On 6 June 1944, in what would become known as D-Day, Allied forces launched a naval, air and land assault on Nazi-occupied-Normandy, France. The attack, codenamed Operation Overlord, took place in the aftermath of Nazi Germany’s invasion of France in May 1940 and Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, which forced the United States to enter World War II.
In the months leading to the invasion, the Allied forces created a phantom army commanded by George Patton, using tactics such as double agents and fraudulent radio transmissions to deceive the Germans into thinking that the main invasion targeted was Pas-de-Calais (the narrowest point between Britain and France) rather than Normandy. The deception was key in the Germans reacting to invasion slowly, giving Allied forces valuable time to further invade the area.
The mission represented an unprecedented international cooperation as Allied forces formed a coalition, known as the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF), in their efforts to defeat the Nazis. The operation, which remains the largest amphibious invasion ever, was organized by US General Dwight D. Eisenhower and commanded on the ground by British General Bernard Montgomery. On D-Day, Allied forces consisted primarily of American, British, and Canadian troops but also included Australian, Belgian, Czech, Dutch, French, Greek, New Zealand, Norwegian, Rhodesian and Polish naval, air or ground support.
Ahead of the operation, Eisenhower spoke to the troops, saying, “You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you…we will accept nothing less than full victory.”
During the operation, Allied troops landed on five beaches on the coast of Normandy, code-named: Omaha, Gold, Juno, Sword, and Utah. By the end of the day, approximately 156,000 Allied troops had successfully stormed Normandy’s beaches. According to some estimates, more than 4,000 Allied troops lost their lives in the D-Day invasion, with thousands wounded or missing.
D-Day marked the beginning of the end of the Nazi German occupation of France, as it opened a second front against Germany, draining it of its much-needed resources. Two and a half months later, Free French forces liberated Paris with Allied support.
Unfortunately, the operation came too late to spare much of European Jewry, with more than 5 million European Jews having already perished in the Holocaust. As the operation began, Hungarian Jews were being deported and murdered.
Out of the approximately 825,000 Jews living in Hungary in 1941, around 255,000 Jews - less than one-third - survived the Holocaust. About 63,000 died prior to the Nazi German occupation of March 1944 and over 500,000 died from maltreatment or were murdered during Nazi occupation.