On June 6, 1944 in the early morning hours, more than 156,000 Allied soldiers stormed the usually tranquil and serene beaches off the coast of Normandy.

Through choppy seas and plenty of German resistance, soldiers from the United States, Great Britain, Canada and other Allied nations waged the largest amphibious assault in what would become known as the moment the tide began to turn for the Allies. After this, Nazi Germany was destined to fall. The awe-inspiring bravery and sacrifice made that day makes a visit to these distinguished beaches an unforgettable experience.

History dramatically comes alive in Normandy. For those who served during the war and perhaps this very battlefield, for those who have family members and friends who are memorialised here -- and for all of us who are indebted to the soldiers and the lives lost and forever changed. 10,000 Allied soldiers were killed here, scores of thousands more injured in a battle that in essence began quite a bit before the H-Hour of 6:30 am on June 6th. Naturally, with such a complex undertaking, there were countless hours and months of planning. Starting in 1943, the Allied powers began scouting where to launch an operation designed to drive Germany out of occupied France. Aerial bombardments in advance of the landings helped to break up German lines and bomb strategic spots, keeping the Germans off-guard and not expecting an assault in Normandy.

Then in the wee hours of June 6th 1944, British and American troops parachuted into France to take control of key towns and bridges. All of which was followed by a massive sea-based invasion at the H-Hour of 6:30am in what was then-covertly termed Sword, Juno, Gold, Omaha and Utah beaches. Nearly 5,000 ships and 9,000 aircrafts participated in the liberation of Normandy. Most of the soldiers were not even twenty years old, lugging eighty pounds of equipment as they jumped off their boats and pushed through the rough surf under a steady blaze of gunfire till they could scale the steep cliffs to take on Hitler’s army.

A trip back to these beaches is both evocative and sobering. The French in the Normandy countryside remain particularly thankful and friendly to Americans, British and Canadians, et al for their sacrifice on foreign soil. Cemeteries honouring the fallen will resonate as the price of freedom is laid clear. In Arromanches, the remains of the Mulberry Harbour that soldiers took shelter behind, remains visible. Museums are dotted throughout the beaches, and include equipment and other artefacts used in the landing.

From what has been dubbed ‘The Longest Day’ on the battlefield, the Allies continued their push into France. Less than a year after D-Day, V-E Day (or Victory in Europe Day) was officially declared on May 8, 1945 and marked the formal acceptance by the Allies of Nazi Germany’s unconditional surrender. It wouldn’t have been possible without the fight that took place in Northern France.

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