Churchill Archive Platform - Topic in Focus

80th Anniversary of D-Day: 6th June 1944

D-Day is perhaps the most famous single day of WWII. Part of the operation codenamed ‘Overlord’, 6th June 1944 saw the largest seaborne invasion in history land more than 132,000 Allied troops on five Normandy beaches, and over 18,000 paratroopers into drop zones across Northern France. This operation marked the beginning of the liberation of occupied France, and the eventual Allied victory in Europe.

As early as December 1941 the Allies’ had aimed to open a second front in the war to split German forces and resources, and relieve pressure on the Soviet Union on the Eastern front. Plans were submitted for the invasion in July 1943, with preparations beginning in earnest towards the end of that year. For obvious reasons, secrecy was of the utmost importance.

In this telegraph, Churchill wrote to General Sir Hastings Ismay (Chief of Staff to the Minister of Defence) regarding the security arrangements for Operation Overlord. He warns that it will not be possible to conceal large preparations along the English coastline from the Germans, but ‘it may, however be possible to prevent his guess when, where or in what strength our forces will be used’. He goes on to refer to a ‘disgraceful article’ in the Sunday Times, which refers to a specific month that this invasion might take place- clearly undermining these efforts to misdirect the enemy. WSC asks whether action can be taken to censor the newspapers ‘against discussing and speculation upon the prospects and possibilities of OVERLORD’.

Strict secrecy and deception campaigns proved to be pivotal in the success of overlord. Codenamed ‘Operation Fortitude’, these campaigns were intended to convince the Germans that Allies were planning to launch an attack on Norway, and that a French invasion would come at Calais, not Normandy. Dummy tanks, a fictitious First US Army Group, fake radio traffic and dummy parachutists were also used to confuse, misdirect and draw German forces away from key objectives.

WWII would go on for another bloody 11 months in Europe, with offensives such as the Battle of the Bulge yet to come. However, D-Day and Operation Overlord did mark the beginning of the end, when the Allied forces went on the offensive and began their advance towards Germany.

CHAR 20/179/34: Telegram from WSC [Marrakesh, Morocco] to General Sir Hastings Ismay [Chief of Staff to the Minister of Defence] replying to his minute on security arrangements for Overlord [invasion of Normandy, France]".

View documents at Churchill Archive