30 Dakotas fly from RAF Duxford for 75th D-Day anniversary

Operation Overlord – the code name given to the Normandy landings – was a pivotal moment in World War II. It marked the first step that the Allies took on the road to defeating Hitler’s forces. 

There were two phases to the D-Day assault on the beaches of Nazi-occupied France. Phase one consisted of 24,000 British, American, Canadian and Free French troops landing shortly after midnight on June 6 1944. Phase two involved an amphibious landing of infantry and armoured divisions on the coast at 6.30am. 

A total of 156,000 Allied troops landed on the coast as paratroopers from the U.S. 82nd and 101st Airborne divisions joined British combat jumpers in the offensive, which used 1,200 planes. 

The operation was the largest amphibious invasion in world history, with over 160,000 troops landing. Some 195,700 Allied naval and merchant navy personnel in over 5,000 ships were involved

The US, British, and Canadian paratroopers landed on French soil shortly after midnight after parachuting onto enemy soil.

Gliders, C-47s and Douglas DC-3s dropped the soldiers behind enemy lines with the objective of taking St. Mere Eglise to secure key approaches to the beaches.

The California-made C-47s were able to carry 28 fully armed soldiers or 6,000 pounds of cargo and were nicknamed Gooney Bird, Dakota and the Vomit Comet. Two Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp 14-cylinder radial engines producing 1,200 horsepower powered the plane.

The C-47 Skytrain was fitted with a cargo door, strengthened floor and hoist attachment – as well as a shortened tail cone for glider-towing shackles. The military transport first flew on December 23, 1941. It has a wingspan of 95ft and 6 inches, and a length of 63ft 9 inches, measuring 17ft high. 

Landings took place along a 50-mile stretch of the Normandy coast divided into five sectors: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword. 

Nearly 160,000 troops crossed the English Channel into France that day by air or sea to lay the foundations for victory on the Western Front.

The operation was the largest amphibious invasion in world history, with 195,700 Allied naval and merchant navy personnel in over 5,000 ships were involved. 

In total, 1,500 U.S. paratroopers were lost that day – 338 were killed and 1,257 disappeared. Between 4,000 and 9,000 German troops were killed.

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