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The Allied invasion (code name, Operation Overlord) of France's Normandy region during World War II began on June 6, 1944 (D-Day). The operation, which landed about 1 million troops by July 1, was under the supreme command of Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower. The Germans, unaware of the exact invasion point, had 50 infantry and 10 panzer (tank) divisions dispersed in France and the Low Countries under the command of Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt.
For the two months preceding D-Day, British-based aircraft had systematically bombed rail lines, bridges, and airfields on French soil. Throughout the preceding night paratroops were dropped inland to disrupt enemy communications. Naval guns pounded shore installations, and in the early daylight at low tide about 5,000 Allied ships approached the Normandy coastline. The British and Canadians moved in smoothly at the eastern landing points — Gold, Juno, and Sword beaches, above Caen — as did the Americans (under Omar Bradley) at Utah Beach, the westernmost landing site. At Omaha Beach, pivot of the landings, American troops securing their bridgehead were met by heavy German gunfire. Within five days 16 Allied divisions had landed in Normandy, and the final drive to liberate Europe was under way.
Louis L. Snyder
Bibliography: Ambrose S. E., D-Day, June 6, 1944 (1994); Astor, G., June Six, Nineteen Ninety-Four (1994); Chandler, D. G., and Collins, J. L., Jr., eds., The D-Day Encyclopedia (1993); D'Este, C., Decision in Normandy (1994); Eisenhower, D. D., Crusade in Europe (1948; repr. 1977); Kershaw, R. J., D-Day (1994); Ryan, C., The Longest Day, 2d ed. (1975; repr. 1994); Wilson, T. A., ed., D-Day (1994).