D-day: A Pivotal Moment in the Second World War
In 1914, the world had been disturbed by the global conflict that was World War I. There were major efforts done to prevent a similar event from taking place in the near future, but all those efforts were in vain. World War II occurred as a result of the first international struggle. It proved to be an extremely violent and destructive moment in history. One of the most crucial moments in the war happened on June 6, 1944, an event known as D-Day. D-day was a pivotal event which proved instrumental in ending World War II in Europe. This event had a monumental impact in the war because of the role it played in its conclusion.
The Second World War was dominated by the Axis powers, which consisted of Italy, Japan and Germany (Perry 695). The war originated in Germany, where Adolf Hitler first broke the Treaty of Versailles and began expanding his country’s military forces (Perry 696). It was soon revealed that Hitler’s plans for expansion were directed at the domination of the European continent. He sought to unite all German-speaking people by establishing the Third Reich (Perry 698). Eventually, both Italy and Japan also began using military aggression to acquire other territories. These soon lead to worldwide conflict.
In the beginning of the war, the Axis powers were successful in their domination (Perry 700). One by one, countries were submitting to the authority of Hitler. In 1940, Belgium, Denmark, Luxembourg, Netherlands and Norway were already under German occupation (Perry 704). However, the successes of the Axis powers were cut short with the victories of the Allies in isolated areas. The Soviet troops defeated German forces in Stalingrad while the British army had driven the German soldiers from El Alamein, Egypt. Meanwhile, the American forces were also successful in defeating the Japanese at Midway Island, located near Pearl Harbor (Perry 710). Consequently, the consecutive Allied victories paved the way for the Italian invasion. British and American forces arrived in Italy to fight the German soldiers left in the mainland (Perry 710). The invasion of Italy provided an opportunity for the Allies to enter France, another country which fell under Hitler’s rule.
D-day was extremely significant in World War II because the occurrence lead to the defeat of the Germany. According to Clark, D-day “provided the springboard from which forces from Britain, the United States, Canada, Poland and France could liberate western Europe from German occupation” (1). On June 6, 1944, the Allied troops arrived at the beaches of Normandy in France, the event that would be later recalled as D-day (Goethals and Burns 313). The main objective of that arrival was to diminish German aggression in western Europe and open a pathway to the German mainland in the process. If the invasion was successful, it would help the Soviets to prepare for the German attack in the east (Goethals and Burns 313).
D-day is recorded in history as the biggest war operation during the Second World War (Del Castillo 169). The invasion was given the code name “Operation Overlord” (Clark 1). D-day became possible with the involvement of 4,000 ships and 66,000 soldiers (Del Castillo 169). The operation was of such magnitude that it took two years to carefully plan and thoroughly prepare for the invasion (Goethals and Burns 313). The planned operation was quite massive, but it was still feasible since the Allied nations had the necessary resources to make it happen. In Operation Overlord, all kinds of modern weaponry and equipment were used in the invasion (Del Castillo 169). These included battleships, navy ships, liner, boats and airplanes. Even minesweepers and gliders were used. The planning was also characterized by ingenuity and resourcefulness, as block ships had to be sunk on purpose to be used as breakwaters. In addition, all branches of service of the Allied nations participated in the operation. The Air Force, Navy, Army and Coast Guard were all involved in the invasion (Del Castillo 169). It was the organization of these branches which resulted in the success of the operation.
One of the most crucial aspects in the planning of the D-day was the location. The location is important as it could be a factor in the success or failure of the plan. After much deliberation, it was agreed that the soldiers would make their landing on the beaches of the Normandy (Clark 1). The English Channel was considered because of its width, but Normandy proved to be a more practical choice. The beaches were in close proximity to the ports, which were easily monitored by the aircrafts in England. In addition, the Allied forces could easily utilize the port in Cherbourg, also in France (Clark 1).
France was crucial territory in Europe in terms of the Second World War. German troops attacked France from the north in June 1940 (Perry 701). By June 10, the Italians had attacked it from the south. Four days later, German troops had entered Paris. Geographically, France was close to Germany (Perry 697). If the Allied forces wanted to reach the mainland to stop German offensives altogether, capturing France was the best option.
When June 6, 1944 arrived, the Germans were startled by the invasion (Perry 711). Though German forces anticipated such attack, they were unaware of the location from which the assault would begin. D-day was successfully executed because of the organization of the airborne attack. To begin with, there were hundreds of planes which guaranteed the safety of the landing (Del Castillo 169). Troops aboard the planes landed “behind enemy lines” (Del Castillo 169). The Allied airborne forces bombed enemy posts and supply boundaries as well (Perry 711). The management of air forces displayed on D-day permitted the successful arrival of the Allied troops in Normandy. The naval efforts were equally advantageous for the Allied invasion. Mine sweepers were used to destroy any underwater hindrances that could hamper the invasion plans (Del Castillo 169). It was only after the mine sweepers had cleared the landing site that the air craft carrying the soldiers and the equipment could bring them safely in the beach (Del Castillo 169).
Several weeks after D-day, troops of an estimated one million soldiers had occupied France (Perry 711). By September 1944, Paris was declared free from German occupation. This was the significant achievement of D-day; it had driven the German troops from Paris. The success allowed the Allies to pursue German troops in their homeland, which was the main objective of the invasion. In December, Hitler tried in desperation to halt the Allied offensive towards Germany. This attempt proved futile, as the Allied troops blocked German advances. After this encounter, the allied troops had successfully entered Germany. In April 21, 1945, the Soviet troops had also reached Germany by way of Poland. Hitler committed suicide nine days later. Without their leader, Germany was forced to surrender to the Allied forces. On May 8th, the Second World War in Europe officially ended and was later known as V-E Day. The efforts of Operation Overlord were paid at an immense price. The expenditure in terms of war equipment and property damage was very high (Goethals and Burns 313). In addition, many lives were lost in this endeavor. However, it was a success, as it marked the demise of the Third Reich (Goethals and Burns 313).
The impact of D-day in the Second World War can be assessed through the role it played in ending the war. D-day proved to be very important in the international struggle as it successfully liberated Paris from German occupation. After D-day had been successfully carried out, the Allied troops were finally able to proceed to mainland Germany to halt the war in Europe once and for all. If Operation Overlord was not executed, the war could have continued for a longer period of time. If the Allied forces did not reach Germany, Hitler would not have committed suicide and would have continued to dominate Europe. Hence, D-day had a significant impact in World War II because of the role it played in ending it.
Clark, Lloyd. “Operation Overlord: D-day to Paris.” BBC Web Site. 10 May 2004. 4 Dec. 2008 < http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/worldwars/wwtwo/overlord_d_day_paris_01.shtml>.
Goethals, George R., and James MacGregor Burns. Encyclopedia of Leadership. United Kingdom: SAGE, 2004.
Morin, Raul. “Among the Valiant: Mexican-Americans in WW II and Korea.” World War II and Mexican American Civil Rights. Ed. Richard Griswold del Castillo. Texas: University of Texas Press, 2008. 159-188.
Perry, Marvin. A History of the World. Massachusetts: Hougton Mifflin, 1989.