The view of the invading force from the airplanes crossing the English Channel on June 6, 1944 must have let the airmen know they were making history. Below them, more than a thousand ships bombarded the German coastal strongholds, while 4,000 landing craft carried 160,000 men to fight their way onto shore. At the same time, more than 2,000 bombers pummeled German batteries. The paratroopers had already landed. Nearly 1,000 U.S. and British aircraft, mainly C-47s, had launched before dawn and dropped the troops inland to capture roads and prevent the enemy from joining the hell on the coast (paratroopers from the U.S. Army 101st Airborne Division are pictured above).
The D-Day landing at Normandy was the largest seaborne invasion ever attempted. The goal was to gain a toehold on a 50-mile stretch of French beach, and from there to advance all the way to Berlin to finish off an already weakened Germany. There was nothing weak, however, about the defenders on the coast that day; the Allies suffered 10,000 casualties.
In the retelling of stories about World War II, it is sometimes possible to assign too much significance to a single event or to exaggerate the catastrophe that could have resulted from failure. That is not the case with D-Day. These stories reflect the scale and importance of the Normandy invasion. They also bring us into contact with the individuals who managed to live through it. — Linda Shiner