One day – over 600 injured, 340 killed, 47 captured, many strangers saved and a country redefined. Ground, sea and air force rehearsed endlessly to make timing and coordination perfect. When the high command of the Allied forces made the decision to attack on June 6th, 1944 Canadian soldiers were ready. Of all the Allied troops the Canadians were able to advance the furthest inland while going against the best troops the enemy had. Canada played a lead role in the offensives that would defeat the Germans.
On June 6th, 1944 a battle took place known as D-Day which transformed the way the world saw Canada. Three reasons why that June day can be seen as a defining moment in Canada are the independence Canada gained, the amount of lives that were saved/freed and the success/turning point D-Day had that brought World War 2 to an end.Through the perseverance, never give up attitude and hard combat of Canadian soldiers while facing resistance D-Day became the scene of one of Canada’s greatest feats of arms and helped Canada gain independence.
“People looked at the war as a time when the country found itself” (Granatstein, 2014). The Canadian forces were assigned their own beach. The Americans were responsible for Omaha and Utah, the British for Gold and Sword and Canada was responsible for Juno beach. The first part of their mission was to shoot at the beach and setup a foothold along an 8km stretch of coastline containing the fronting villages of Saint- Aubin-Sur-Mer, Bernires-Sur-Mer, Courseulles-Sur-Mer and Graye-Sur-Mer. Secondly, the Canadians advanced further inland than any other of the Allies. Once the three small seaside towns were secured the Canadians were to advance ten miles in from the beach, cut the Caen -Bayeux highway, seize the Carpiquet airport west of Caen, and form a link between the British beachheads. From there their mission was to continue to push inward to take the city of Caen, which was an important communications and transport center. On D-Day the Americans got tied down on Omaha Beach and suffered the largest losses of all the groups on that beach. Two hours after they landed the Canadian troops were able to come off the beach and meet up with the gold unit inland. At the end of the day, its forward elements stood deeper into France than those of any other division,” John Keegan wrote. “The opposition the Canadians faced was stronger than that of any other beach save Omaha. That was an accomplishment in which the whole nation could take considerable pride.(Keegan, 2019) The Canadians continued to fight battle after battle and assaulted strategic high points over the months that followed. Lastly, the dues Canada paid in blood and treasure in Normandy and elsewhere bought it entry into the top levels of the post-war world order. Canada was invited when the British and the Americans began to discuss the possibility of what would become known as NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization], in 1947 and also helped create the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the UN refugee agency and many other institutions. During World War Two many countries did not think Canada was good enough to be independent during the war but, after Canada’s involvement in D-Day the world saw Canada as their own country and army strong enough to fight on its own. Canada became independent during World War Two because they were responsible to secure one of the 5 beaches on their own, they moved further inland than any of the other allies and the Canadians were invited to help establish the post-World War 2 world order. While the independence Canada gained on D-Day helped define Canada as a country, their soldiers’ courage and determination to prevail over injustice and to liberate Europe served to strengthen Canada as a nation to the rest of the world.Due to Canada’s determination and courage while battling the enemy they were able to free many lives. Firstly, France has never forgotten the sacrifice of Canadians who went to free French soil. “People who go to Normandy today and some of the other places the Canadian Army fought in northwest Europe, still see plenty of signs of the passing of the Canadian Army (Granatstein, 2014). Many Canadians have been awarded numerous medals including France’s highest honor: rank of Knight of the French National Order of the Legion of Honor. The Canadian men, or the men of 3rd division wearing pale blue became known as Death & Glory Boys & The Charge of the Light Brigades. Secondly, many Canadians have their names engraved on monuments at Canadian’s Juno Beach. Juno Beach Centre is Canada’s Second World War Museum and Cultural Center located in Normandy, France. The Centre pays homage to the 45,000 Canadians who lost their lives during the War. To this day many soldiers and their families go on June 6th to remember the losses and pay their respects. Lastly, when the Normandy campaign ended the last week of August 1944 Canadians played an important role in closing the Falaise gap and capturing 150 000 German soldiers. On August 25, 1944 Paris was liberated bringing the Normandy campaign to a close. D Day pushed back the Germans and freed France from German rule, allowing the Allies to continue to Paris. It signalled the nearing of the end of Third Reich & Nazi domination and the start of the Liberation of France in WW2. If things did not go well and as planned on D-Day more lives would have been lost. As well as trying to win the battle the Allies were trying to save the lives and liberate the cities that were under Nazi occupation. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. (Willis, 2017) The critical role Canada played on D-Day helping liberate Western Europe from Nazi control and save many lives can be seen as a defining moment in Canada, leading to the successful end of World War 2. The Canadians careful planning, courage and perseverance during many obstacles on D-Day and over the many months that followed helped the Allies successfully bring World War 2 to an end. And what a plan! This vast operation is undoubtedly the most complicated and difficult that has ever occurred. (S.J Prince, 2015). First, D-Day is seen as the Germans final attempt to win, if the Allies had not used careful planning and techniques the fighting could have gone much longer. The Normandy invasion began to turn the tide against the Nazis, a significant psychological blow. It also prevented Hitler from sending troops from France to build up his Eastern Front against the advancing Soviets. Also, careful planning and training went into D-Day. Canadian forces were in England from the winter of 1939 and Canadian soldiers studied maps, photos and 3D models of the beaches showing the layout and important landmarks such as Churches. The planning lasted longer than 1 year as it was a complex operation and involved many elements. Ground, sea & air forces rehearsed in Scotland endlessly to make timing and co-ordination perfect. A diversion campaign was initiated to surprise and deceive the enemy. The Allies went as far as assembling a dummy army of wooden paper mache tanks and other objects in SE England to trick Germany. The assault leading up to D-Day started in April with the Allies attacking strategic and tactical targets in and out of the invasion area. Canadian commanders gained combat experience in North Africa and Italy allowing them to amend their training practices in light of lessons learned such as Ortona Town. Finally, Canada helped break down Atlantic Wall. The Wall extended from Spain to Norway and was a set of interlocking defenses made up of bombproof concrete bunkers and trenches that would cover the coastline, along with German landmines, barbed wire, heavy artillery, batteries and machine gun nests. Soldiers were responsible to shoot at the beach to set up a foothold along approximately 8km stretch of coastline and then push inland while destroyers pounded the coastline and planes dropped bombs. The Allies decided Normandy was the best place to attack as securing the Normandy beachhead allowed allies to successfully bring in waves of troops, tanks, artillery etc. to shore and allowed construction of floating mulberry harbours formed from massive barge pieces. The careful planning and training that went into D-Day and Canada’s part in breaking down Germany’s Atlantic Wall helped Canada bring an end to World War 2 while changing how the rest of the world viewed Canada. Although most of the world sees D-Day as a defining moment in Canada’s history there are some people who feel otherwise. The way Canada fought at D-Day on June 6th did not positively change the way the world saw Canada. First, Canada did not meet their goal on D-Day. They landed behind schedule, struggled against the high tides and submerged mines, and lost a lot of lives. There were also many obstacles to defeat Germany. This caused many young men to lose their lives before even making it to the beach on D-Day. Everything seemed to be on fire, the land, sea and air, as they approached the beach. Finally, and one of the most upsetting factors is that we are losing the living history. Almost every World War Two veteran has died leaving no one to tell their stories and causing us to rely on books and not firsthand experience. To define a nation or change the world’s opinion success needs to be achieved. However, Canada did not meet their goals and still lost many young men in the process. Unable to meet their overall objectives while losing many of Canada’s innocent young citizens on a beach far from home did nothing to help change how the world saw Canada and as the veterans and citizens liberated continue to die from old age the significance of D-Day continues to decline. Those who opposed D-Day are incorrect. Canada’s involvement is a proud and remarkable moment and is recognized as one of the most important moments of the 20th century. D-Day is actually a term used by the military to discuss the day the operation is to begin. However, most people equate D-Day to one day in history D-Day from WW2. Although it took longer than planned the Canadians successfully captured their shoreline position. Canada was chosen to be a part of the fighting on the beaches and given their own beach and goals. Canadians planned and rehearsed for a whole year and took great effort and involved many elements (map which showed beach etc.), ground, air and sea force. Young Canadian boys accomplished what many thought was impossible. “The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty loving people everywhere march with you.” (Longo, 2016) You couldn’t think about getting killed: either you got them or they got you (Hanks, 2004). D-Day was a turning point for Canada because Canada gained independence, many lives were saved while fighting and the success brought World War Two to an end. What I learned during researching was that people still fight over these issues today (ideology, nationalism and injustice) and that Canada played in a major role in helping defeat the Germans. Canada has learned how to prepare and strategized their battles. Humanity has learned there will always be evil in the world and it’s important to defend those who cannot defend themselves. Canada has learned important things and had the courage to help a country during war. These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. These are the heroes who helped end the war.” (Reagan, 2019). On the morning of June 6, 1944 the greatest land invasion began. This invasion was not to suppress a people, this invasion was to secure freedom from Nazi oppression across Europe. Let us remember the brave men and women who left these shores and never made it back. For these sacrifice we’ll be forever in their debt. “Lest we Forget.”