On This D-Day, June 6, 1944 – Allied Forces Cross the English Channel

1944 – On this day, the Allied powers crossed the English Channel and landed on the beaches of Normandy, France, beginning the liberation of Western Europe from Nazi control during World War II. Within three months, the northern part of France would be freed and the invasion force would be preparing to enter Germany, where they would meet up with Soviet forces moving in from the east.

With Hitler’s armies in control of most of mainland Europe, the Allies knew that a successful invasion of the continent was central to winning the war. Hitler knew this too, and was expecting an assault on northwestern Europe in the spring of 1944. He hoped to repel the Allies from the coast with a strong counterattack that would delay future invasion attempts, giving him time to throw the majority of his forces into defeating the Soviet Union in the east. Once that was accomplished, he believed an all-out victory would soon be his.

On the morning of June 5, 1944, U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the supreme commander of Allied forces in Europe gave the go-ahead for Operation Overlord, the largest amphibious military operation in history. On his orders, 6,000 landing craft, ships and other vessels carrying 176,000 troops began to leave England for the trip to France. That night, 822 aircraft filled with parachutists headed for drop zones in Normandy. An additional 13,000 aircraft were mobilized to provide air cover and support for the invasion.

By dawn on June 6, 18,000 parachutists were already on the ground; the land invasions began at 6:30 a.m. The British and Canadians overcame light opposition to capture Gold, Juno and Sword beaches; so did the Americans at Utah. The task was much tougher at Omaha beach, however, where 2,000 troops were lost and it was only through the tenacity and quick-wittedness of troops on the ground that the objective was achieved. By day’s end, 155,000 Allied troops – Americans, British and Canadians – had successfully stormed Normandy’s beaches.

At first, Hitler, believing that the invasion was a feint designed to distract the Germans from a coming attack north of the Seine River, refused to release nearby divisions to join the counterattack and reinforcements had to be called from further afield, causing delays. He also hesitated in calling for armored divisions to help in the defense. In addition, the Germans were hampered by effective Allied air support, which took out many key bridges and forced the Germans to take long detours, as well as efficient Allied naval support, which helped protect advancing Allied troops.

By the end of June, the Allies had 850,000 men and 150,000 vehicles in Normandy and were poised to continue their march across Europe.

1833 – Andrew Jackson became the first U.S. president to ride in a train. It was a B&O passenger train.

1844 – The Young Men’s Christian Association was founded in London.

1882 – The first electric iron was patented by H.W. Seely.

1904 – The National Tuberculosis Association was formed in Atlantic City, NJ.

1924 – The German Reichtag accepted the Dawes Plan. It was an American plan to help Germany pay off its war debts.

1925 – Chrysler Corporation was founded by Walter Percy Chrysler.

1932 – In the U.S., the first federal tax on gasoline went into effect. It was a penny per gallon.

1933 – In Camden, NJ, the first drive-in movie theater opened.

1934 – U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Securities Exchange Act, which established the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

1936 – The first helicopter was tested in a building in Berlin, Germany.

1941 – The U.S. government authorized the seizure of foreign ships in U.S. ports.

1942 – The first nylon parachute jump was made by Adeline Gray in Hartford, CT.

1942 – Japanese forces retreated in the World War II Battle of Midway. The battle had begun on June 4.

1946 – The Basketball Association of America was formed in New York City, NY.

1968 – U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy died at 1:44am in Los Angeles after being shot by Sirhan Sirhan. Kennedy was was shot the evening before while campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination.

1971 – “The Ed Sullivan Show” aired for the last time. It was canceled after 23 years on the air. Gladys Knight and the Pips were the musical guests on the show.

1978 – “20/20” debuted on ABC.

1982 – Israel invaded southern Lebanon in an effort to drive PLO guerrillas out of Beirut.

1985 – The body of Nazi war criminal Dr. Josef Mengele was located and exhumed near Sao Paolo, Brazil. Mengele was known as the “Angel of Death.”

1985 – The U.S. Senate authorized nonmilitary aid to the Contras. The vote authorized $38 million over two years.

1993 – Mongolia held its first direct presidential elections.

2005 – The United States Supreme Court ruled that federal authorities could prosecute sick people who smoke marijuana on doctor’s orders. The ruling concluded that state medical marijuana laws did not protect uses from the federal ban on the drug.
Source: On-This-Day.com; History.com


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