D-Day Stories – 80 years on

By June 1944, the war was in its fourth year and much of Europe was under the control of Nazi Germany. 

The D-Day invasion Normandy, 6 June, 1944. Image Wikimedia Commons

The arrival of Allied troops in western Europe would ease pressure on the hard-pressed Soviet Union and allow for the liberation of France, Belgium and the Netherlands. It would also allow the Allies to take the war to Germany itself on a second front.

The invasion of Normandy was the largest amphibious landing in history and took years of planning. It was essential to make the Germans think the landing would be elsewhere and much deception was undertaken.

Finally, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, in overall command opted to give the go ahead on 6 June 1944. D-Day was on.

Thousands of men, tanks, landing craft, ships, aircraft and gliders took part from many countries on five beaches in Normandy. There was a great human cost, especially on Omaha beach, but by that evening troops were pushing inland from all beaches and a foothold established.

Since the momentous events of 1944, the ‘Day of Days’, as D-Day is sometimes known has been depicted in several films and series, including The Longest Day, Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers.

Over the following five says until 6 June we will be publishing stories to highlight the role and experiences of some of the New Zealand airmen who witnessed this event which changed the course of history.