Skip to main content

The Story Behind D-Day

The Story Behind D-Day
75 years later let’s examine why the June 6th D-Day landings took place and how Normandy was chosen for the invasion point.

It’s hard to believe that three-quarters of a century has passed since that day which changed the fate of the world as we know it. The story of the events on June 6th, 1944 have been told and retold countless times. So let’s take the time to examine why this event happened the way it did. Could it have been very different if leaders made other choices? There is a lot of fascinating history behind this important historical event, so let’s get started.

President Roosevelt taking center stage at the Teheran Conference as the newest official member of the Allies. Stalin pressured for a second front to be opened.

When Germany made the fateful decision to back up their Axis counterpart (Japan) and declare war on the United States that provided the Allies with a second major pool of manpower. Stalin began an immediate campaign for a second major front to be opened up against Germany to take pressure off the hard pressed Red Army. Stalin viewed the North African campaign as a side show and severely distrusted Britain's commitments. Stalin commented during the 1943 meeting in Teheran, “The war is being fought with British brains, American brawn, and Russian blood.” This was after being told how long it would take for there to be a significant buildup of American forces. Churchill managed a compromise to invade Italy with what military force was available. As the Italian campaign dragged into stagnation Moscow began clamoring for more direct involvement in continental Europe. Stalin’s insistence was reinforced by the growing concern about Hitler’s push to develop “super-weapons”, as a means to turn the tide of the conflict back to his favor.

Some areas of France had such well-built defenses, such as this gun emplacement on the Atlantic Wall, they still stand today.

Once the decision was made for a major invasion in Europe the question was where? Early plans included ideas for southern France, but the North African Coast had neither the ports nor marshaling areas to sustain the pre-invasion buildup being proposed. Later on this idea evolved into Operation Dragoon, a smaller scale invasion of the original, on August 15th 1944.

After laborious studies the Allied commanders realized Britain was the only suitable place from which to launch such an incredible undertaking. So would it be France, Belgium or even the Netherlands? All of these ideas were considered but modern warfare now forced extra consideration to one aspect of the target site; logistical expedience. The invasion would only be successful if the Allies could keep a large and steady flow of supplies coming into the theater. So a major harbor would need to be captured for use as a supply base.

This map shows the complicated movement patterns required for the most “direct” Normandy Landings.

Grabbing a map one could find initial options from Brest to Amsterdam. Closer examination eliminated Belgium and the Netherlands for a number of reasons. Besides, there was the obvious reason to liberate France above all others. France would be able to supply the most manpower in return to fight the Nazis.

Obviously the Germans came to the same conclusions as well and began fortifying the most obvious targets along the French coast. Normandy was selected because of its proximity to the port of Cherbourg and its location to Paris. The Allies could have landed forces much closer to Cherbourg, but they would then be too easily contained on that peninsula. There were several lessons learned from the fight in Italy. Normandy also provided cleaner routes for all of the individual invasions groups, both in the air and on the water. The other options would have compressed those groups into a dangerously small space at one or more points.

A look at some of the beach obstacles and their layout the Allied troops would face as they closed in on the beaches.

It was agreed during the Teheran Conference that if there was an invasion of Europe it would happen by May 1944. The allies needed the most time and best weather to support the invasion. Launching too early or too late in the year could have severe repercussions. Logistical issues forced an initial delay, but there was still an opportunity to go in May. What most people don’t realize is that you needed two separate conditions to line up for the invasion to have the best chance for success. The amphibious forces needed the tides at the levels required to get over the beach obstacles, but not so far away to leave the landing infantry over exposed. Meanwhile, the airborne forces needed a moon to provide enough light to use but not make their aircraft too easy to spot and engage with anti-aircraft artillery. These types of conditions only lined up a couple times a month, so there were limited opportunities from the start. They also needed enough days of good weather to enable Allied air power to support the inland advance.

Eisenhower had enough concerns about the success of the landings he wrote this note in case they failed. Thankfully it wasn’t necessary.

There were concerns about the June 5/6 1944 window, but precious time would be lost with another delay. This gives you an idea the level of stress and anxiety being felt by the highest levels of command. Only after all of these major points were considered, the buildup completed, and the logistical support in place could the go ahead be given. Even then it was still a gamble that they would be victorious and not driven back into the sea. Eisenhower was so concerned he even prepared a response in case the landings failed. Luckily, the largest single human endeavor went off without a severe complication. Remember that no aspect of the D-Day invasion was either simple or easy. Take a little time on June 6th to remember all that was sacrificed and all that was gained.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

Recent Videos

Patrick Sweeney gives some history on this interesting pistol.

Radom Pistol

Patrick Sweeney shows off Springfield Armory's latest offering, the 1911 DS Prodigy.

Springfield Armory Prodigy

James Tarr is at Roundtable 2022 with Mike Humphreys of Springfield Armory to get a look at their highly-anticipated 1911 DS Prodigy.

Springfield Armory 1911 DS Prodigy

Dr. Dabbs shares some history on a war classic, The Wild Geese and the film's featured guns.

The Wild Geese

Patrick Sweeney gives us all the details on this Taurus Optic Ready Option micro-compact 9mm.

Taurus GX4 T.O.R.O.

Take a look at Patrick Sweeney's review of this reliable carry pistol from Beretta's APX line.

Beretta APX A1 Carry

Patrick Sweeney gives us a good look at this well equipped compact 10mm from Springfield Armory.

Springfield Armory XD-M OSP 10mm

Patrick Sweeney reviews the SilencerCo Harvester EVO.

SilencerCo Harvester EVO

The Mossberg MC2sc subcompact 9mm striker-fired pistol is put through its paces by Patrick Sweeney.

Mossberg MC2sc Subcompact Pistol (VIDEO)

Firearms News Magazine Covers Print and Tablet Versions

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!


Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services


Buy Digital Single Issues

Magazine App Logo

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Firearms News App

Other Magazines

See All Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get the top Firearms News stories delivered right to your inbox.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Firearms News subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Enjoying What You're Reading?

Get a Full Year
of Guns & Ammo
& Digital Access.

Offer only for new subscribers.

Subscribe Now