On today’s date in 1944, the Allied landings in Normandy, France, saw the opening salvo of “Operation Overlord,” the codename for the Battle of Normandy.
Canada was a “full partner in the success” of the secret Second World War operation also known as “D-Day,” according to the Canadian War Museum website.
“Determined to end four years of often-brutal German occupation, on 6 June 1944, Allied forces invaded Western Europe along an 80-kilometre front in Normandy, France,” reads a post on the museum website.
“Of the nearly 150,000 Allied troops who landed or parachuted into the invasion area, 14,000 were Canadians. They assaulted a beachfront code-named ‘Juno,’ while Canadian paratroopers landed just east of the assault beaches. Although the Allies encountered German defences bristling with artillery, machine guns, mines, and booby-traps, the invasion was a success.”
The Royal Canadian Navy also supported the landings with 110 ships and 10,000 sailors while 15 Royal Canadian Air Force fighter and fighter-bomber squadrons prepared for the invasion by bombing inland targets but also helped control the skies over Normandy during the battle.
Canadians suffered 1,074 casualties, including 359 deaths, during the D-Day landings.
The battle, which raged through the encirclement of the German army at Falaise on Aug. 21, was “one of the pivotal events of the Second World War and the scene of some of Canada’s greatest feats of arms,” Halifax-based journalist and author Richard Foot writes for the Canadian Encyclopedia. Canadians played a critical role in closing the Falaise Gap and helping to capture about 150,000 German soldiers, opening the door to pursue their Nazi enemies into the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany, Foot adds.
By the battle’s end, Allied casualties numbered 209,000, including nearly 19,000 Canadians, more than 5,000 of who died.
“Canada’s sacrifices in Normandy are commemorated there today on dozens of memorials, village cenotaphs, and war cemeteries scattered throughout the region, as well as at the principal Canadian military cemeteries of Bény-sur-Mer and Bretteville-sur-Laize. The Juno Beach Centre, a private museum in Courseulles-sur-Mer, also honours Canada’s role in Normandy.”
2014 D-DAY COIN
In 2014, to mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the Royal Canadian Mint issued a $10 pure silver coin with a first-person perspective of the peril faced by Canadian soldiers during their landing at Juno Beach.
The angled horizon in the background recreates the rough sea conditions as the transport vehicle and its occupants are tossed about by tall waves just off the shores of Normandy. The detailed reverse – designed by Canadian artist Maskull Lasserre – serves as a tribute to the Canadian veterans of the Second World War and their legacy of service and sacrifice in Normandy and beyond.
“On June 6, Canadians from coast to coast to coast will pause to remember the 70th anniversary of the Allied landing in Normandy, which was an important offensive which allowed Allied forces to establish a foothold in Western Europe and open up another battlefront, thus paving the way to Allied victory,” said Julian Fantino, then veterans affairs minister, in 2014.
“Lest we forget the 340 Canadian heroes who gave their lives on this day, ensuring that future generations would enjoy peace and freedom.”
The coin’s obverse, designed by Susanna Blunt, also features a rare twist: typically, the obverse of a coin features the reigning monarch, but this coin features the reigning monarch during the Second World War, King George VI.
The coin has a weight of 15.87 grams, a 34-millimetre diameter and a mintage of 8,000 pieces.