Shortly after midnight on June 6, 1944, tens of thousands of Allied paratroopers were dropped behind enemy lines over Normandy. A few hours later – at 0630 – the first of 160,000 troops to come ashore that day landed, as American, British, and Canadian forces stormed Gold, Sword, Juno, Utah, and Omaha beaches. They were backed by nearly 200,000 naval and merchant navy personnel on 5,000 ships operating in the English Channel. The landings of June 6 – D-Day – were the largest amphibious operation of all time.

The man charged with executing this massive operation – General Dwight D. Eisenhower – felt the weight of history on his shoulders. Success would turn the tide of the war in the Allies’ favor. Failure would cement Hitler’s control of Western Europe, and perhaps seal the Atlantic Wall permanently.

Ultimately, thanks to the determination of the Allied invasion forces, and to the organizational capabilities of Eisenhower, the operation was a success. As the day proceeded and the invasion forces created a defensible beachhead, Eisenhower saw fit to deliver the following radio address to the people of Western Europe, assuring them that their hour of liberation was almost at hand…

People of Western Europe: A landing was made this morning on the coast of France by troops of the Allied Expeditionary Force. This landing is part of the concerted United Nations’ plan for the liberation of Europe, made in conjunction with our great Russian allies.

I have this message for all of you. Although the initial assault may not have been made in your own country, the hour of your liberation is approaching.

All patriots, men and women, young and old, have a part to play in the achievement of final victory. To members of resistance movements, I say, “Follow the instructions you have received.” To patriots who are not members of organized resistance groups, I say, “Continue your passive resistance, but do not needlessly endanger your lives until I give you the signal to rise and strike the enemy. The day will come when I shall need your united strength.” Until that day, I call on you for the hard task of discipline and restraint.

Citizens of France! I am proud to have again under my command the gallant Forces of France. Fighting beside their Allies, they will play a worthy part in the liberation of their Homeland.

Because the initial landing has been made on the soil of your country, I repeat to you with even greater emphasis my message to the peoples of other occupied countries in Western Europe. Follow the instructions of your leaders. A premature uprising of all Frenchmen may prevent you from being of maximum help to your country in the critical hour. Be patient. Prepare!

As Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force, there is imposed on me the duty and responsibility of taking all measures necessary to the prosecution of the war. Prompt and willing obedience to the orders that I shall issue is essential.

Effective civil administration of France must be provided by Frenchmen. All persons must continue in their present duties unless otherwise instructed. Those who have made common cause with the enemy and so betrayed their country will be removed. As France is liberated from her oppressors, you yourselves will choose your representatives, and the government under which you wish to live.

In the course of this campaign for the final defeat of the enemy you may sustain further loss and damage. Tragic though they may be, they are part of the price of victory. I assure you that I shall do all in my power to mitigate your hardships. I know that I can count on your steadfastness now, no less than in the past. The heroic deeds of Frenchmen who have continued the struggle against the Nazis and their Vichy satellites, in France and throughout the French Empire, have been an example and an inspiration to all of us.

This landing is but the opening phase of the campaign in Western Europe. Great battles lie ahead. I call upon all who love freedom to stand with us. Keep your faith staunch – our arms are resolute – together we shall achieve victory.