europe.” https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/dday/timeline/index.html
- Associated Press. " President Franklin D. Roosevelt.” https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:President_Franklin_D._Roosevelt-1941.jpg
- Conseil Régional de Basse-Normandie. “Omaha Beach Landing.” https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Omaha_Beach_Landing_Craft.jpg
- “Raid by the 8th Air Force.” https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Raid_by_the_8th_Air_Force.jpg
- Scott, William Alexander III. “Patton.” https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ohrdruf_Patton_87662.jpg
- “Teheran Conference.” https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tehran_Conference,_1943.jpg
- wolny. “Destruction in a Berlin Street.” https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Destruction_in_a_Berlin_street.jpg
This post is part of the series: Major World War II Battles
Learn about a series of major battles that took place during World War II.