It’s one of the most penultimate moments in American military history.
Never in history had two major military factions – the American and British, combined for such a massive mission. It was the largest full-scale amphibious assault in history comprised of aerial, nautical and land support. And thanks to some lucky breaks and bad weather, the invasion was a success at allowing troops to pour into France and deep into enemy territory.
Sixty-nine years ago today, 160,000 troops landed ashore on a 50-mile stretch of heavily fortified coastline of Normandy, France. Supported by more than 13,000 aircraft, paratroopers and 5,000 ships, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower famously delivered this inspiring message to American forces prior to their historic beach-landing:
“But this is the year 1944! Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of 1940-41. The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats, in open battle, man to man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our home fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men. The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to victory!”
The harrowing, heroic and unimaginable scenes that transpired that day tilted the tide of the Allied forces in the European Theatre.
They’ve been immortalized in photographs and on celluloid for Hollywood and in countless documentaries and historical recreations.
We’ve curated an immense collection of the best books and documents that tell the many stories of the courageous soldiers who landed on the beaches and infiltrated France and Europe in the goals of eradicating Hitler’s tyranny. Here are some of our favorites:
Tom Brokaw’s The Greatest Generation
Tom Brokaw first began to appreciate fully all we owed the World War II generation while he was covering the fortieth and fiftieth anniversaries of D-Day for NBC News. “When I wrote in The Greatest Generation about the men and women who came out of the Depression, who won great victories and made lasting sacrifices in World War II and then returned home to begin building the world we have today–the people I called the Greatest Generation –it was my way of saying thank you. I felt that this tribute was long overdue, but I was not prepared for the avalanche of letters and responses touched off by that book. Members of that generation were, characteristically, grateful for the attention and modest about their own lives as they shared more remarkable stories about their experiences in the Depression and during the war years. Their children and grandchildren were eager to share the lessons and insights they gained from the stories they heard about the lives of a generation now passing on too swiftly. They wanted to say thank you in their own way. I had wanted to write a book about America, and now America was writing back.”
D-Day With the Screaming Eagles
Gerald J. Higgins, major general, U.S. Army (ret.), from the ForewordIn the predawn darkness of D-Day, an elite fighting force struck the first blows against Hitler’s Fortress Europe. Braving a hail of enemy gunfire and mortars, bold invaders from the sky descended into the hedgerow country and swarmed the meadows of Normandy. Some would live, some would die, but all would fight with the guts and determination that made them the most famous U.S. Army division in World War II: the 101st Airborne “Screaming Eagles.”George Koskimaki was part of the 101st Airborne’s daring parachute landing into occupied France that day. Now, drawing on more than five hundred firsthand accounts–including the never-before-published experiences of the trailblazing pathfinders and glider men–Koskimaki re-creates those critical hours in all their ferocity and terror. Told by those who ultimately prevailed–ordinary Americans who faced an extraordinary challenge–D-Day with the Screaming Eagles is the real history of that climactic struggle beyond the beachhead.
The Diary and History 456TH BOMBARDMENT GROUP (HEAVY)15TH AIR Force ROBERT S. CAPPS, Colonel, USAF, RetiredThe famous “Battle of Britain” prevented the German invasion of England in 1940, because the Royal Air Force dominated skies over Britain. Nazi Germany was attempting to prevent the invasion of Europe (D-Day) by dominating skies over Europe, as the 456th Bomb Group arrived in Italy during January 1944. This was less than five months before the planned Allied invasion of Europe, ordered for early June, 1944. Germany dominated the skies!This book gives a detailed history how the 456th Bomb Group of B-24 Liberators helped gain air superiority in Europe, making D-Day possible, on time. During this great four month battle, the 456th Bombardment Group lost almost one-third of its aircraft.Written by Dr. Robert Capps a Group pilot during this period.
Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies
In his celebrated bestsellers Agent Zigzag and Operation Mincemeat, Ben Macintyre told the dazzling true stories of a remarkable WWII double agent and of how the Allies employed a corpse to fool the Nazis and assure a decisive victory. In Double Cross, Macintyre returns with the untold story of the grand final deception of the war and of the extraordinary spies who achieved it. On June 6, 1944, 150,000 Allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy and suffered an astonishingly low rate of casualties. D-Day was a stunning military accomplishment, but it was also a masterpiece of trickery. Operation Fortitude, which protected and enabled the invasion, and the Double Cross system, which specialized in turning German spies into double agents, deceived the Nazis into believing that the Allies would attack at Calais and Norway rather than Normandy. It was the most sophisticated and successful deception operation ever carried out, ensuring that Hitler kept an entire army awaiting a fake invasion, saving thousands of lives, and securing an Allied victory at the most critical juncture in the war. The story of D-Day has been told from the point of view of the soldiers who fought in it, the tacticians who planned it, and the generals who led it. But this epic event in world history has never before been told from the perspectives of the key individuals in the Double Cross System. These include its director (a brilliant, urbane intelligence officer), a colorful assortment of MI5 handlers (as well as their counterparts in Nazi intelligence), and the five spies who formed Double Cross’s nucleus: a dashing Serbian playboy, a Polish fighter-pilot, a bisexual Peruvian party girl, a deeply eccentric Spaniard with a diploma in chicken farming and a volatile Frenchwoman, whose obsessive love for her pet dog very nearly wrecked the entire plan. The D-Day spies were, without question, one of the oddest military units ever assembled, and their success depended on the delicate, dubious relationship between spy and spymaster, both German and British. Their enterprise was saved from catastrophe by a shadowy sixth spy whose heroic sacrifice is revealed here for the first time. With the same depth of research, eye for the absurd and masterful storytelling that have made Ben Macintyre an international bestseller, Double Cross is a captivating narrative of the spies who wove a web so intricate it ensnared Hitler’s army and carried thousands of D-Day troops across the Channel in safety.
Tales From the Front Line: D – Day
This is the chronicle of the build-up and aftermath of the most decisive battle of World War II, told through the tales of the participants who recorded their experiences in letters or diaries, or recounted them after the event. Part of a new series featuring fascinating insights into the greatest conflicts in history. Jonathan Bastable has skillfully woven disparate tales from generals and frontline soldiers, statesmen and civilians, into a compelling narrative of one of the key events in the twentieth century.