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D-Day: your questions answered.
Answers written by the D-Day Museum, Portsmouth. Click on the question to jump to the relevant answer.
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The “D” does not stand for "Deliverance", "Doom", "Debarkation" or similar words. In fact, it does not stand for anything. The “D” is derived from the word "Day". “D-Day” means the day on which a military operation begins. The term "D-Day" has been used for many different operations, but it is now generally only used to refer to the Allied landings in Normandy on 6 June 1944.
When a military operation is being planned, its actual date and time is not always known exactly. The term "D-Day" was therefore used to mean the date on which operations would begin, whenever that was to be. The day before D-Day was known as "D-1", while the day after D-Day was "D+1", and so on. This meant that if the projected date of an operation changed, all the dates in the plan did not also need to be changed. This actually happened in the case of the Normandy Landings. D-Day in Normandy was originally intended to be on 5 June 1944, but at the last minute bad weather delayed it until the following day. The armed forces also used the expression "H-Hour" for the time during the day at which operations were to begin.
The armed forces use codenames to refer to the planning and execution of specific military operations. Operation Overlord was the codename for the Allied invasion of north-west Europe. The assault phase of Operation Overlord was known as Operation Neptune. This operation involved landing the troops on the beaches, and all other associated supporting operations required to establish a beachhead in France. Operation Neptune began on D-Day (6 June 1944) and ended on 30 June 1944. By this time, the Allies had established a firm foothold in Normandy. Operation Overlord also began on D-Day, and continued until Allied forces crossed the River Seine on 19 August 1944. The Battle of Normandy is the name given to the fighting in Normandy between D-Day and the end of August 1944. The date when Paris was liberated, 25 August 1944, is sometimes used as the end of the Battle of Normandy. Another milestone came on 1 September, General Eisenhower took direct command of all Allied ground forces in north west Europe.
The majority of troops who landed on the D-Day beaches were from the United Kingdom, Canada and the US. However, troops from many other countries participated in D-Day and the Battle of Normandy, in all the different armed services: Australia, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, France, Greece, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and Poland.
How many Allied troops were involved in D-Day?
On D-Day, the Allies landed around 156,000 troops in Normandy. The American forces landed numbered 73,000: 23,250 on Utah Beach, 34,250 on Omaha Beach, and 15,500 airborne troops. In the British and Canadian sector, 83,115 troops were landed (61,715 of them British): 24,970 on Gold Beach, 21,400 on Juno Beach, 28,845 on Sword Beach, and 7900 airborne troops.
11,590 aircraft were available to support the landings. On D-Day, Allied aircraft flew 14,674 sorties, and 127 were lost.
Operation Neptune involved huge naval forces, including 6,939 vessels: 1,213 naval combat ships, 4,126 landing ships and landing craft, 736 ancillary craft and 864 merchant vessels. Some 195,700 personnel were assigned to Operation Neptune: 52,889 US, 112,824 British, and 4,988 from other Allied countries.
By the end of 11 June (D + 5), 326,547 troops, 54,186 vehicles and 104,428 tons of supplies had been landed on the beaches.
As well as the troops who landed in Normandy on D-Day, and those in supporting roles at sea and in the air, millions more men and women in the Allied countries were involved in the preparations for D-Day. They played thousands of different roles, both in the armed forces and as civilians.
How many Allied and German casualties were there on D-Day, and in the Battle of Normandy?
“Casualties” refers to all losses suffered by the armed forces: killed, wounded, missing in action (meaning that their bodies were not found) and prisoners of war. There is no "official" casualty figure for D-Day. Under the circumstances, accurate record keeping was very difficult. For example, some troops who were listed as missing may actually have landed in the wrong place, and have rejoined their parent unit only later, or indeed may have died after D-Day before they could rejoin. Some figures that are often quoted may only represent army losses, and may leave out naval and air forces personnel who became casualties.
For many years, the Allied casualties figures for D-Day have been estimated at 10,000, including 2,500 dead. Broken down by nationality, the D-Day casualty figures that have been cited for many years are approximately 2,700 British, 946 Canadians, and 6,603 Americans. However recent painstaking research by the US National D-Day Memorial Foundation has achieved a more accurate - and much higher - figure for the Allied personnel who were killed on D-Day. They have recorded the names of individual Allied personnel killed on 6 June 1944 in Operation Overlord, and so far they have verified 2,499 American D-Day fatalities and 1,914 from the other Allied nations, a total of 4,413 dead (much higher than the traditional figure of 2,500 dead). Further research may mean that these numbers will increase slightly in future.
Historian Joseph Balkowski, who lists casualties unit-by-unit, gives these casualty figures:
Utah Beach: US Army, beach landings: 589, including 197 killed. US airborne landings: 2,499 including 238 killed. Other Allied: 235 naval and 340 air casualties.
Omaha Beach: US Army: 3,686 casualties. Other Allied: 539 naval and 10 air casualties. German: 200 killed, 500 wounded, 500 missing.
Another recent study assesses that the figures for casualties (of all types) for each beach were as follows: Utah 589, Omaha 3,686, Gold 1,023, Juno 1,242, Sword 1,304 (figures from historian Richard Anderson, quoted in Stephen Zaloga, "The Devil's Garden. Rommel's desperate defence of Omaha Beach on D-Day" p.12). These figures do not include the airborne forces.
Losses amongst the British airborne troops are often quoted as some 600 killed or wounded, and 600 missing; 100 glider pilots also became casualties. Casualties for the US airborne were 2,499, of which 238 were deaths.
The total German casualties on D-Day are not known, but are estimated as being between 4,000 and 9,000 men.
Naval losses for June 1944 included 24 warships and 35 merchantmen or auxiliaries sunk, and a further 120 vessels damaged.
In April and May 1944, the Allied air forces lost nearly 12,000 men and over 2,000 aircraft in operations which paved the way for D-Day.
Over 425,000 Allied and German troops were killed, wounded or went missing during the Battle of Normandy. This figure includes over 209,000 Allied casualties, with nearly 37,000 dead amongst the ground forces and a further 16,714 deaths amongst the Allied air forces. Of the Allied casualties, 83,045 were from 21st Army Group (British, Canadian and Polish ground forces), 125,847 from the US ground forces. The losses of the German forces during the Battle of Normandy can only be estimated. Roughly 200,000 German troops were killed or wounded. The Allies also captured 200,000 prisoners of war (not included in the 425,000 total, above). During the fighting around the Falaise Pocket (August 1944) alone, the Germans suffered losses of around 90,000, including prisoners. During the battle, between 15,000 and 20,000 French civilians were killed, mainly as a result of Allied bombing. Thousands more fled their homes to escape the fighting.
Today, twenty-seven war cemeteries hold the remains of over 110,000 dead from both sides: 77,866 German, 9,386 American, 17,769 British, 5,002 Canadian and 650 Poles. The bodies of many American casualties were repatriated to the USA, where they were reburied.
How were Portsmouth and the surrounding area involved in D-Day?
The D-Day Museum was established in Portsmouth due to the important role played by the city - and the region - in preparing for D-Day, and sustaining the effort in Normandy after the landings. You can find out more about this on another part of our website: click here.
Please click here to go to another page for more information.
How can I find out more about D-Day and the Battle of Normandy on the web?
There are many good websites about D-Day and the Battle of Normandy: see our links page.
What are some good books to read about D-Day and the Battle of Normandy?
Hundreds of books have been written about D-Day, and many are very detailed. Here are some general books, all of which are good starting points if you would like to know more about D-Day and the Battle of Normandy. Some are now out of print but may be available second-hand. Click here to see a full list of books in the D-Day Museum's library, including publisher and publication date.
Overviews of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy:
A series of booklets produced by the UK Ministry of Defence in 2004 about the Battle of Normandy and other WW2 campaigns are a good starting point.
Stephen Ambrose, D-Day June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II
Stephen Badsey, D-Day From The Normandy Beaches To The Liberation Of France
Carlo d’Este, Decision in Normandy
Anthony Hall, Operation Overlord Day by Day
Max Hastings, Overlord: D-Day and the Battle for Normandy
John Keegan, Six Armies in Normandy
Robin Neillands, The Battle of Normandy, 1944
Cornelius Ryan, The Longest Day: The D-Day Story
Warren Tute, D-Day
Winston Ramsey (ed.), D-Day Then and Now, Vols. 1-2
David Stafford, Ten Days to D-Day
Collected memories of veterans:
Roderick Bailey, Forgotten voices of D-Day - A new history of the Normandy Landings
Jonathan Bastable, Voices from D-Day
Martin Bowman, Remembering D-Day. Personal Histories of Everyday Heroes.
Peter Liddle, D-Day by those who were there
Russell Miller, Nothing Less Than Victory. The oral history of D-Day.
List of Allied ships taking part in D-Day:
John de S. Winser, The D-Day Ships
Tonie & Valmai Holt, Major and Mrs.Holt's Battlefield Guide to Normandy Landing Beaches
Books in the 'Battle Zone Normandy' series (published by Sutton).
Books in the 'Battleground Europe' series (published by Pen & Sword).
Allied troops based in the UK before D-Day
It is often said that the United Kingdom before D-Day was "one vast armed camp". Huge numbers of Allied soldiers from many nationalities were based all around the country, and particularly towards the south coast of England. These were not just the troops who would land on D-Day, but also those who would go to Normandy on the succeeding days, weeks and months. We receive many enquiries about identifying which troops were based at a particular place in 1944. Sadly it is often not straightforward to find this out. If you can identify the unit that the troops in question belonged to, generally you can check the unit's war diary and find the locations where the troops were based. However it is much harder to reverse this process, in other words to start with a location and work out which troops were based there. Records would of course have been kept at the time, but they may no longer survive or the surviving copies may not be located in the most obvious places.
See this page on our website for guidance on researching individual servicemen and women.
British troops: The best option is to check the records kept at the UK National Archives at Kew. In the WO class, the papers of the British Army's Southern and South-Eastern Command, as well as those of 21st Army Group and other higher formations, may prove useful.
Canadian troops: A useful document listing locations of Canadian troops is available on the Canadiana website: search for "T-17953" (the microfilm reel number). War diaries of certain (but not all) Canadian units that took part in the Normandy campaign are available here. Some war diaries of Canadian troops are also held in the WO class at the UK National Archives.
US troops: You are in luck! Finding the locations of US troops is more straightforward. Click on the links below to see lists of places where US troops were based in the UK from February to August 1944. These lists were compiled from wartime documents by Phil Grinton of California, who has kindly typed them into a searchable form and has agred that they can be made available to the public through the D-Day Museum.
In addition, some US Navy war diaries are featured here (payable service).
Second World War maps have a different grid system from modern OS maps. How can you convert from one to the other?
See this website.
The D-Day Museum is not responsible for content on external websites. We would be glad to hear if you find any broken links - please contact us via our contact page.