5 Essential D-Day Stories

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June 6 marks the anniversary of the allied invasion of Normandy during World War II, more commonly known as D-Day. To commemorate the anniversary, here are five essential TIME stories about the invasion:

A diplomatic endeavor: A 2014 story marking the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Normandy examined the diplomatic negotiations between Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin that preceded the D-Day victory.

The story of D-Day is as much about years of diplomatic skirmishing among Churchill, Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin as it is about the landings themselves on the beaches where President Obama and other world leaders will gather this week. And in that convoluted tale lies a lesson in leadership, for FDR’s patient maneuvering in 1941, ’42 and ’43 was that of a President at once constrained and determined as he sought the right answer in the calamitous times. What seems straightforward in retrospect was, in real time, highly improvisational—­and at moments, dare we say it, Franklin Roosevelt led from behind.

Early reports: The first issue of TIME after D-Day—published on June 12, 1944—included several stories about the invasion, one of which focused on how Americans reacted to early news that the “greatest military undertaking in history” had launched.

Across the land, generally, the mood was solemn. There was no sudden fear, as on that September morning in 1939 when the Germans marched into Poland; no sudden hate, as on Pearl Harbor day. This time, moved by a common impulse, the casual churchgoers as well as the devout went to pray.

The U.S. people had wondered for weeks how they would behave on D-day.

When it came, they went about their regular business. Race tracks called off their programs for the day; many stores closed at noon. The citizens stuck to their radios, read newspaper extras as they rolled off the presses, sat and thought, stood and drank, knelt and prayed.

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Strategy and chaos: A TIME cover story published on May 28, 1984, ahead of the 40th anniversary of the invasion, detailed the myriad dangers that Allied troops encountered by land, sea and air. The story also examined the German errors that affected the outcome of the military operation.

To the top commanders, everything is always part of a plan, but to the ordinary soldiers in the landing craft, the invasion seemed more like a series of fragments that added up to chaos. The storm that was supposed to have died down still churned up waves four and five feet high, and the landing craft wallowed through them. White-capped waves slurped over the sides. Seasickness became epidemic. Drenched, shivering, scared and loaded down with almost 70 Ibs. of wet battle gear, they had to keep bailing. … If there were mistakes and failures on the Allied side, they were insignificant compared with the blunders by the Germans. Not only did Rommel spend D-day speeding through the countryside, not only had the Luftwaffe withdrawn all the planes that were needed in Normandy, but the armored regiments that should have been thrown into the defense of Omaha Beach could not move without direct orders from Hitler, and Hitler’s aides refused to wake him before 9:30 a.m.

An iconic photo: Robert Capa was one of only four American photographers credentialed to land on the beaches of Normandy alongside American troops. This story and video detail how Capa captured an iconic photo of a soldier in the water at Normandy and then helped bring him to shore, all while preserving his film. Capa’s is some of the only film from that day that survived.

It is, in a sense, a testament to the incalculable hardship and violence of the Longest Day that the only surviving photographic record of the Omaha Beach landing from the beach itself are nine hard-won, fragile, immensely powerful negatives.

Historical context: In 2014, historian Douglas Brinkley looked back on the invasion and its unique role in history:

The following day, June 7, newspapers were full of mind-boggling factoids and statistics about how D-Day had succeeded. One number that didn’t appear was 36,525. Readers might guess that the number represents the tally of soldiers who landed at Omaha Beach or the number of ships and aircraft used in the cross-Channel operation or the number of German defenders or the number of casualties or any number of other things associated with Operation Overlord. But 36,525 is simply the number of days in a century, and of all the days in the 20th century, none were more consequential than June 6, 1944.

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Write to Katie Reilly at Katie.Reilly@time.com