Every war has had one day that changed the tide–where one side began winning, and the other side began to lose.
That moment in the Second World War was D-Day–June 6, 1944–the day Allied forces crossed the English Channel and began to reclaim the European mainland.
Today is D-Day’s 69th anniversary.
As we remember those who were there, we offer the following images of the day Allied forces began winning World War II.
Beaches along a 50-mile stretch of coastline in Normandy were given five names--Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword. Each was heavily defended by German troops.
Once within range, Navy ships shelled the Germans and the beach, but this bombardment wasn't enough to soften the onslaught that awaited the Allied troops.
The Germans had been in France four years by now and were entrenched within bunkers all along the beach.
The only way to take out the bunkers was with ground troops--men who would keep taking bullets until the Germans were either overrun, or every man lay dead in the sand.
The first wave of assault troops hit the beach at 6:30 a.m. They had no illusions about what they faced.
More than 13,000 paratroopers had been dropped behind enemy lines before the sun came up, but were scattered widely and offered minimal help to men at the beach.
German anti-aircraft guns, like the one that sat here in this photo, took their toll on these places. The lingering clouds also made navigation difficult, so troops were dropped far from where they needed to be.
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.
In mid-afternoon, the Germans unleashed 18 torpedoes upon an Allied destroyer, breaking it in two. This sent 219 men into the sea.
But the sheer number of Allied troops and steady bombardment slowly overwhelmed the German defenses.
As sections of beach were secured, the machinery needed to move deeper into France arrived ashore as well.
With no place else to go, Allied troops kept moving forward into heavy fire and bunkers filled with Germans.
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.
420,000 men from both sides were killed, wounded, or went missing during the Battle of Normandy. But the invasion succeeded.
If not for the Allied troops who invaded Normandy on June 6, 1944, the war might have lasted indefinitely.
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