The momentous events of June 6th 1944 began shortly after midnight, with the dropping of the first British airborne troops between the Orne and Dives rivers. Then it was the turn of the Americans to parachute into the Cotentin, at the other end of the sector.
Meanwhile, the RAF’s heavy bombers were pounding those artillery batteries of the Atlantic Wall that were thought to pose the greatest threat.
At dawn, the incredulous Germans woke to find a sea covered with ships. Operation Neptune, the first phase of the Overlord plan to reconquer Europe, was underway.
At 5.45 am, the fleet opened fire on the German defences
At 6.30 am, the first American assault waves reached the Utah and Omaha beaches. In the British and Canadian sectors, the attack was launched an hour later, to take account of the different tide times.
By the evening of June 6th, 20,000 vehicles and 155,000 soldiers (including the paratroops). had been landed The number of men reported killed, wounded or missing came to approximately 10,000 – far fewer than the planners had feared.
With the exception of Omaha, where the outcome of the battle hung in the balance for many hours, the Atlantic Wall was unremittingly smashed and the Allies advanced ten or so kilometres inland.