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What does D-Day stand for?

D-Day represented the opening act of Operation Overlord, the largest seaborne operation in history. On June 6, 1944, an armada consisting of 156,000 men, over 6,000 vessels, and 11,000 aircraft took Normandy by storm. Various sobriquets were attributed to the date itself: day of days, deliverance day, or decision day to quote but a few. All are powerful interpretations but none of them reflect the real meaning of D-Day.

In military terminology, D-Day refers to the day on which a large-scale operation or attack is put into motion and the troops involved are sent into action. It may seem quite trivial but “D” stands for “Day”. Furthermore, the term is quasi-universal regardless of language. In French, for example, D-Day is Jour-J. Jour is the French for "day" — something that is worth keeping in mind, especially when traveling to Normandy for a tour of the D-Day beaches #ddaytours #ddaybattlefiedtours #discovernormandy #normandyguides. Following this simple pattern, D-Day is Ziua-Z in Romanian, La-L in Irish, Dagen-D in Swedish, etc.

The usefulness of the concept sprang from the fact that all Allied troops earmarked for the initial assault could undertake special training without being concerned about not knowing the exact date; their plans were not to be modified in case of a last-minute change. The same principle applied to H-Hour, which was the exact time on D-Day when the various assault units were scheduled to initiate their attacks. Ironically, while the date was irrelevant, everything depended on D-Day; the entire operational plan had been laid out to and from H-Hour.

D-Day should have been June 5 not June 6

The date had to be chosen after careful consideration. The initial attack was supposed to fit a series of requirements like specific weather conditions, amount of daylight time, moon phase, tides, etc. Each month, there were just a few days that fitted such criteria. Thus, it was concluded that the best interval for D-Day was between June 4-6 with a second window — a sort of fallback plan — between June 19-21. If both these opportunities were missed, D-Day was to be rescheduled in July. It was in this context that in the spring of 1944, the Allies decided that D-Day would be June 5, 1944.

Early on June 4, the Supreme Allied Commander, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, received what he later described as ‘the worst possible news’. The weather forecast for the next day clearly indicated that conditions in the English Channel would preclude an attack on the 5th. The invasion had to be postponed and the Allies waited. As luck would have it, a few hours later, Captain Stagg, the chief meteorologist, detected a break in the weather which presented the Allies with a window of opportunity on the 6th. It was still a gamble but in spite of the risks Eisenhower decided to give the assault forces the green light to go and thus D-Day ended up being not the 5th but the 6th of June 1944.

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