The 4 most dangerous missions American troops carried out on D-Day, 75 years ago
- The D-Day invasion sent roughly 156,000 Allied troops into Nazi-occupied France beginning on June 6, 1944. It was the largest seaborne invasion in history and a turning point in World War II that came at a catastrophic human toll.
- By the end of the Normandy campaign that began 75 years ago, hundreds of thousands of Allied and Axis soldiers and civilians had died and been wounded.
- The greatest risks were borne by American troops who seized clifftop artillery, set up defensive balloons to defend comrades from aerial attacks, and arrived in the first wave.
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"Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well-trained, well-equipped and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely."
As the sun set on the blood-stained beaches of Normandy, France on June 6, 1944, Supreme Allied Commander Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower's message to the thousands of Allied troops dispatched to carry out the largest amphibious landing in military history rang true.The invasion, codenamed Operation Neptune and remembered as D-Day, sent roughly 156,000 British, Canadian, and American troops to the Nazi-occupied French coast by air and sea, beginning the multi-month Battle of Normandy and the liberation of Western Europe from Hitler's Wehrmacht. This week, as millions gather in Normandy to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day, National WWII Museum senior historian Rob Citino emphasized that the impact of the landings came at a tremendous human toll. By the end of the Normandy campaign, hundreds of thousands of Allied and Axis soldiers and civilians had died and been wounded, with those involved in the initial landings suffering disproportionately.
"Certain sectors and certain minutes, casualties were 100 percent," Citino said.
Citino described the most perilous jobs American troops performed to help make the D-Day landings a World War II turning point. "It was bad enough but would have been worse," he says.