Royal Canadian Air Force
The largest military invasion in history took place on June 6, 72 years ago. The D-Day assault was a huge and complex undertaking – a multinational, combined operation involving hundreds of thousands of sailors, soldiers and airmen whose mission was to deliver freedom to Nazi-occupied Europe.
It began before dawn on June 6, 1944, when more than 23,000 paratroopers – including more than 450 Canadians – leapt into the night skies over Normandy. A few hours later, some 14,000 Canadian troops began coming ashore at a beach code-named “Juno”. The Canadian mission was to establish a beachhead along an eight-kilometre stretch in front of the villages of Courseulles-sur-Mer, Bernières-sur-Mer and Saint Aubin-sur-Mer. Once secure, the troops were to push on to Caen.
By day’s end, the Canadians on Juno Beach lost 340 killed, 574 wounded, with 47 taken prisoner. But of all the divisions that landed on June 6, the Canadians had gained the most ground by sundown.
Canadian airmen were among the first into action. Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) squadrons belonging to Bomber Command’s No. 6 Group had already been involved for several months in bombing key enemy targets in the invasion area: roads, bridges, railways, airfields, and command and communications centres. As the moment to launch the invasion neared, Allied bombers dropped thousands of tons of explosives on German coastal defences – approximately 6,000 tons in just the last few hours before the…