The invasion on the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944, was the largest air, land, and sea operation
undertaken before or since June 6, 1944. Operation Overlord involved over 150,000 service
men stationed on over 5,000 ships and 11,000 airplanes. The initial wave of soldiers on the beaches
had to cover over 200 yards of small-arms fire and artillery before reaching any protection.
Casualties were immense: 4000 men died on the beaches, 6000 were wounded.
The landing beaches were intended to provide footholds that would allow rapid reinforcement and expansion
inland by joining the beach flanks to create a continuous perimeter before the enemy could mount a
major counter-attack. Each beach would be assaulted by approximately one army division, with
initial landings made from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. Their beach landings followed bombardment by
ships' guns and aircraft ordnance, kept brief to maintain as much as possible of the element of
surprise. As a result, German shore defenses remained intact and a threat to the landing forces.
Supporting the beach landings, especially at Omaha Beach, the U.S. 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions
descended behind enemy lines in the early hours of D-Day. Though badly scattered and lacking much of
their equipment, the paratroopers kept the Germans occupied and helped ensure that the beach assaults
were successful. By nightfall on the sixth of June, the beaches were secured and the liberation of
the European continent had begun.