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D-Day’s 80th anniversary brings World War II veterans back to the beaches of Normandy

OMAHA BEACH, France (AP) — The June 6, 1944, D-Day invasion of Nazi-occupied France was unprecedented in scale and audacity, using the largest-ever armada of ships, troops, planes and vehicles to punch a hole in Adolf Hitler’s defenses in western Europe and change the course of World War II.

With veterans and world dignitaries gathering in Normandy to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the landings, here’s a look at some details about how the operation unfolded.

WHO TOOK PART

Nearly 160,000 Allied troops landed in Normandy on June 6, 1944. Of those, 73,000 were from the United States and 83,000 from Britain and Canada. Forces from several other countries were also involved, including French troops fighting with Gen. Charles de Gaulle.

The Allies faced around 50,000 German forces.

More than 2 million Allied soldiers, sailors, pilots, medics and other people from a dozen countries were involved in the overall Operation Overlord, the battle to wrest western France from Nazi control that started on D-Day.

WHERE AND WHEN

The sea landings started at 6:30 a.m., just after dawn, targeting five code-named beaches: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, Sword. The operation also included actions inland, including overnight parachute landings on strategic German sites and U.S. Army Rangers scaling cliffs to take out German gun positions.

Around 11,000 Allied aircraft, 7,000 ships and boats, and thousands of other vehicles were involved.

MANY DEATHS ON ALL SIDES

A total of 4,414 Allied troops were killed on D-Day itself, including 2,501 Americans. More than 5,000 were wounded.

In the ensuing Battle of Normandy, 73,000 Allied forces were killed and 153,000 wounded. The battle — and especially Allied bombings of French villages and cities — killed around 20,000 French civilians.

The exact German casualties aren’t known, but historians estimate between 4,000 and 9,000 men were killed, wounded or missing during the D-Day invasion alone. About 22,000 German soldiers are among the many buried around Normandy.

SURVIVORS

Inevitably, the number of survivors attending major anniversary commemorations in France continues to dwindle. The youngest survivors are now in their late 90s. It’s unclear how many D-Day veterans are still alive. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says it doesn’t track their numbers.

A brief timeline of events on D-Day, June 6, 1944.

Shortly after midnight: More than 2,200 Allied aircraft begin bombing German defenses and other targets in Normandy. They are followed by 1,200 aircraft carrying more than 23,000 American, British and Canadian airborne troops. British forces landing in gliders take two strategic bridges near the city of Caen. The force commander uses the codewords “ham and jam” to report the successful capture.

1:30 a.m.: U.S. 101st Airborne Division begins landing behind the most western of the five landing beaches, codenamed Utah.

2:30 a.m.: U.S. 82nd Airborne Division also lands but many units are scattered.

5 a.m.: Allied naval forces begin shelling German coastal defenses.

6:30 a.m.: Beach landings begin.

How D-Day progressed on the five beaches:

Utah: Assaulted by U.S. forces. This beach saw the fewest Allied casualties: 197 troops killed or wounded among 23,000 that land.

Omaha: The longest, most heavily defended and bloodiest beach. U.S. forces suffer 2,400 casualties but still land 34,000 troops by nightfall.

Gold: Taken by British forces, which land 25,000 soldiers and push German forces inland, for 400 casualties.

Juno: Joint Canadian-British assault lands 21,000 troops; more than 1,150 casualties.

Sword: Assisted by French and British commandoes, the British 2nd Army takes the easternmost beach, landing 29,000 soldiers for 630 casualties.

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