« I have to announce to the House that the first series of landings in force upon the European continent has taken place... The fire of shore batteries has beenn largery quelled. Everything is proceeding according to plan. »

CHURCHILL to the House of Commons, on June 6th, 1944.

Historical background

It was the invasion of Poland, on September 1st, 1939, that precipitated World War II. The forces of the IIIrd Reich swiftly engulfed the whole of mainland Europe and within two years the flags of the Axis Powers1 were floating above the whole of the continent.
Britain was the last remaining bastion of defence, the first country to stop the forces of the Reich in their tracks, in a terrible battle fought in the skies.

On December 7th, 1941, the United States also went to war.
1942, the bell began to toll for the Germans, when the "Desert Fox"2 suffered a resounding defeat at El Alamein.
By 1943, the Germans were retreating on all fronts. In the early months of 1944 the war had reached stalemate: the Russians were waiting for spring to resume their offensive, while the British and Americans were advancing painfully slowly in Italy, encountering huge difficulties at every turn. The only way to change the course of the war and make a swift and decisive victory possible was to invade the northern coast of Europe - precisely where the enemy had its strongest defences.
Hitler had ordered massive defensive structures to be built along the entire coastline, forming the "Atlantic Wall".

The Allies had had a foretaste of its effectiveness during the disastrous failed landing attempt at Dieppe in August 1942. The terrible losses they sustained made them realize that the Channel ports were too heavily fortified to be captured, although this was the sine qua non if they were to keep a larger landing force properly supplied.
The strategists outlined an ambitious plan codenamed Overlord, which was accepted by Winston CHURCHILL3 and Franklin D. ROOSEVELT4 in August 1943, during the "Quadrant" Conference held in Quebec. Thirty divisions would be landed in Normandy. The cornerstone of this plan was the construction of two socalled "Mulberry Harbours" - artificial ports which would guarantee supplies for the troops once they had landed.

On June 6th, 1944, the Allies began landing in Normandy: the longest day had begun.

1) Name of the coalition headed by Germany, Italy and Japan
(Tripartite Pact of Sptember 27th, 1940)
2) Maréchal Erwin Rommel
3) Premier ministre (de l'époque) de la Grande Bretagne
4) Président (de l'époque) des Etats Unis