On 6 June 1944 – 'D-Day' – Allied forces launched the largest amphibious invasion in the history of warfare. Codenamed Operation 'Overlord', the Allied landings on the beaches of Normandy marked the start of a long and costly campaign to liberate north-west Europe from Nazi occupation.
The Battle of Normandy was a hard-fought campaign. Airborne drops at both ends of the beachheads were to protect the flanks, as well as open up roadways to the interior. Six divisions were to land on the first day; three U.S., two British and one Canadian. Two more British and one U.S. division were to follow up after the assault division had cleared the way through the beach defenses.
Paratroopers of the U.S. 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions, the British 6th Airborne Division, the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion, and other attached Allied units took part in the assault. British divisions took on the German resistance on the eastern flank of the front, enabling US forces to stage a breakout in the west. Small fields surrounded by thick hedges and narrow sunken lanes favored the defenders. Casualties - especially among the infantry - were heavy.
Disorganization, confusion, incomplete or faulty implementation of plans characterized the initial phases of the landings. This was especially true of the airborne landings which were badly scattered, as well as the first wave units landing on the assault beaches. To their great credit, most of the troops were able to adapt to the disorganization.
The Germans were constrained by Hitler’s refusal to let his commanders make tactical withdrawals when required, which meant that the bulk of their forces were eventually trapped and destroyed by the Allied breakout. By the end of August, the Germans were in full retreat out of France. In the end, the Allies achieved their objective.