June 6, 1944, is a date forever embedded in history. On that day, in the early morning hours, Allied forces staged the largest invasion the world had ever seen. It was an assault against Hitler and German positions on the beaches of Normandy, France.

Around 160,000 Allied troops, 73,000 of whom were Americans, stormed the beaches of Normandy in a carefully coordinated attack. Before the invasion was over, an estimated 4,500 troops had lost their lives. Another 5,500 were listed as wounded or missing. German casualties topped 9,000.

This dark day is often referred to as “D-Day.” While many people are familiar with that term, few understand what the “D” stands for.

The Origin of the Term “D-Day”

Some have speculated that the “D” in D-Day stands for departure, while others believe it stands for destination. But military historians say neither is true.

They say the “D” in D-Day doesn’t actually stand for anything. It was simply a placeholder used to mark an important day on the military’s calendar. The military also used the term “H-Hour” in conjunction with D-Day to denote the specific time when the action would begin. Using these terms helped the military protect the timeline on carefully crafted attacks like the one on the beaches at Normandy.

Honoring Those Who Served on D-Day

What can we do to honor those who served on D-Day? Historians say learning more about D-Day and sharing that knowledge with others is the best way to remember and honor those who served.

Here are some important facts Americans should know about D-Day:

  • While the majority of the Allied forces on the beaches of Normandy were from the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, many smaller nations sent troops as well. These include Australia, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, France, Greece, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, and Poland.
  • The Normandy invasion had the code name “Operation Overlord.” Each of the five beaches where the Allies landed was assigned a code name: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword.
  • Commander of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force General Dwight D. Eisenhower led the effort.
  • The invasion was originally planned for June 5, but bad weather forced the date to be changed.
  • On D-Day, the Allies landed around 156,000 troops in Normandy. By the end of the day on June 11, that number would top 326,000.
  • The naval part of the operation, codenamed Operation Neptune, was comprised of 6,939 vessels. This included 4,126 landing craft. It was the largest single-day amphibious invasion in history.

On June 6, we encourage you to join us in remembering those who served and sacrificed.

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