On 6 June 1944, two naval task forces landed over 132,000 ground troops on the beaches of Normandy as part of Operation 'Neptune', the seaborne invasion of northern France. The Western Task Force was responsible for the American beaches at Utah and Omaha, and the Eastern Task Force was assigned to the British at Gold, Juno and Sword. Within these task forces were five Naval Assault Forces - one for each of the five beaches. The Allied navies bombarded German coastal defences both before and during the landings and continued to provide artillery support after D-Day as troops moved further inland. Nearly 7,000 vessels took part in the invasion.

Naval forces and merchant ships also helped transport men and supplies during the crucial post-invasion build-up. Daily convoys, controlled and guarded by the Royal Navy, brought reinforcements and supplies from England and took casualties and German POWs from France. Between D-Day and the end of Operation 'Neptune' on 30 June, the Allied navies landed over 850,000 men, 148,000 vehicles and 570,000 tons of stores on the beaches. By the time the Battle of Normandy ended in August 1944, these numbers had increased to over 2 million men, 400,000 vehicles and 3 million tons of stores and supplies.


British troops and US sailors, 6 June 1944

British troops and US sailors manning 20mm gun positions on board USS LST-25 watch LCI(L) landing craft head towards the beaches of Gold assault area, 6 June 1944.
© IWM (A 23894)

British troops and American sailors man gun positions on board USS LST-25, a tank landing ship. They are watching landing craft head towards Gold beach on D-Day.

The Allied navies also had to deal with Germany's efforts to disrupt the operation, but Allied air power and naval patrols were able to limit the threat from Germany's U-boat fleet. In the weeks after D-Day the majority of Allied vessels crossed the Channel safely - 127 were damaged or lost through enemy action.

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Troops of the US 7th Corps wading ashore on Utah Beach.
IWM (EA 51048)
Second World War

The 10 Things you Need to Know about D-Day

On D-Day, 6 June 1944, Allied forces launched a combined naval, air and land assault on Nazi-occupied France. Codenamed Operation 'Overlord', the Allied landings on the Normandy beaches marked the start of a long and costly campaign to liberate north-west Europe from German occupation.

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How D-Day Was Delayed By A Weather Forecast

The planning team responsible for the invasion of Normandy had to consider the weather, the moon and tides when assigning a date for D-Day. Air operations required clear skies and a full moon for good visibility. Naval operations required low winds and calm seas to safely transport troops ashore. 

Airborne troops of 6th Airlanding Brigade admire the graffiti chalked on the side of their Horsa glider at an RAF airfield as they prepare to fly out to Normandy as part of 6th Airborne Division's second lift on the evening of 6 June 1944.
© IWM (H 39178)

How D-Day Was Fought From The Air

Shortly after midnight on 6 June, over 18,000 men of the US 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions and the British 6th Airborne Division were dropped into Normandy. Allied paratroopers and glider-borne infantry were well trained and highly skilled, but for many this was their first experience of combat.