Vast numbers of troops and over 50,000 tanks, armoured cars, and other vehicles had been massed in southern England. The Americans, alone, fielded more than one and a half million personnel. The British had been waiting and planning for this day ever since they were driven from the continent at Dunkirk.
Hitler had been planning and preparing, too. The French coastline was fortified from the Spanish border all the way to Belgium with concrete gun emplacements and millions of mines and other beach obstacles: Hitler’s ‘Atlantic Wall.’ The Germans expected the Allies to invade at the Pas de Calais. Instead, the Allies landed on the Normandy coast—further to travel from Britain, but less heavily defended.By the time Rommel had driven back to his headquarters in France, the Allied beachheads were well established and D-Day was almost over.
In her diary entry for 6 June 1944, Dans Paris occupé—Journal d’Hélène Pitrou, 1940–1945 (by French children’s book author Paule du Bouchet), the fictional Hélène writes (in French): “They have landed! Our allies, the Americans, the British and even the Canadians are . . . on the soil of France!” The year 1944, she hopes, will be the year of liberation and the last year of the war.