Contributor: Meghan Vestal. Lesson ID: 11656

When things looked grim for the Allies in World War II, they took desperate measures, including deception and sacrifice. Hear the stories of survivors of D-Day — the day that turned the tide!



learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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World War II began in 1939 with Germany's invasion of Poland, followed by its rapid conquest of other European countries.

The war saw Germany and its Axis allies controlling a significant part of Europe, while the Allied forces, led by the United Kingdom, faced early setbacks.

  • Which battle is considered the turning point of World War II?

On June 6, 1944, one of the largest battles in modern history ensued on the beaches of Normandy, France.

The battle was given the code name Operation Overlord and is referred to as D-Day. Overtaking the Germans in France was a long shot but necessary to win the war.

As you read about D-Day and the events leading up to it, make a list of all the things that enabled the Allies to be successful on June 6.

Landing ships putting cargo ashore on Omaha Beach

After the start of World War II, in May 1940, the Germans took control of France. This strategic position prevented the Allies from entering central Europe and Germany.

As the war lingered, it became clear that the Allies would have to gain access to the English Channel and France if they were going to win the war.

In January 1944, General Dwight Eisenhower, who would eventually become president of the United States, was put in charge of a top-secret mission to invade France called Operation Overlord.

The Germans were unsure of when, where, or how, but they knew the Allies would soon attack France. For that reason, Operation Overlord was kept very quiet, and few were aware of what it would entail.

To keep the mission even more secret, General Eisenhower launched a massive deception campaign to lead the Germans to believe the attack would occur at Calais rather than Normandy.

If you look at the map below, you can see where Calais is in relationship to Normandy.

Northern France

As part of Eisenhower's deception campaign, many strategies were used.

For months, fake radio messages and double agents were used to plant ideas about where the military strike would take place. In addition to Calais, the Allies led the Germans to believe that attacks in Norway and other parts of northern France were also likely.

In the weeks leading up to D-Day, the Allies worked to make it difficult for the Germans to move troops and supplies by destroying roads and bridges that could be potentially used to provide German aid to Normandy. The final few days leading up to D-Day were when the most large-scale deception tactics were used.

General George Patton was one of the leading officers on the Allies' side. The Germans were certain that General Patton would lead an attack on France.

Just before the attack on D-Day, General Eisenhower stationed General Patton and a large army on the coast of England across from Pas-de-Calais. With Patton and his men, Eisenhower sent hundreds of fake tanks, weapons, and equipment.

Operation Overlord was supposed to occur on June 5, but inclement weather postponed the attack for 24 hours. While the Germans were watching General Patton, 5,000 ships and 11,000 aircraft were sent across the English Channel to Normandy.

Before they arrived, paratroopers were dropped behind the beaches to secure roads and routes from the beach into France.

At 6:30 am, over 150,000 men stormed the beaches of Normandy in what has become known as one of the most gruesome battles in modern history. The Allied troops stepped off the boats and into the hands of their enemy.

It is estimated that around 4,000 men were killed within a few hours, and thousands more were wounded and went missing.

Despite all that, D-Day was a success for the Allies. The troops managed to secure the beaches, allowing more than 300,000 Allied troops to move into France.

As you explore the resources below to learn more, continue adding to your list of reasons why the Allies were successful on June 6.

The Allies knew invading France would be challenging, and they would likely fail. Review the list you created.

  • What measures did the Allies take to ensure D-Day would be a success?
  • Who, if anyone, can be credited with securing the French beaches?

Move to the Got It? section to learn about the events of D-Day from the men who lived through it.

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