Seventy-three years ago today, some 14,000 Canadian troops stormed the beaches of Normandy, and along with other Allied troops, claimed a momentous victory that would change the course of the Second World War.
June 6, 1944, D-Day, is acknowledged as an important milestone in Canadian military history. Canadian troops proudly took their place as a full partner in the largest amphibious invasion in military history that helped to liberate France and other Nazi occupied territories.
“The assault on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day opened the way to Germany from the West and changed the course of the Second World War. Sea, air, and land elements combined in this great effort.
“Victory came at a terrible cost for Canada: three hundred and forty Canadians were killed on Juno Beach on D-Day alone, and more than 5,000 Canadians would give their lives in the Normandy Campaign before victory would be achieved there in late August.
“These brave men and women were among the more than one million Canadians who served in the cause of peace and freedom during the Second World War. We will honour them always,” stated the Minister of National Defence, Harjit Sajjan.
By the spring of 1944, Germany had occupied France and a majority of the European continent for almost four years. The English Channel was all that separated Nazi Germany from taking Great Britain. Realizing that their best option to re-conquer Europe was through the 80-kilometre front of Normandy, France, also known as the “Fortress Europe,” Allied forces began planning an invasion. Planning lasted for more than a year and involved ground, sea and air elements.
Out of the five landing beaches across Normandy, “Juno” beach was assigned to the Canadians. On June 6, 14,000 Canadian troops, along with other Allied Forces, landed on the beaches of Normandy and fought through the German fortress of guns, pillboxes, roar wire, mines and other obstacles to take back France.
Canada contributed to D-Day through not only its ground troops and more than 450 paratroopers who landed on the beaches that day, but also through the Royal Canadian Navy, who contributed 110 ships and 10,000 sailors. The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) contributed before the invasion by bombing targets in-land. On D-Day, and the campaign to follow, 15 RCAF fighter and fighter bomber squadrons helped to take the skies over Normandy and attack enemy targets.
The success of D-Day came at a cost, however, to the Canadians, with more than 5,000 Canadians making the ultimate sacrifice.
“Every year, on June 6, Canadians take a moment to reflect on the selflessness and bravery shown by the courageous Canadians who sacrificed themselves for our freedom. The opportunities we enjoy today would not be possible if not for their brave service to this country,” said Kent Hehr, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of Defence.