See complete list of LearningLife courses.
Perhaps one of the most dramatic events of World War II came with the Allied invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944, when approximately 156,000 US, British, and Canadian forces landed on five separate beaches along France’s Normandy coast and forever changed the course of the war. As the world marks the 75th anniversary of D-Day, this retrospective provides details of how the historic invasion was achieved.
To begin, we’ll look at the history of Norman invasions: the Vikings, the Norman invasion of England in 1066, and the subsequent projects for a cross-channel invasion that were never carried out. We’ll then examine the extent of planning and preparation for the Normandy Invasion (code name Operation Overlord), which illustrates how industrialization came to dominate warfare in the 20th century.
Even with astute planning and extensive preparation, the outcome of Overlord was not secure until after six weeks of momentum inland, when the Allies broke out of the Normandy beachhead and advanced to the liberation of Paris (August 26). This then led to the surrender of Germany on May 8, some 11 months following D-Day and what was to become the largest of all amphibious military assaults in history.
John Kim Munholland is Professor Emeritus of the University of Minnesota where he taught courses on modern European history for 42 years. A frequent LearningLife instructor, he also is a Smithsonian Journeys’ Expert whose past and forthcoming teaching excursions include those to Normandy.