When Was D-Day—And What Happened On This Day?

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D-Day Color Photograph
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Emerson Collection/ Shutterstock

Plus, what does the "D" in D-Day Stand For?

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What was D-Day? Commemorated each year on June 6, D-Day was a historic invasion which was considered the turning point to end World War II. Find out what happened on D-Day, what the “D” in D-Day stands for, and more about one of history’s most significant events.

When is D-Day?

D-Day is observed each year on June 6. It is not a federal public holiday in the United States.

YearDay of D-Day
2024Thursday, June 6 
2025Friday, June 6 
2026Saturday, June 6 
2027Sunday, June 6 

What is D-Day?

On June 6, 1944, more than 150,000 American soldiers and other Allied forces stormed five beaches along a 50-mile stretch of heavily-guarded Normandy, France coastline. The beaches were code-named Gold, Juno, Omaha, Sword, and Utah.

Known as Operation Overlord, D-Day is considered to be the beginning of the end of World War II as Allied troops fought to end World War II in Europe.

The mission, which coordinated the efforts of the United States, British, and Canadian armed forces, as well as other allies, was originally scheduled for May 1944. But difficulties in coordinating the arrival of military equipment pushed the date back to June 5. As the day approached, bad weather in the forecast caused it to be delayed 24 hours. 

The objective: Gain a foothold in continental Europe to continue its fight against Nazi, Germany. More than 5,000 ships, naval vessels, and landing crafts filled with troops and supplies left England on June 5 in preparation for the invasion. Air support for the mission consisted of more than 10,000 aircrafts. 

In the early morning hours of June 6, 1944, thousands of paratroopers and glider troops landed behind enemy lines to secure bridges and block exit roads. By 6:30 a.m., the invasion began by water. 

The fiercest battle took place on Omaha Beach, where thousands of American troops were killed, wounded, or presumed missing. Despite the tremendous casualties and difficult battle conditions, the Allies were able to advance inland and secure positioning in northwest France. Within a week, hundreds of thousands of Allied troops, along with military vehicles and supplies, had arrived in Normandy to continue its military advancements. 

Prior to June 6, 1944, the Allies used deceptive tactics to mislead the German forces about the intentions of the campaign. Military officials were also able to decode the German’s secretive radio communication, which allowed them to know the exact movements and placements of troops. 

The operation is still considered one of the largest amphibious military missions in history. The successful operation led to the liberation of northwestern France by August 1944. In May 1945, the Allies accepted Germany’s surrender. 

The Allies suffered more than 10,000 casualties—killed, wounded, missing, or prisoner—during D-day, including an estimated 6,000 Americans. 

Eisenhower’s Message 

In preparation for the military action in Normandy, General Dwight Eisenhower drafted a letter to troops who would carry out the mission. It read, in part: 

You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you… 

Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely… The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to Victory! 

I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full Victory! 

The Meaning of the “D” in D-Day

Strangely enough, the D in D-Day stands for “Day,” so this phrase could be literally translated to mean “Day Day.”  Some believe it simply stands for a code for “day” used during military operations. Others insinuate it signifies the departed date for military forces. D-Day was a term used for several military actions during World War II, however, the one on June 6, 1944 became the most well-known. 

D-Day and Weather 

In addition to the weather’s role in the 24-hour delay, it played a part in planning the military invasion. It required maximum daylight for air support, the full Moon aided in the overnight drops of paratroopers, and strong tides helped expose beach obstacles during low tide and float supply-filled vehicles to the beaches during high tide. Learn how the weather influenced who won World War II.

How D-Day is Observed

On June 6, 2019, the 75th anniversary was marked with an array of ceremonies in Normandy, France. World leaders and D-Day veterans gathered in a sign of remembrance. Ceremonies were held on Juno, Gold, and Omaha beaches. The festivities included fireworks, a picnic, and hundreds of paratroopers jumping over the town of Sainte-Mère-Eglise near Utah Beach. Annually, a parade is held in the region of France. 
D-Day is not a federal holiday, but annually, ceremonies are held to observe D-Day and remember those who bravely stormed the beaches on D-Day—both the brave men who lost their lives and others who survived.  

Some visit important World War II memorials, including the WWII Museum in New Orleans. On D-Day, museum visitors are provided with updates on what transpired on D-Day, as if the operation was happening in real time. There is also the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia, which includes a 44-foot-tall granite arch, reflection pool, and gardens. 

A Patriotic Recipe 

Getting together with some veterans? There is nothing more American than a delicious pie! Enjoy this patriotic recipe as you honor those who fought and sacrificed their lives on D-Day. 

Star Spangled Berry Pie
About The Author

Tim Goodwin

Tim Goodwin, the associate editor for The Old Farmer's Almanac, has been reading North America's oldest continuously published periodical since he was a young child, growing up just a short drive from the OFA office. Read More from Tim Goodwin

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