Embarking upon a great crusade is how Ike described what the soldiers, sailors, and airmen were about to do on June 5-6, 1944.
Ike released this statement at 9am British Double Summer Time which would make it 3am in New York and Washington, DC.
At noon, Prime Minister Winston Churchill announced to the House of Commons that the invasion of Normandy was well underway and that the Allied Forces had captured Rome on June 4th.
I have also to announce to the House that during the night and the early hours of this morning the first of the series of landings in force upon the European Continent has taken place. In this case the liberating assault fell upon the coast of France. An immense armada of upwards of 4,000 ships, together with several thousand smaller craft, crossed the Channel. Massed airborne landings have been successfully effected behind the enemy lines, and landings on the beaches are proceeding at various points at the present time. The fire of the shore batteries has been largely quelled. The obstacles that were constructed in the sea have not proved so difficult as was apprehended. The Anglo-American Allies are sustained by about 11,000 firstline aircraft, which can be drawn upon as may be needed for the purposes of the battle. I cannot, of course, commit myself to any particular details. Reports are coming in in rapid succession. So far the Commanders who are engaged report that everything is proceeding according to plan. And what a plan! This vast operation is undoubtedly the most complicated and difficult that has ever taken place. It involves tides, wind, waves, visibility, both from the air and the sea standpoint, and the combined employment of land, air and sea forces in the highest degree of intimacy and in contact with conditions which could not and cannot be fully foreseen.
By 6pm local time, all five invasion beaches – Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword – had beachheads established and troops were starting to move inland.
By 9pm local time, ground troops were starting to link up with paratroopers and glider troops from the US 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions, the British 6th Airborne Division, the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion, and other smaller units. At the same time, the first reinforcements are starting to arrive from England.
The invasion of France was not without cost. The number of first day casualties is estimated at around 10,000. It has been a challenge to get a precise figure. Many units didn’t file their “morning reports” until days later. Fighting to get off the beach and move inland was of greater importance as one might imagine.
The number of killed in action had previously been put at about 2,500. However, research by the US National D-Day Historical Foundation has provided a much higher and more accurate total.
The number of people killed in the fighting is not known exactly. Accurate record keeping was very difficult under the circumstances. Books often give a figure of 2,500 Allied dead for D-Day. However, research by the US National D-Day Memorial Foundation has uncovered a more accurate figure of 4,414 Allied personnel killed on D-Day. These include 2,501 from the USA, 1,449 British dead, 391 Canadians and 73 from other Allied countries. Total German losses on D-Day (not just deaths, but also wounded and prisoners of war) are estimated as being between 4,000 and 9,000. Over 100,000 Allied and German troops were killed during the whole of the Battle of Normandy, as well as around 20,000 French civilians, many as a result of Allied bombing.
I look back on D-Day 76 years after the fact and am still amazed how such an operation could not only be organized but succeed. There was no computers, there was no Internet, and operations research was done using slide rules. My graduate degree is in project management and this was the project of all projects.