On June 6, 1944, wave upon wave of American, British and Canadian forces landed on the shores of Nazi-occupied France, in a surprise sea and air assault. Known historically as D-Day, the invasion of Normandy included at least 5,000 ships, 11,000 airplanes, and 150,000 service men. General Dwight D. Eisenhower called the operation a crusade in which “we will accept nothing less than full victory.” Months later, the Allies liberated northern France, defeating Nazi Germany the following year.
Veterans of the invasion, now in their late 80s and 90s, will return to the same beaches on Friday to mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day. World leaders are also heading to Normandy for the official commemoration ceremony, which will honor more than 4,000 troops who lost their lives that day.
On the 70th anniversary of D-Day, take a look back at some of the most striking images from that historic day in June 1944.
American soldiers of the Allied Expeditionary Force securing a beachhead during initial landing operations at Normandy, France, June 6, 1944. (AP Photo/Weston Haynes, File)
US soldiers advance towards land from the beaches at Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944. (American Stock Archive/Archive Photos/Getty Images)
Reinforcements disembarking from a landing barge at Normandy during the Allied Invasion of France on D-Day. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Allied soldiers, tanks and ships take part in the D-Day landings at Arromanches beach in Normandy, Northern France on June 6, 1944. (Steck/MPI/Getty Images)
US Marines landing at Normandy in amphibious landing craft on D-Day, June 6, 1944. (A. E. French/Archive Photos/Getty Images)
General Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969) smiles while speaking with the men of the US 101st Airborne Division, 'The Screaming Eagles', as they prepare for the D-Day invasion, England, World War II, June 6, 1944. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Landing Craft Infantry on the way to Normandy during World War Two, France, June 6, 1944. (Archive Photos/Getty Images).
US troops landing in Northern France on D-Day, June 6, 1944. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Troops from the 48th Royal Marines at Saint-Aubin-sur-mer on Juno Beach, Normandy, France, during the D-Day landings, June 6, 1944. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
US troops of the First Army on Landing Craft Infantry during the allied assault on the beaches of Normandy, World War Two, France, June 6, 1944. (Archive Photos/Getty Images)
American troops, part of the Allied Expeditionary Force, wading ashore beside their amphibious tanks during the initial landings in France on June 6, 1944. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Troops of the Canadian 3rd Division, leaving their ship with their bicycles, at Juno beach along the coast of Normandy, France on D-Day, June 6, 1944. (G. Milne/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
A '2nd Invasion Extra' edition of the Worcester Telegram newspaper, published in Worcester, Massachusetts, reporting the Allied invasion of Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944. (FPG/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
A line of American Paratroopers with full equipment filing along to their Douglas C 47 transports ready for the Invasion, June 6, 1944. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
American troops with their equipment boarding a landing craft ready for embarkation to France. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Correspondents at the Ministry of Information, London, busy typing their first invasion stories on June 6, 1944. (Planet News Archive/SSPL/Getty Images)
A US soldier holds a group of German troops and laborers at gunpoint in a ditch during World War II, Omaha Beach, Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
A New York haberdasher fixing up a sign explaining that his shop will be closed while staff pray for Allied victory in the invasion of Normandy on D-Day, June, 6 1944. (FPG/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
US paratroopers aboard an aircraft en route to their drop site, D-Day, World War Two, France, June 6th 1944. (Archive Photos/Getty Images)
German prisoners of war are detained behind barbed wire by American soldiers on Utah Beach on the coast of France on June 6, 1944 during World War II. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)