June 6, 2022



June 6, 1944. On D-Day, over 150,000 Allied troops storm the beach at Normandy, beginning the liberation of Western Europe from Nazi Germany.


Cold Open - Arming the Resistance

It’s 1:00 AM on September 24th, 1942, in the belly of a British bomber flying over Nazi-occupied France; three years into World War II.

Lieutenant Andrée Borrel, a 22-year-old French Allied spy, checks her parachute one last time as she prepares to make her first-ever combat jump. Andrée’s mission partner, another French woman, attaches a chute to a bulk of canisters filled with rifles, explosive devices, and detonators. Soon, Andrée gets word from the pilot that the bomber is approaching its destination…

So Andrée pulls open the hatch in the floor of the aircraft. Her partner pushes the weapons canisters near the open hole. Andrée crouches down. She takes a deep breath and fixes her eyes downward, waiting for the signal from her Allied counterparts on the ground below. Within moments, she sees it: lights flashing morse code from the surface. Without hesitation, Andrée hurls herself through the opening of the plane, and out into the open air.

Andrée quickly deploys her parachute. She feels the wind whip against her, but she holds herself steady. She keeps her elbows in front of her chest, forces her feet together, and points them at the ground, just as she learned in training. Finally, Andrée sees the field below coming into view. She braces for impact.

As her feet hit the ground, Andrée discards her chute and sees her partner landing close by along with the supply of weapons. Andrée and the other French woman rush to the canisters making sure the weapons are secure. Then, Andrée whistles into the darkness. And immediately, French Resistance fighters emerge, collect the weapons, and whisk Andrée and her partner away to a nearby safe house.

France fell to Nazi Germany in 1940. But by the fall of 1942, the Allies are already laying the groundwork to take France back. Part of the early planning involves spies like Andrée working with the French Underground to gather intelligence and sabotage German communication lines and transportation operations. Their goal is to make it as difficult as possible for the Germans to defend themselves when an Allied invasion finally comes.

The following year, in 1943, plans for that invasion will begin to coalesce. American, British, and Canadian forces will make preparations to liberate France and Western Europe from Nazi Germany by storming the beaches at Normandy on June 6th, 1944.


From Noiser and Airship, I’m Lindsay Graham and this is History Daily.

History is made every day. On this podcast—every day—we tell the true stories of the people and events that shaped our world.

Today is June 6th, 1944: D-Day.

Act One: Planning Operation Overlord

It’s March 1943 at the War Office in London, England.

British Lieutenant-General Frederick Morgan walks toward the office of Alan Brooke, the top military advisor to Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

Frederick assumes he’s here to receive a quick briefing from Alan as he often does. But as he steps into the room, Frederick can tell by the look on Alan’s face that this meeting is far more serious.

For the past several days, Alan has been talking with Prime Minister Churchill about a potential Allied invasion of France, one designed to take the country back from the Nazis. Over the past year, the British and the Americans have been laying the groundwork for an invasion with spies and saboteurs, but they still haven’t devised an actionable plan. Now, Alan says it’s up to Frederick to develop a cohesive strategy.

Alan tells Frederick he doesn’t envy him, and that he has major concerns that an invasion of France against heavy German fortifications will fail.

Alan tells him, “It won’t work, but you must bloody well make it.” Frederick assures Alan he’ll put together a plan as quickly as possible.

Frederick returns to his office and begins the monumental task. He knows the shortest distance to travel between England and France is across the Strait of Dover into the port of Calais. But because of Calais’ strategic location, the Germans have already heavily fortified the port. So, Frederick turns to another option: Normandy.

Normandy is a region in Northern France with several beaches that offer potential landing spots for Allied troops. It also provides a clear path for the Allies to move into the rest of the country. And because the Germans are fixated on Calais, Frederick thinks they will not expect an attack at Normandy, which should give the Allies the element of surprise.

Frederick and his staff quickly hatch a plan for landing at Normandy and the subsequent liberation of France and Western Europe. The plan is codenamed “Operation Overlord”. And in it, Frederick identifies five beaches where Allied forces can make landfall. Those beaches will eventually be codenamed Juno, Gold, Sword, Utah, and Omaha.

Frederick’s plan is still in the early stages. He knows details regarding troop numbers and a timeline need to be finalized, but Frederick believes his strategy lays out a clear path for taking France back from the Germans. So Frederick passes his plan onto his superiors and hopes they agree.

But after hearing from Allied leadership, Frederick learns that the Americans and the British aren’t on the same page. The Americans are itching to launch the invasion as soon as possible. They want soldiers in France by the spring of 1944. The Americans need to defeat Germany in Europe, so they can turn their entire focus to vanquishing Japan in the Pacific. British leadership also believes in this “Europe First” strategy, but some British officials think the Allies need more time to secure the resources required to stage a successful, full-scale invasion.

Frederick also learns that Prime Minister Winston Churchill and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt are at odds over the level of Allied resources that should be committed to the invasion of France. Roosevelt believes Operation Overlord should be the Allies’ number one priority in Europe. But Churchill believes the Allies should still pour significant money, men, and weapons into other European campaigns.

So Frederick does his best to retool his strategy to meet the requests of both the British and the Americans, but he soon discovers he won’t be able to satisfy both sides. The only way for the plan to go forward is for Churchill and Roosevelt to find some strategic agreement.

But it will take someone with far more power than Frederick to get these two leaders marching together in lockstep. That job will fall to the head of the third major Allied Power: Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin.

In November of 1943, Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin will hold their first joint summit. Stalin will break the stalemate between Britain and America, convincing the Allies to go “all-in” on Operation Overlord.

Act Two: Tehran Conference and the Decoy Army

It’s November 28th, 1943 at the Soviet embassy in Tehran, Iran.

Sitting around a table, are the men known as the “Big Three”: British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin. It’s day one of what will come to be known as the Tehran Conference. But the Big Three know they can’t wait any longer to make major decisions regarding Operation Overlord.

Roosevelt argues that they must put the bulk of their resources into invading France and that the invasion needs to happen by the Spring of 1944. Churchill agrees invading France is crucial, but he also advocates supporting further military action in the Mediterranean. But Roosevelt counters that a Mediterranean campaign will divide their focus, and their resources, and limit what they can accomplish in France.

With the British and the Americans at odds, Stalin quickly ends the debate. Stalin believes crippling the Nazis in France is the key to liberating Western Europe. So Stalin sides with Roosevelt and pushes for a full commitment to Operation Overlord and an Allied invasion of Normandy by the Spring.

Stalin’s support is enough to bring Churchill along, and almost immediately, the three men get to work developing a strategy. They agree that British, American, and Canadian troops will land in Normandy. At the same time, the Soviets will attack Germany’s eastern border to draw some German forces away from Northern France.

On December 1st, 1943, the Allied leaders depart the summit with clear goals for the months ahead. Churchill and Roosevelt know they have to get Operation Overlord up and running fast, and they also know they need someone to lead the charge. Later that month, they find their man: American General Dwight D. Eisenhower.

In late 1943, Eisenhower is named Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces, and he immediately focuses his attention on Operation Overlord. Eisenhower agrees with Frederick Morgan, the man who conceived the invasion strategy, that the Germans suspect Calais is the most likely target for an Allied invasion. So together, they decide to do everything they can to convince the Germans that their suspicions are correct.

In early 1944, British operatives spearhead a false information campaign designed to trick the Germans into focusing on the wrong point of attack. They send out a series of radio transmissions about Calais, transmission they know the Germans will intercept.

Next, with Eisenhower’s approval, the Allies create a “ghost” army in England near the Dover Strait. When German spy planes fly over, they snap photos of a massive build-up of tanks, aircraft, and ships in the area. But what the Germans don’t know is that most of the planes in the photos are wooden decoys and that the tanks are inflatable. 

Finally, to drive the message home, Eisenhower appoints the legendary American General, George S. Patton, to command the “ghost” army. Then, Eisenhower uses the Allied spy network to make sure the Germans receive word of Patton’s new assignment. The gambit works, and by early spring, Germany has increased its fortifications of Calais, leaving Normandy more vulnerable.

But Eisenhower knows that even with the successful Allied hoax, the Germans won’t leave Normandy completely unprotected. So to ensure victory over Germany’s remaining forces, Eisenhower and Allied leadership conceive of the largest amphibious invasion in military history. They call for almost 7,000 ships and landing vessels to deliver over 156,000 troops to the five codenamed beaches of Normandy, while over 2,000 aircraft provide support and deploy airborne units.

By late May of 1944, Allied forces are ready for attack. Eisenhower doesn’t want to give the Germans time to discover the plan, so he chooses the earliest possible date that the Allied forces will be ready to launch the operation: June 5th.

But the day before, on June 4th, bad weather strikes the English Channel. Meteorologists tell Eisenhower the storms might not subside by the following day. Eisenhower knows what’s at stake. He wants to hold off for perfect conditions. So he pushes the invasion to June 6th.

The day before the attack, Eisenhower records a radio message to address his troops:

"EISENHOWER: Soldiers, sailors, and airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force. You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you."

And then on the morning of June 6th, 1944, Allied forces land at Normandy. The Allies face fierce fighting and suffer tremendous casualties as they secure four of the five beaches: Sword, Gold, Utah, and Juno.

But Omaha Beach will prove to be the deadliest battleground of them all. Over 2,000 American soldiers will be wounded or killed, but the Americans will keep fighting; they will push the Germans back and move one step closer to victory in Europe.

Act Three: D-Day

It’s the morning of June 6th, 1944 just off Omaha Beach in Normandy, France.

American Army Ranger, First Lieutenant Sidney Salomon, keeps his head down as German machine gun fire pelts the side of his landing craft. Soon, the boat comes to a stop off the beach, and the ramp lowers. Sidney and a company of Rangers charge into the sea under a hail of gunfire, making their way toward Omaha Beach.

Sidney hears a shout behind him. He turns to see a fellow Ranger fall into the water, bleeding from a fresh bullet wound. Sidney grabs the Ranger by the collar and pulls him through the water and onto the beach even as German rounds keep coming.

Once Sidney hits the beach, he looks toward the cliffs in the distance. It’s the Ranger’s job to scale those cliffs and take out the German gunners and artillery stationed there. Sidney starts running, but he’s thrown to the ground as a mortar shell explodes behind him. Sidney pulls himself up and pushes forward.

By the time he arrives at the cliffs, only about half of Sidney's company has survived the landing. But the Rangers who are left join with other units to continue the mission, scale the cliffs, and take out the German guns.

Fighting continues on the cliffs and beach throughout the day, as American reinforcements arrive in waves. The fighting is brutal, the casualties extensive, but the Americans fight through hard in German defenses and continue to push forward.

Slowly but surely, the Americans secure Omaha Beach. And eventually, they make their way inland and reclaim several small towns in the area.

By the end of the day on June 6th, 1944, 2,400 American troops have been wounded or killed in battle, but their sacrifice clears a path for 34,000 more troops to safely land. By securing the beach and the surrounding areas, the Americans have significantly weakened the German forces. And they have no reserves on the way to challenge the American assault. Before long, the Germans begin to retreat.

The successful landing at Normandy is a major Allied victory, and it sets the stage for the liberation of France months later in August, and the liberation of Western Europe the following May.

Prior to Operation Overlord, the term “D-Day” was typically used as a codeword for the day of any significant military operation during World War II. But after the Allied Victory at Normandy, “D-Day” will forever come to represent the heroism and sacrifice of the brave soldiers who stormed the beaches of Normandy on June 6th, 1944.


Next on History Daily. June 7th, 1099.​​ After a long journey and many bloody battles, the first Crusaders finally reach the Holy City, beginning a siege that will lead to the formation of the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

From Noiser and Airship, this is History Daily, hosted, edited, and executive produced by me, Lindsay Graham.
Audio editing by Mollie Baack.

Sound design by Mischa Stanton.

Music by Lindsay Graham. 

This episode is written and researched by Michael Federico.

Executive Producers are Steven Walters for Airship and Pascal Hughes for Noiser.