“You are about to embark on a great crusade toward which we have striven these many months…I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle.”
These were the words spoken by General Dwight Eisenhower to the American troops preparing to storm the Normandy beachheads.
It was D-day. The day that the world had been awaiting for almost six years. It was a daring move on the part of the Allies. A land invasion of this size and magnitude had never before been attempted.
For the brave soldiers and sailors who participated in the invasion, it was one of the worst days of their lives. For many it was the last day of their life. To be able to appreciate it, you have to understand what they were facing.
They were seasick, carried 100+ pounds of gear, waded ashore in ice water up to their chests, and faced an unmerciful wall of enemy fire. They were storming Fortress Europe and praying for victory. Anything less was not acceptable.
Two of my great-grandpas were there that day at Omaha beach—the bloodiest of the five beachheads. I can’t imagine the things these men saw and heard. Things that would haunt them all their lives. They faced the horrors of that day for me—for you.
Here are five facts about D-day that I thought you might enjoy.
- The original date was delayed due to weather.
This twist of fate, as some have called it, was not a coincidence. In fact, it was perhaps one of the best things that could have happened for the Allied landing force. The invasion was dependent on two major proponents regarding the weather—a late rising moon and a low tide shortly after dawn. This left only three days available in the month of June, according to the military meteorologists.
Originally planned for June 5th, it had to be postponed due to terrible weather that embroiled the English Channel. It was the worst weather to hit the English Channel in over twenty years.
By this time, over 200,000 men had been briefed and were being held in the ships in embarkation areas across England. There was no way the invasion could be held off for too long.
A bit ironic that the free world would rise or fall on the weather, but true just the same. In all truth, the postponement worked in our favor. The previous bad weather caused the German troops to let down their guard. They didn’t expect the invasion to come when the weather was so terrible.
2. D-day was mapped out from postcards
Yes, you read that correctly. In the months leading up to the invasion, the allies were desperate for information on the Normandy beaches. Our airforces were, of course, going on airiel reconnaissance missions over the Normandy coast, but there was only so much that could be done without arousing suspicion.
The idea was hatched to call upon British civilians, many of whom had vacationed at Normandy before the war, to send in postcards and photographs from Normandy. The request was answered far better than had been expected. Within weeks personal photographs and postcards were flooding the mail.
These postcards and photos provided vital information about the geography of the coastline—information that would help map the battle plans for D-day.
3. The Codename for D-day was Operation Overlord
This was just a fun fact that I thought I’d throw in. Now you will forever know the official codename for it. Operation Overlord was the largest amphibious invasion in the history of the world. It’s an event worth remembering.
4. A trigger-happy teletype operator almost blew the invasion
On Sunday, June 4th, a teletype operator was practicing on a machine, when her message was accidently sent to the US mainland. The message read:
“Urgent Press Associated NYK Flash Eisenhower’s HQ Announced Allied Landings In France.”
Talk about a mistake! With the Allied landings only a few days away, that was the last thing our high command wanted. It could have easily tipped off the Germans of our upcoming secret plans. It is interesting to note though that God somehow allowed it to be kept secret.
5. D-day was spent in prayer and fasting in the States
When news reached the US that the invasion of Fortress Europe had begun, thousands of Americans flocked to churches to spend the day praying for the safety of our soldiers and the success of the invasion. The excruciating waiting for those left back in the states must have been maddening. They waited for word of whether the invasion would succeed or fail.
All across the United States, people went down on their knees, asking for God’s blessing on the invasion force. God heard their prayers and blessed our undertaking.
I don’t know what you thought of D-day before, but I hope you enjoyed these special facts about it. This day was truly one that changed the entire world. It was a day that turned the tide of the Second World War.