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World War II: The Allied Invasion of Europe

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Starting with the Invasion of Sicily in July of 1943, and culminating in the June 6, 1944, D-Day invasion of Normandy, Allied forces took the fight to the Axis powers in many locations across Western Europe. The push into Italy began in Sicily, but soon made it to the Italian mainland, with landings in the south. The Italian government (having recently ousted Prime Minister Benito Mussolini) quickly signed an armistice with the Allies -- but German forces dug in and set up massive defensive lines across Italy, prepared to halt any armed push to the north. After several major offensives, the Allies broke through and captured Rome on June 4, 1944. Two days later on D-Day, the largest amphibious invasion in history took place. Nearly 200,000 Allied troops boarded 7,000 ships and more than 3,000 aircraft and headed toward Normandy. Some 156,000 troops landed on the French beaches , 24,000 by air and the rest by sea, where they met stiff resistance from well-defended German positions across 50 miles of French coastline. After several days of intense warfare, Allied troops gained tenuous holds on several beaches, and they were able to dig in with reinforcements and bombardment. By the end of June, Allies were in firm control of Normandy, and on August 25, Paris was liberated by the French Resistance with help from the French Forces of the Interior and the U.S. 4th Infantry Division. In September, the Allies launched another major invasion, Operation Market Garden, the largest airborne operation of its time, in which tens of thousands of troops descended on the Netherlands by parachute and glider. Though the landings were successful, troops on the ground were unable to take and hold their targets, including bridges across the Rhine River. Despite that setback, by late 1944, the Allies had successfully established a Western Front and were preparing to advance on Germany. (This entry is Part 16 of a weekly 20-part retrospective of World War II) [45 photos]

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While under attack of heavy machine gun fire from the German coastal defense forces, American soldiers wade ashore off the ramp of a U.S. Coast Guard landing craft, during the Allied landing operations at Normandy, France on D-Day, June 6, 1944. (AP Photo)
While under attack of heavy machine gun fire from the German coastal defense forces, American soldiers wade ashore off the ramp of a U.S. Coast Guard landing craft, during the Allied landing operations at Normandy, France on D-Day, June 6, 1944. (AP Photo)
In July of 1943, Allied Forces' troops, guns and transport are rushed ashore, ready for action, at the opening of the Allied invasion of the Italian island of Sicily. (AP Photo) #
During the invasion of Sicily by Allied forces, an American cargo ship, loaded with ammunition, explodes after being hit by a bomb from a German plane off Gela, on the southern coast of Sicily, on July 31, 1943. (AP Photo) #
Over the body of a dead comrade, Canadian infantrymen advance cautiously up a narrow lane in Campochiaro, Italy, on Nov. 11, 1943. The Germans left the town as the Canadians advanced, leaving only nests of snipers to delay the progress. (AP Photo) #
A Royal Air Force Baltimore light bomber drops a series of bombs during an attack on the railway station and junction at the snow-covered town of Sulmona, a strategic point on the east-west route across Italy, in February of 1944. (AP Photo) #
German infantrymen take cover in a house in southern Italy, on February 6, 1944, awaiting the word to attack after Stukas had done their work. (AP Photo) #
Artillery observers of the Fifth Army look over the German-held Italian town of San Vittore, on November 1, 1943, before an artillery barrage to dislodge the Germans. (AP Photo) #
Desolation in the Italian city of Cassino in May of 1944, the day after the city's capture by the Allies. Hangman's Hill is shown in the background, scene of bitter fighting during the long and bitter siege of the stronghold. (AP Photo) #
A U.S. reconnaissance unit searches for enemy snipers in Messina, Sicily, on August 1943. (AP Photo) #
An Italian woman kisses the hand of a soldier of the U.S. Fifth Army after troops move into Naples in their invasion and advance northward in Italy, on October 10, 1943. (AP Photo) #
U.S. soldiers march past the historical Roman Colosseum and follow their retreating enemy in Rome, Italy, on June 5, 1944. (AP Photo) #
Lt. Gen. Lucian K. Truscott, Jr., commanding general of the Fifth Army in Italy, talks to African American troops of the 92nd Infantry Division after they threw back a German attack in the hills north of Viareggio, Italy in 1944. (AP Photo) #
Mt. Vesuvius spewing ash into the sky, erupting as a U.S. Army jeep speeds by shortly after the arrival of the Allied forces in Naples, Italy in 1944. (AP Photo) #
A low-flying Allied plane sends German soldiers running for shelter on a beach in France, before D-Day in 1944. The fliers were taking photos of German coastal barriers in preparation for the upcoming June 6 invasion. (AP Photo) #
General Dwight D. Eisenhower gives the order of the Day. "Full victory - nothing else" to paratroopers in England on June 6, 1944, just before they board their airplanes to participate in the first assault in the invasion of the continent of Europe. All of the men with General Eisenhower are members of Company E, 502d. (U.S. Army) #
American troops march through the streets of a British port town on their way to the docks where they will be loaded into landing craft for the D-Day assault in June of 1944. (U.S. Army) #
U.S. Rangers on a troop ship in an English port waiting for the signal to sail to the coast of Normandy. Clockwise, starting from far left, is First Sergeant Sandy Martin, who was killed during the landing, Technician Fifth Grade Joseph Markovich, Corporal John Loshiavo, and at bottom, Private First Class Frank E. Lockwood. (U.S. Army) #
A section of the Armada of Allied landing craft with their protective barrage balloons head toward the French coast, in June of 1944. (AP Photo) #
Smoke streams from a U.S. coast guard landing craft approaching the French Coast on June 6, 1944 after German machine gun fire caused an explosion by setting off an American soldier's hand grenade. (AP Photo) #
Canadian soldiers land on Courseulles Beach in Normandy, on June 6, 1944 as Allied forces storm the Normandy beaches on D-Day, June 6, 1944. (STF/AFP/Getty Images) #
Some of the first assault troops to hit the beachhead in Normandy, France take cover behind enemy obstacles to fire on German forces as others follow the first tanks plunging through the water towards the German-held shore on June 6, 1944. (AP Photo) #
U.S. reinforcements wade through the surf as they land at Normandy in the days following the Allies' June 1944 D-Day invasion of France. (AP Photo/Peter Carroll) #
Members of an American landing party help others whose landing craft was sunk by enemy action of the coast of France. These survivors reached Omaha Beach by using a life raft on June 6, 1944. (U.S. Army) #
Canadian soldiers from 9th Brigade land with their bicycles at Juno Beach in Bernieres-sur-Mer during D-Day, while Allied forces were storming the Normandy beaches. (STF/AFP/Getty Images) #
American soldiers on Omaha Beach recover the dead after the June 6, 1944, D-Day invasion of France. (Walter Rosenblum/LOC) #
Thirteen liberty ships, deliberately scuttled to form a breakwater for invasion vessels landing on the Normandy beachhead lie in line off the beach, shielding the ships in shore. The artificial harbor installation was prefabricated and towed across the Channel in 1944. (AP Photo) #
Allied troops unload equipment and supplies on Omaha Beach in Normandy, France, in early June of 1944. (U.S. Army) #
Tow planes and gliders above the French countryside during the Normandy invasion in June of 1944, at an objective of the U.S. Army Ninth Air Force. Gliders and two planes are circling and many gliders have landed in fields below. (AP Photo/U.S. Air Force) #
An American soldier, who died in combat during the Allied invasion, lies on the beach of the Normandy coast, in the early days of June 1944. Two crossed rifles in the sand next to his body are a comrade's last reverence. The wooden structure on the right, normally veiled by high tide water, was an obstruction erected by the Germans to prevent seaborne landings. (AP Photo) #
Reinforcements for initial allied invaders of France, long lines of troops and supply trucks begin their march on June 18, 1944, in Normandy. (AP Photo) #
American dead lie in a French field, a short distance from the allied beachhead in France on June 20, 1944. (AP Photo/U.S. Signal Corps) #
American soldiers race across a dirt road, which is under enemy fire, near St. Lo, in Normandy, France, on July 25, 1944. Others crouch in the ditch before making the crossing. (AP Photo) #
An American soldier lies dead beside water pump, killed by a German booby trap set in the pump in a French village on the Cherbourg Peninsula, on June 18, 1944. (AP Photo/Peter Carroll) #
These five Germans were wounded and left without food or water for three days, hiding in a Normandy farmhouse waiting for a chance to surrender. Acting on information received from a French couple, U.S. soldiers went to the barn only to be attacked by snipers who seemed determined upon preventing their comrades from falling into Allied hands. After a skirmish, the snipers were dealt with and the wounded Germans taken captive, in France on June 14, 1944. (AP Photo) #
The dead German soldier in this June 1944 photo was one of the "last stand" defenders of German-held Cherbourg. Captain Earl Topley, right, who led one of the first American units into the city on June 27, said the German had killed three of his men. (AP Photo) #
Helmets discarded by German prisoners, who were taken to a prison camp, in a field in Normandy, France in 1944. (NARA) #
In the sky above the Netherlands, American tow planes with gliders strung out behind them fly high over windmill in Valkenswaard, near Eindhoven, on their way to support airborne army in Holland, on September 25, 1944. (AP Photo) #
Parachutes open as waves of paratroops land in Holland during operations by the 1st Allied Airborne Army in September of 1944. Operation Market Garden was the largest airborne operation in history, with some 15,000 troops were landing by glider and another 20,000 by parachute. (Army) #
The haystack at right would have softened the landing for this paratrooper who took a tumble during operations in Holland by the 1st Allied Airborne Army on September 24, 1944. (U.S. Army) #
In France, an American officer and a French Resistance fighter are seen engaged in a street battle with German occupation forces during the days of liberation, August 1944, in an unknown city. (AP Photo) #
People try to cross a damaged bridge in Cherbourg, France on July 27, 1944. (AP Photo) #
An American version of a sidewalk cafe, in fallen La Haye du Puits, France on July 15, 1944, as Robert McCurty, left, from Newark, New Jersey, Sgt. Harold Smith, of Brush Creek, Tennessee, and Sgt. Richard Bennett, from Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, raise their glasses in a toast. (AP Photo) #
A view from a hilltop overlooking the road leading into St. Lo in July of 1944. Two French children in the foreground watch convoys and trucks of equipment go through their almost completely destroyed city en route to the front. (AP Photo) #
Crowds of Parisians celebrating the entry of Allied troops into Paris scatter for cover as a sniper fires from a building on the place De La Concorde. Although the Germans surrendered the city, small bands of snipers still remained. August 26, 1944. (U.S. Army) #
After the French Resistance staged an uprising on August 19, American and Free French troops made a peaceful entrance on August 25, 1944. Here, four days later, soldiers of Pennsylvania's Twenty-eighth Infantry Division march along the Champs-Elysees, with the Arc de Triomphe in the background. (AP Photo/Peter J. Carroll) #

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