The Road To Victory,
On June 6, 1944--D-Day--the invasion of France finally began in Normandy. On D-Day and D-Day +1 over 185,000 men and 19,000 vehicles were transported across the English Channel. At the end of eleven days, 641,170 British, Canadian, and American soldiers were fighting in France. OVERLORD was, by far, the greatest amphibious operation in history.
From the first, however, the Germans fought stubbornly and, as a result, the progress of the Allied armies inland was much slower than had been anticipated. But on July 31 General George Patton's Third U.S. Army broke through the German lines near Avranches and quickly fanned out into the rear of the German forces. Fearing complete envelopment, the Germans were forced to pull back rapidly toward the Seine River. On August 25 Paris was liberated. By mid- September the Allies had captured Brussels and advanced to the Dutch and German frontiers.
In the meantime, the Allies continued their slow advance up the Italian peninsula. In January an amphibious force landed at Anzio, almost 100 miles north of the German battle line. Yet it was not until May that Allied forces were able to break out of the Anzio beachhead, forcing the Germans to retreat to a position north of Rome. On June 4 the Italian capital was liberated.
While the Allied armies advanced in France and Italy, the Soviet juggernaut continued its inexorable march from the east. In January 1944 the Red Army reached the eastern prewar Polish boundary. By February they had broken the German encirclement of Leningrad. The following month the Soviets began a great offensive in the south that reached the Pruth River, the 1940 boundary of Rumania, by summer. In compliance with the promise Stalin had made at Tehran, a Soviet offensive on the central Russian front was launched shortly after the Normandy landings began. By August 1 the Red Army had advanced 450 miles and reached the suburbs of Warsaw. In the north, the Soviet army broke through the Finnish lines in June, and forced the Finns to sue for peace in September.