Today’s date marks the 75th anniversary of the Allied landings in Normandy.
Canada was a “full partner in the success” of the landings, which are also known as “D-Day,” according to the Canadian War Museum.
“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’s 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.”
Canadians suffered 1074 casualties, including 359 deaths, during the landings in Normandy.
In 2004, to mark the 60th anniversary of D-Day, Canada Post issued a domestic-rate (then 49 cents) stamp (Scott #2043).
“Our intention is to honour the survivors and their fallen colleagues while the events of June 6, 1944, remain within living memory,” said Bill Danard, then design manager of stamp products for the Crown corporation, in 2014.
It wasn’t the first time the Normandy landings were remembered philatelically in Canada.
In 1994, for the 50th anniversary of D-Day, Canada Post issued three stamps commemorating both the D-Day 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,” said Danard, 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.”