It was the largest amphibious invasion in the history of warfare. On June 6, 1944, more than 150,000 brave young soldiers from the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada stormed the beaches of Normandy, France in a bold strategy to push the Nazis out of Western Europe and turn the tide of the war for good.
In planning the D-Day attack, Allied military leaders knew that casualties might be staggeringly high, but it was a cost they were willing to pay in order to establish an infantry stronghold in France. Days before the invasion, General Dwight D. Eisenhower was told by a top strategist that paratrooper casualties alone could be as high as 75 percent. Nevertheless, he ordered the attack.
Because of bad weather and fierce German resistance, the D-Day beach landings were chaotic and bloody, with the first waves of landing forces suffering terrible losses, particularly the U.S. troops at Omaha beach and the Canadian divisions at Juno beach. But thanks to raw perseverance and grit, the Allies overcame those grave initial setbacks and took all five Normandy beaches by nightfall on June 6.
The first Allied cemetery in Europe was dedicated just two days after the D-Day invasion on June 8, 1944. And since that day, military officials and memorial organizations have attempted to come up with a definitive count of Allied D-Day deaths in order to properly honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice for the free world.
The National D-Day Memorial Foundation is one of those organizations. At its memorial site in Bedford, Virginia, there are 4,414 names enshrined in bronze plaques representing every Allied soldier, sailor, airman and coast guardsman who died on D-Day. That figure was the result of years of exhaustive research by librarian and genealogist Carol Tuckwiller on behalf of the Foundation, and remains the most accurate count of Allied fatalities within the 24-hour period known as D-Day.