The Battle of Normandy.
By the end of Spring of 1944, Germany had conquered most of Europe, including France. The Allied forces; Canada, Great Britain and the United States knew that to prevent expansion of Germany’s army into Great Britain, they needed to strike fast and hard on the northwest coast of Europe. After months of bombing the region, on the night of June 5, three battalions of paratroopers dropped from the sky into the region of Normandy. The 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion was among them with over 450 troops.
The Battle of Normandy, codenamed Operation Overlord, followed with the amphibious Allied landings at Normandy, France, early in the morning of June 6, 1944, and continued into the following weeks with a land campaign to establish, expand, and eventually break out of the Normandy bridgehead. In the English-speaking world, it remains the best-known battle of World War II and the largest seaborne invasion in history, involving almost three million troops crossing the English Channel from England to Normandy in then German-occupied France.
The Canadian forces that landed on Juno Beach faced 11 heavy batteries of 155 mm guns and 9 medium batteries of 75 mm guns, as well as machine-gun nests, pillboxes, other concrete fortifications, and a seawall twice the height of the one at Omaha Beach. The first wave suffered 50 percent casualties, the second highest of the five D-Day beachheads.
Despite the obstacles, within hours the Canadians were off the beach and beginning their advance inland. The 6th Canadian Armoured Regiment (1st Hussars) was the only Allied unit to meet its June 6 objectives, when it crossed the Caen–Bayeux highway over nine miles (15 km) inland.
By the end of D-Day, 15,000 Canadians had been successfully landed, and the 3rd Canadian Division had penetrated further into France than any other Allied force, despite having faced such strong resistance at the beachhead. The 21st Panzer division launched the first D-Day counterattack between Sword and Juno beaches, and the Canadians held against several stiff counterattacks by the 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend on June 7 and 8.
D-Day and the Battle of Normandy was one of Canada’s most significant military engagements, leading to the end of the Second World War. The armies of the Nazi regime had suffered a resounding defeat, one in which Canadian regiments played a major role. In the process, Canada’s troops had been forged into a highly effective army.