It's been 75 years since D-Day: Here's how the Allies began to reclaim Europe from the Nazis

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  • 2019 marks the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings, when Allied forces stormed the beaches of Normandy, France.
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On June 6, 1944, Allied forces crossed the English Channel and began to reclaim the European mainland.

That day, 75 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.

SEE ALSO: How Soviet troops taunted the Nazis during their final drive to Berlin in World War II

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Men kept dragging themselves ashore.

Patching each other up as they went.

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

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

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

And one-by-one the Allies took the bunkers.

Only burying the dead when the battle was done.

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

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.

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

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

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.

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