JUNE 6, 1944, is a date burned forever into the history of the world.

That summer day 45 years ago, known as D-Day, marked the real turning point of the Second World War, which had been raging for almost five years.It was the day that Allied military forces stormed the Normandy beaches in northern France and began the long-awaited invasion that ended in complete victory over Germany less than a year later. The troops had to fight through France, Belgium, Holland and into Germany to achieve that victory.

By nightfall of D-Day more than 150,000 men, 83,000 British and Canadians and 72,000 Americans, had landed and established a foothold on French soil. But the foothold came at the cost of 10,000 killed and wounded that first day.

Allied forces landed at five beaches along a 50-mile stretch of the Normandy coast. The beaches where the Americans landed were named Omaha and Utah. British and Canadians came ashore at Gold, Juno and Sword beaches.

Things went so badly at first on Omaha Beach that Gen. Omar Bradley considered withdrawing and diverting all the Americans to Utah Beach. But conditions improved enough to go ahead with original plans, though at a high cost of men and equipment.

Three Utahns are among those with vivid memories of D-Day. Two landed on Omaha Beach and the other piloted a bomber over the fighting area.

SGT. ALDEN B. THORNLEY had already seen action with the famed First Division when he waded ashore on D-Day. He had landed at Oran in North Africa in June 1942, went with his outfit to Algiers and Tunisia, then crossed the Mediterranean for the invasion of Sicily at Gela Beach. Then the division drove across Sicily to Palermo and stayed on the island for a year.

The First Division was brought back to England and spent a year in the Southwest training for the Normandy invasion.

A radio technician, Thornley was not among the infantry troops who went ashore in the first wave but, he says, "I was close enough. I lost some of the best friends I ever had. We had been together for two years."

It was early afternoon when he hit the beach. His outfit had to wait offshore for several hours until low tide allowed them to drive their heavy equipment off the landing craft onto the beach.

"It was a sight I'll never forget," he recalls. "There were hundreds of bodies lined along the shore, and medics were attending to dozens of wounded soldiers. And there was so much wrecked equipment that you wondered if anything had been saved."

One of the best-known feats of the First Division was a company of Rangers who scaled a 1,000-foot cliff overlooking Omaha Beach at Point du Hoc, where reconnaissance showed the Germans had installed six 155 mm guns with a sweeping 11-mile range. As a result, the larger American ships stayed out of range and forced the smaller landing craft to make an 11-mile run to the beach.

When the Rangers scaled the cliff after heavy losses they found not guns but six camouflaged telephone poles. The guns had been moved several miles inland.

By nighttime, Thornley and his unit had moved well inland.

One of the prime first-day objectives of the Allied forces was the principal Normandy city of Caen. Instead of one day it took 27 days to capture the city. By then it had been destroyed by bombs and artillery.

CAPT. HARRY R. OSTLER landed on another section of Omaha Beach about the same time as Thornley. Ostler commanded a field artillery battery in the 29th Division. He and his men had trained for a year along the southern coast of England. They learned how to aim and shoot their howitzers from a landing craft while it was bobbing in the waves.

"I was the second American to fire on the shores of England," Ostler jokingly recalls. "The first was John Paul Jones during the American Revolution.

"That training was tough. The only difference from combat was that we faced live ammunition against the Germans."

His landing craft hit a sandbar about 300 yards from the beach. Two other boats hit the same sandbar and tried to drive their jeeps ashore from there. When Ostler saw two jeeps sink he ordered the pilot of his boat to maneuver off.

"We finally got within 75 yards and then it was easy," he says.

Like the First Division, the 29th drove clear to Germany during the following year and ended up on the Elbe River, where they joined with the Russian forces coming from the east.

WHEN CAPT. ROBERT H. Hinckley Jr. led his squadron of B-24 bombers out of their base about 60 miles north of London on June 6, he had no idea it was D-Day.

"I thought it was going to be another mission along the German installations on the north coast like we'd been doing for the previous month or so," he recalls.

"But when we got over the channel all I could see was ships. You could almost walk across the channel by hopping from boat to boat."

After that first D-Day mission, Hinck-ley's squadron returned to base, loaded up and made another run along the coast. In the days following, they made similar missions, aiming at bridges, highways and railroad yards to interrupt the German units trying to get to Normandy.

Sometimes they would bomb the Calais area, 100 miles east. This was part of the Allied strategy to make the enemy think a second invasion was imminent in that sector. It succeeded brilliantly, because Hitler refused to send troops from that part of the coast to help defend Normandy.

In previous months Hinckley had flown a dozen bombing missions to various parts of Germany. His first was over Berlin, where his friend and roommate from West Point days was killed.

The Normandy Invasion was proof of the adage that the side making the fewest mistakes is the one that wins the war.

The Germans surely made the most mistakes.

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The biggest was allowing D-Day to be a complete surprise. Even though the Allies were assembling a 6,000 ship fleet right across the channel, the Germans were unaware of it until they saw it coming across in the early dawn of June 6.

The worst storms in 20 years whipped the channel the previous week, and Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, commander of the German forces in the west, was so sure that nothing was imminent that he took off for his home in Herringen, Germany, to help celebrate his wife's birthday. When informed of the invasion, he reportedly put down the phone and said, "How stupid of me."

Rommel's absence on D-Day was why two crack Panzer units were not ordered up to the Normandy front until the next day. He had spent more than a year building barricades and planting mines all along France's northern coast. He had also trained special units, such as the Panzers, to repel an invasion.

In making plans for the expected Allied invasion, Rommel told a group of his generals that the war might well be decided by their success or failure on the first day, which he said would be the "longest day." He was right, but he was also a day late.

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