It's been 76 years since D-Day: Here's how the Allies began to reclaim Europe from the Nazis

military@businessinsider.com (Military & Defense Team)
Allied troops landing on the beach during the Normandy invasion.

US Army Photo

On June 6, 1944, Allied forces crossed the English Channel and began to reclaim the European mainland.

That day, 76 years ago, marked a turning point on the Western Front and in World War II.

The following images give you some idea of what those US, British, and Canadian troops saw when they left their landing craft and waded into history.

Robert Johnson composed an earlier version of this story.

It was overcast and foggy on June 6, 1944, when 160,000 troops landed on France's Normandy coastline.

D Day Normandy June 6 1944

dynamosquito via flickr

Beaches along a 50-mile section of the Normandy coast were given five names — Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword. Each was heavily defended by German troops.

D Day Normandy June 6 1944 Map

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The clouds kept Allied bombers from targeting the German forces and softening up their defenses.

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The Germans saw the Allied ships and troops coming from miles away.

D Day Normandy June 6 1944

frenchy via flickr

Once within range, Navy ships shelled German positions, but it wasn't enough to soften the onslaught that awaited the Allied troops.

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The Germans had been in France for four years and had built a system of bunkers all along the beach.

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dynamosquito via flickr

The only way to take out the bunkers was with ground troops.

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The first wave of assault troops hit the beach at 6:30 a.m.

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More than 13,000 paratroopers had been dropped behind enemy lines before the sun came up. But they were scattered widely, often missing their target areas and offering little aid to the men coming ashore.

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dynamosquito via flickr

German antiaircraft guns, like the one that would've been at this position, took a toll on these planes. Lingering clouds also made navigation difficult.

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dynamosquito via flickr

As gliders full of paratroopers troops flew in overhead, Allied troops continued to hit the beach.

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Those fortunate enough to make land unhurt often helped pull wounded men ashore with them.

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It took courage to stop in the middle of blistering machine-gun fire and help another soldier, but it happened all day long.

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In midafternoon, the Germans fired 18 torpedoes on an Allied destroyer, breaking it in two. This sent 219 men into the sea.

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Men kept dragging themselves ashore.

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Patching one another up as they went.

d-day

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And, slowly, the sheer number of Allied troops and steady bombardment began to overwhelm the German defenses.

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As sections of beach were secured, the machinery needed to move deeper into France arrived ashore as well.

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Allied troops kept moving forward into heavy fire and bunkers filled with Germans.

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And one by one the Allies took the bunkers.

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Burying the dead only when the battle was done.

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A staggering 22,000 Allied troops were killed or wounded that day in the landing alone.

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Some of the dead remained where they fell. Today there are 9,238 white crosses and 149 Stars of David dotting cemeteries throughout the area.

Normandy Grave

Wikimedia Commons

A combined 420,000 men from the two sides were killed, wounded, or went missing during the Battle of Normandy. But the invasion succeeded.

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Less than one year later, Berlin fell and Hitler was dead.

Berlin Falls

Wikimedia Commons

Read more: What it was like in the room when Nazi Germany finally surrendered to end World War II in Europe

Six months after that, Japan surrendered, and World War II was over.

VJ Day

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If not for the Allied troops who invaded Normandy on June 6, 1944, the war might have gone differently.

D Day

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