OTD: D-Day, Battle of Normandy remembered

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.”

Canada Post also marked the D-Day landing’s 60th anniversary with a domestic-rate stamp in 2004.


In 2004, Canada Post issued a domestic-rate stamp (Scott #2043) to mark D-Day’s  60th anniversary.

“Our intention is to honour the survivors and their fallen colleagues while the events of June 6, 1944, remain within living memory,” Bill Danard, then design manager of stamp products for the Crown corporation, said in 2014.

It wasn’t the first time the Normandy landings earned a philatelic commemoration in Canada.

In 1994, for the 50th anniversary of D-Day, Canada Post issued three stamps commemorating both the landings and the subsequent Normandy campaign under the title, “The Second World War, 1944, Victory in Sight.”

“We have a slightly different focus for this 60th-anniversary stamp,” Danard said in 2014. “Our visual imagery for this stamp concentrates on the initial landings and the Juno Beach sectors of the Normandy coastline. We’re specifically honouring those Canadian troops who participated in the June 6 operation.”


The first landings are not represented with a candid, action photograph taken during those pivotal moments; in fact, the 1994 stamp features a photograph of a later stage of the D-Day operation, once the beaches were secured.

“Neither the British nor the Canadian governments would allow combat photographers to accompany the troops for the very first stages of the landings,” added Danard.

The Normandy coastline was chosen for the Allied landings because it was less heavily fortified than areas such as the Pas de Calais, where the English Channel narrows. After five years of war, the German forces occupying France had created an “Atlantic Wall.”

The Allied plan for breaching it involved ground forces from Canada, Britain and the U.S. working together with naval and air support in the largest combined operation in history. By midday on June 6, 1944, the beachhead was won, and by nightfall, Canadians penetrated further inland than any other Allied seaborne forces.

“With the imagery of this stamp, we aimed to capture the experience of the very first Canadian troops to land on Juno Beach that day,” said Danard. “We tried to balance a sense of the victory achieved with an acknowledgment of the human price.”

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