If it weren’t for this ambitious, high-stakes military plan, the Allies may have lost the war and failed to set the future free from Germany’s destructive control.
It’s important to teach our children about America’s world wars, their consequences, and how they changed the future we now live in today. Let’s break down WWII and how the D-Day invasion was a pivotal turning point in helping the Allies win the war.
Setting the Stage for WWII
It’s essential to understand the history of World War I before learning about World War II since the latter is a result of the former. We recommend refreshing your memory about its history in our post, America Enters World War I.
In a nutshell, World War II started because of unresolved tensions from World War I.
The Allied Powers – the United States, Great Britain, France, Russia, Italy, Romania, and Japan – defeated the Central Powers – Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, and the Ottoman Empire.
By the end, Germany was outnumbered by the Allies and was forced to sign the Treaty of Versailles on June 28, 1919 – ending the war and agreeing to end all future wars.
Or at least they thought!
Germany, still bitter toward the Allies for losing the war, rebuilt their economy and was slowly rising in power once again. By the start of World War II, they had invaded most of Europe, North Africa, and the Soviet Union.
What’s more, they were murdering and imprisoning millions – primarily Jewish people and other people groups that the Nazi regime disliked. With Adolf Hitler as their leader, they sought to become the superior race and take over the world.
The Start of World War II
On September 1, 1939, Adolf Hitler gathered a total of 1.5 million soldiers and invaded Poland despite Britain and France’s warning not to. By September 3rd, Great Britain and France declared war on Germany.
Much like World War I, the United States didn’t enter the war until later on. It wasn’t until the Japanese bombed an American naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941, that they once again teamed up with their Allies to beat the German forces.
What Was D-Day?
The war continued for years, and Great Britain and the United States managed to keep the German forces from expanding. However, they knew they needed a strategic plan to push the Germans out of France for good.
D-Day took place on June 6, 1944.
Prior to the attack that would help end the war, the Allies were gaining soldiers and bombing German territories thousands of times a day, destroying necessities like railroads, bridges, and airfields.
Although the Germans anticipated that an attack was in the works, the Allies surprised them with a military strategy no one ever saw coming.
The Germans expected the Allies to attack at Pas de Calais any day. However, the Germans were thrown a curveball when the weather suddenly became poor. As a result, the Germans didn’t foresee the Allies’ attack and were underprepared because of it.
Given the go-ahead by General Eisenhower despite the weather, the Allies attacked the beaches of Normandy with over 150,000 soldiers.
The Allied Forces began their famous attack, known today as the Battle of Normandy or D-Day – originally named Operation Overlord and Operation Neptune. “D-Day” is a military term defined as “the day on which an important operation is to begin.”
Their attack began with paratroopers jumping out of planes in the middle of the night. These men were responsible for taking out bridges and other essential areas the Germans would need to counter-attack the battle from happening on the beach.
Next, planes dropped thousands of bombs on German defenses and sent in ships to bomb the beaches of Normandy. Meanwhile, the French Resistance was cutting telephone lines and further destroying railroads.
Over the next several days, half a million Allied troops conquered Normandy, pushing the Germans out of France and severely weakening their army.
How Long Did D-Day Last?
The Battle of D-Day was a turning point in the war, all but guaranteeing a win by the Allies. It lasted from June 6th to mid-July of 1944.
Many people wonder how many people died on D-Day. According to History, it’s estimated that about 4,400 Allied soldiers were killed, and between 4,000 and 9,000 German soldiers were either killed, wounded, or missing.
The Allies also managed to capture around 200,000 German prisoners of war during this time.
Invasion of Normandy Aftermath
By April of 1945, Adolf Hilter knew he had lost the war and committed suicide. Then, on September 2, 1945, the war was declared ended.
It wasn’t until later that the world discovered Hitler’s diabolical plan called the “Final Solution,” otherwise known as the Holocaust – a plan for the genocide of the Jewish people.
Even though World War I was considered to be “The Great War” and would leave behind a considerable amount of damage to all countries involved, World War II well surpassed it with an estimated 45-60 million people killed, 6 million being Jews in concentration camps.
Many exhibits exist to honor the heroes who fought in World War II – including the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, the National Museum of World War II Aviation in Colorado Springs, and more! There are also Holocaust museums to honor those whose lives were tragically taken.
Resources to Help Teach Your Kids About WWII
World War II is a tough subject to study in history. With over 30 countries involved in this war, it can be challenging to keep them all straight and know who is on which side!
Our World War II Time Travelers study is designed to create a hands-on learning experience that drives the lessons home in a fun way. We cover topics like what D-Day is, Pearl Harbor, the Holocaust, iconic women of the war, propaganda, the atomic bomb, etc.
Our Time Travelers utilize the following methods of teaching (plus more!):
These hands-on projects help kids “travel back in time” and experience the era in a more up-close and personal way. You can read more about how you can implement this style of teaching into your child’s history curriculum by reading our post, Using Time Travelers.
Round up Your WWII Soldiers
Personally, our kids were captivated by learning about World War II. Even after the lessons were over, we still found them dressing up as soldiers and reenacting all different kinds of scenes in our forest outback!
Found in the World War II Time Travelers)
We hope your children are just as moved learning about this war as ours were. If you happen to catch some of these precious moments, please tag us in the photos! We’d love to see them and, with your permission, post them to our Facebook page!