“The Longest Day” was one of the few WW II battles fought in a single day. The Anglo-American landings in northern France on June 6, 1944, ended in a strategic Allied victory from which Germany never recovered. The assault troops waded ashore beneath an umbrella of unprecedented magnitude, with some 11,000 American and British aircraft over the Normandy beaches and farther inland.
Luftwaffe sorties are not well documented but possibly did not exceed 300. Only two FW 190s actually attacked the beaches, strafing the British and Canadian landing zones.
The path to Normandy had been paved across the Atlantic, having defeated the U-boats the year previously, and in European skies. By June, the Jagdwaffe had been worn down to the point that monthly attrition sometimes reached 40 percent aircraft and 25 percent aircrew. On D-Day, British and American pilots only claimed 30 shootdowns—a measure of Allied air supremacy.
Allied aircraft losses were far less than many commanders expected. Col. Donald Blakeslee of the Fourth Fighter Group said, “I am prepared to lose the entire group.” And while the Debden Eagles lost 10 Mustangs, total Allied losses were barely 100 to all causes.
In vivid contrast to expectations, D-Day proved the biggest air battle that never occurred.
A 101st Airborne Division paratrooper armed with a M1A1 bazooka stands in the doorway of a C-47 Skytrain on June 5, 1944. (Photo courtesy of Jack Cook) Paratroopers of the 101st Airborne Division check their gear by C-47A s/n 42-92717 8Y-S of the 98th Troop Carrier Squadron 440th Troop Carrier Group at Exeter, England, on the evening of June 5, 1944. (Photo courtesy of Jack Cook)
Dozens of English makeshift airfields out of reach of the Luftwaffe were used to store C-47s for eventual D-Day operations. (Photo courtesy of Stan Piet)