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D-Day and Victory in Europe for Allied Forces in World War II

Axis powers dominated the beginning of World War II. The Allied forces didn't truly gain momentum until the second half of World War II. Commonly referred to as "D-Day," the Allied forces landed on the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944. Their battle was a success. Throughout the next year the Allied forces experienced more military success. Germany finally surrendered on May 7, 1945. The day is often known as "V-E" or “Victory in Europe” Day.

World War II's D-Day: landing in Normandy, France

On June 6, 1944 — “D-Day” — the Allied forces swept ashore on the beaches of Normandy in France. It was a staggering logistical feat. Some 175,000 men were landed on the first day, a number that swelled to 325,000 in the first week and eventually to 2.5 million. They were delivered by 5,300 ships and supported by 50,000 vehicles and 11,000 planes.

By August, the U.S. 3rd Army, under the brash, belligerent, and brilliant General George S. Patton, pushed deep into France and to the edge of Germany itself. A little more than a week before Christmas, 1944, however, the Germans launched a desperate counterattack.

Known as the Battle of the Bulge, the surprise attack succeeded at first, costing the United States 77,000 casualties. But the Germans were low on men and supplies and could not sustain the attack. By late January 1945, the Allies were again on the offensive.

As Allied troops moved deeper into the heart of German-held territory, they began to make stomach-churning, heart-wrenching discoveries: concentration camps holding what was left of millions of Jews and other “undesirables” that German leaders had ordered to be murdered as a “final solution” to “cleansing” Germany of all but the “Aryan Race.”

Hitler’s “final solution” became known to the civilized world as the Holocaust, and resulted in the murders of 6 million Jews and 4 million non-Jews, including homosexuals, Gypsies, and the mentally and physically handicapped. The Holocaust had not been a complete secret to the Allies, but finding a way to stop it had not been as big a priority as winning the war. And the enormity of the crime was not fully understood until the camps were discovered and their stories told by survivors.

World War II's "V-E" or Victory in Europe Day

In April, the U.S. and Russian armies joined up at the Elbe River and advanced on Berlin. Hitler committed suicide, and on May 7 — “V-E,” or “Victory in Europe” Day — Germany surrendered.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) did not live to see the victory. The president had won a fourth term in 1944, despite rumors about his failing health. But on April 12, 1945, while vacationing at Warm Springs, Georgia, FDR died suddenly of a cerebral hemorrhage.

The nation was staggered at the loss of the man who had led them through the Depression and the war. One New York housewife was asked if she heard the radio bulletins of FDR’s death and replied “For what do I need a radio? It’s on everybody’s face.”

The new president, a former hat salesman from Missouri named Harry S. Truman, was as stunned as anyone. “Being president is like riding a tiger,” Truman later wrote. “I never felt that I could let go for a single moment.”

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