The world had never seen anything quite like it! On June 6, 1944, after many months of meticulous planning, and during a narrow window of opportune weather, the military campaign to wrest the nations of Europe from Nazi control was unleashed. The logistical genius of Operation Overlord, the greatest amphibious assault in history, slowly unfurled as the American and British-led assault (with Canadian support) on the Normandy coast of Northern France began.
The next few days would be pivotal; lose and it was doubtful whether another invasion could be planned anytime soon. Nazi divisions would be transferred to the Eastern Front, tilting the balance of power against Stalin’s Russian forces. World War II would likely be prolonged, with a more uncertain outcome. If the Allies succeeded, the Nazi jackboot would be forcibly removed from the throat of Europe, her peoples could breathe freedom once more, and the term D-Day would enter the blood-soaked annals of history, with the bravery, courage and personal sacrifice of those involved remembered for all time.
During the preceding month, an aerial offensive had isolated Normandy from the bulk of German forces positioned elsewhere. Rail and electronic communications were disrupted. Bridges were destroyed. With the French Resistance playing a key role, Normandy became virtually cut off from Nazi reinforcements during the crucial hours when it really counted. Southern England became one vast armed camp of seemingly endless supplies of equipment and more than 3 million soldiers—2 million of them from the United States.
Both ends of the English Channel were blockaded to prevent German encroachment. The Allies had gained almost complete control of both sea and air. Minesweepers now led the assembled armada of 7,000 ships carrying 130,000 men through minefields to their assembly points off the French coast.
Beginning around midnight on Tuesday, June 6, 5,000 transport planes and gliders began dropping 20,000 troops to secure strategic points in the surrounding hinterland—13,600 Americans to protect the western flank of the landing beaches and over 6,000 British and Canadians to protect the eastern flank. Throughout the day the planes brought in reinforcements and supplies, including light tanks and field artillery.
Overnight, a mighty, awesome bombardment of the coastline was unleashed: from the air by thousands of bombers, and from the sea by 600 warships and rocket-carrying landing craft. The heavily defended Atlantic Wall, with its powerful artillery and machine gun emplacements, and with its beach obstacles and mines, was pulverized with varying degrees of effectiveness.
Dawn brought an astonishing sight: as far as the eye could see stretched wave after wave of landing craft packed to capacity with men and military equipment. With the coastline softened up, troops began landing at five beach areas spread across a 50-mile length of coast. In the West, 57,000 U.S. troops came ashore on Utah and Omaha beaches. Then came 25,000 British troops on Gold Beach, 21,500 Canadians on Juno beach and finally in the East, 29,000 more British on Sword Beach.
It was tough going, to say the least. By the end of Day One the Allies had suffered almost 10,000 casualties—either killed, wounded or missing. The resistance on some beaches was light, allowing the fulfillment of detailed battle plans, but the situation on Omaha beach was sheer carnage with around 3,880 casualties. Only the bravery and commitment of the troops, epitomized by the Hollywood movie Saving Private Ryan, carried the day, and it was not until Day 3 that all their initial objectives were fulfilled.
Fighting in the bocage hinterland—the patchwork of fields and woodlands with deep roadways and high hedgerows—was fierce and progress was slow. But the buildup of Allied forces was remorseless; by June 11, 327,000 troops had landed with 54,000 vehicles and 105,000 tons of supplies.
Appreciating the importance of safe harbors to land reinforcements and supplies, the British had come up with a novel solution: they would create their own. These artificial harbors, called Mulberries, were a vast undertaking and had taken seven months to construct. They were towed across to Normandy and sunk into place. Yet on June 19, a fierce storm all but destroyed the Mulberry harbor on Omaha Beach, losing 140,000 tons of equipment and setting back progress by a week.
Over the following days, key objectives were slowly fulfilled. Cherbourg with its vital port facilities was captured by June 25. Troops pressed south and west into Brittany. Saturation bombing of Caen eventually led to the city being taken by July 9, but Allied casualties were high. Following the most intense fighting, German resistance began to crumble at St. Lo in late July. The main German divisions were surrounded in an area called the Falaise Pocket, where Allied air supremacy inflicted the most appalling slaughter. Rommel’s Seventh Army was smashed and the Battle of Normandy was won! The way was now open to rapidly take the rest of France. By August 26, Paris was liberated. In another year the war in Europe would be over.
As the world celebrates the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings, much will be said of the personal courage and sacrifice of those who fought for freedom and liberation; of the unparalleled logistical triumph and of the remarkable feat that eventually led to a hard-fought victory. This remarkable, even miraculous, Allied victory made the world a better and a safer place and a free Europe has been transformed.
But there is a deeper spiritual significance to the Nazis’ defeat. King George VI had asked the British nation to pray for the liberation of Europe. President Roosevelt prayed for God’s blessing on “a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our republic, our religion and our civilization and to set free a suffering humanity.” And God answered those prayers. The way D-Day came together, and what it achieved, justifies the word “miraculous.” The Allied victory was surely God’s victory. It ended a Satan-inspired, occult-infested tyranny that imagined it would last a thousand years. It ended the genocidal slaughter of the Jews. It restored freedom and liberty to a downtrodden, despairing and desperate Europe.
But the world today is in need of a far greater victory—one that will defeat war forever and bring an end to the suffering and misery it continues to cause. How thankful we can be that, one day soon, God will provide that victory by removing Satan the Devil, the great instigator of wars who deceives the whole world (Revelation 12:9; 20:1–3). He will send His Son Jesus Christ to establish His righteous millennial rule over the earth, bringing peace, at last, to all mankind (Isaiah 9:6–7; Revelation 11:15).