8 Iconic Photos From The Invasion Of Normandy

History
Down the ramp of a Coast Guard landing barge, U.S. troops soldiers storm toward the beach in the D-Day invasion of Normandy, June 6, 1944.
Photo via U.S. Coast Guard

Today marks the anniversary of Operation Overlord, commonly referred to as D-Day. A major operation during World War II, and the largest seaborne invasion in history, it marked the turning point in the fight against Axis powers in Europe.


Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the supreme commander of Allied forces in Europe, gave this speech just prior to giving the order to begin the operation.

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. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.

156,000 allied troops landed on five beaches, code-named Gold, Juno, Sword, Utah, and Omaha. British and Canadian troops overcame light opposition at Gold, Juno, and Sword, as did U.S. troops at Utah. American forces landing on Omaha beach faced the fiercest resistance, suffering 2,400 casualties. In total, the beach landings claimed the lives of 4,313 Allied troops, 2,499 Americans, and 1,914 others from Allied nations.

In conjunction with the beach landings, 13,000 paratroopers landed behind German lines and secured key towns, bridges, and crossroads in order to break German supply lines and limit reinforcements.

Today, Eisenhower’s words still ring true for the men who fought and died on the beaches, fields, and among the hedgerows of Normandy: “The eyes of the world are upon you.”

Below are eight historic photos from the days leading up to, during, and after one of the most brutal battles in contemporary history.

Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower speaks with paratroopers who jumped behind enemy lines, June 5, 1944.

U.S. soldiers assigned to the 101st Airborne Division, apply war paint to each other's face in England in preparation for the invasion of Normandy, France, June 5, 1944.

American assault troops in a landing craft huddle behind the protective front of the craft as it nears a beachhead on the northern coast of France, June 6, 1944.

American troops disembark a landing craft and make their way to the beach. Carrying 80-pound packs, assorted gear and equipment, the landing troops had to maneuver across 200 yards of exposed beach before reaching cover.

Some of the first assault troops to hit the Normandy, France beachhead take cover behind enemy obstacles to fire on German forces as others follow the first tanks plunging through the water towards the German-held shore.

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Members of an American landing party help fellow soldiers to shore after their landing craft was sunk by enemy fire. The survivors reached Omaha beach using a life raft.

American assault troops of the 3d Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st U.S. Infantry Division, who stormed Omaha Beach. Although wounded, they gain the comparative safety offered by the chalk cliff at their backs, June 6, 1944.

Ships put cargo ashore on one of the invasion beaches at low tide during the first days of the Invasion of Normandy.

"It's kind of like the equivalent of dropping a soda can into canyon and putting on a blindfold and going and finding it, because you can't just look down and see it," diver Jeff Goodreau said of finding the wreck.

The USS Eagle 56 was only five miles off the coast of Maine when it exploded.

The World War I-era patrol boat split in half, then slipped beneath the surface of the North Atlantic. The Eagle 56 had been carrying a crew of 62. Rescuers pulled 13 survivors from the water that day. It was April 23, 1945, just two weeks before the surrender of Nazi Germany.

The U.S. Navy classified the disaster as an accident, attributing the sinking to a blast in the boiler room. In 2001, that ruling was changed to reflect the sinking as a deliberate act of war, perpetuated by German submarine U-853, a u-boat belonging to Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine.

Still, despite the Navy's effort to clarify the circumstances surrounding the sinking, the Eagle 56 lingered as a mystery. The ship had sunk relatively close to shore, but efforts to locate the wreck were futile for decades. No one could find the Eagle 56, a small patrol ship that had come so close to making it back home.

Then, a group of friends and amateur divers decided to try to find the wreck in 2014. After years of fruitless dives and intensive research, New England-based Nomad Exploration Team successfully located the Eagle 56 in June 2018.

Business Insider spoke to two crew members — meat truck driver Jeff Goodreau and Massachusetts Department of Corrections officer Donald Ferrara — about their discovery.

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