The ‘D’ in D-Day

The Triumph of Freedom Over Tyranny

On June 6th, 1944, the Allied Forces amassed the largest invasion force in world history to liberate Europe from Nazi control.

Codenamed “Operation Overlord,” the combined Allied air, land, and seaborne assault on Normandy, France featured over 7,000 ships and 156,000 troops, including 73,000 American soldiers.

Allied Assault Routes, 6 June 1944


Preparing for the Invasion

Departing from the British coastline at 10pm on June 5th, 7,000 Allied ships carried American, British, and Canadian soldiers toward the beaches of Normandy. At midnight, Allied aircraft began bombing Hitler’s “Atlantic Wall” of coastline fortifications.

Additional Allied aircraft dropped 13,000 elite American paratroopers behind German lines. While many of these paratroopers missed their intended drop points and became scattered throughout the French countryside, enough of them managed to band together to attack German defenses in the hopes of making the beaches safe for the impending Allied amphibious assault.

Eisenhower’s Order of the Day, June 6, 1944
Authorizing the D-Day Invasion

Meanwhile, Allied ships carrying young American GIs, many barely in their 20s and lacking combat experience, sailed across the English Channel in the early hours of June 6th. Tucked into their pockets was a letter from the Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower that spoke not only to their mission but also their nation’s founding ideals:

The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you.

Securing the Beach

These same GIs were tasked with establishing a foothold on two beaches on the coast of Normandy, codenamed Utah and Omaha. Thousands of American soldiers hit these beaches, often on sandbars 100 yards in length and without any cover from constant German machine gun fire and artillery barrages.

With their landing crafts being shelled behind them, the Americans trudged through neck-deep water, clambered over anti-tank obstacles, and crawled across the sand, all while facing a hail of German bullets and mortars that shrieked through the air over the fire-swept surf.

US Navy landing craft put the fist wave of American troops ashore on Omaha Beach on D-Day.


US troops of E Company, 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division wading onto the Easy Red section of Omaha Beach (Calvados, Basse-Normandie, France) on the morning of June 6, 1944.


American forces endured their highest casualties on the unthinkable hell on earth of Omaha beach. There, the first wave of US forces that struggled onto the beach suffered a 90% casualty rate, the gut-wrenching and frightening experience depicted in Steven Spielberg’s film Saving Private Ryan. Yet unlike that film and most popular depictions of this assault, it took over nine-hours to secure “Bloody Omaha.”




By the end of D-Day, the combined efforts of the Allied forces had established a beachhead at Normandy.

Defending the “Last Best Hope on Earth”

The brave soldiers who fought and died on D-Day gave, what Abraham Lincoln once called, their “last full measure of devotion” to ensure not only American freedom but also the fate of freedom across the globe.

And while historians may debate what the ‘D’ in D-Day stood for, ultimately the word  “devotion” best epitomizes our soldiers’ actions on that fateful day.

Their devotion to saving the world and ensuring our future was a devotion to preserving the “last best hope on Earth,” the nation that enshrined freedom from the founding period onwards: the United States of America.

Americans can neither escape their history nor avoid the fiery trials through which they must pass in order to sustain the founding vision of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Our Constitution was designed to protect that vision and protect the freedom of the individual. The inspiring role America played in the Allied victory on D-Day will endure so long as we remain committed to studying, defending, and championing this vision.

At the Jack Miller Center we carry on what those Americans fought and died for by bringing America’s founding principles back into fiery trial of the classroom.

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