Story   Observances

Commemorating World War II, 75 Years After D-Day

June 7, 2019

The Defense Department pays tribute to all who served the nation during World War II and to the allied countries whose service members fought side-by-side with America’s forces. DOD honors the troops who perished in the fight, were listed as missing in action or were prisoners of war, and the veterans who returned, and the sacrifices of their families in the fight to preserve freedom.

 

Learn more about World War II history below and commemoration events on our feature page.

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On Dec. 8, 1941 at 12:30 p.m., President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed a joint session of Congress and the nation via radio. The Senate responded with a unanimous vote in support of war. At 4 p.m., President Roosevelt signed the declaration of war. 

Listen to his speech:
02:00

 

Major Events That Shaped World War II

1
Battle of Bataan
Japanese troops began attacking Allied forces stationed in the Philippines in January 1942. U.S. and Philippine forces fought hard, despite being outnumbered and lacking supplies, but Japanese troops pushed them into the jungle of the Bataan Peninsula. They were ill and starving – surviving on iguanas, snakes and monkeys by the time they surrendered on April 9, 1942. More than 11,000 Americans and 60,000 Philippine soldiers became prisoners of war. Read more about the Battle of Bataan.
People in civilian clothes walk on a path with a truck in the rear and someone on horseback beside them.
Liberating POWs
The Army's 6th Ranger Infantry Battalion liberates American prisoners of war from a Japanese camp near Cabanatuan City, Philippines, Jan. 30, 1945.
Photo By: Army Heritage and Education Center
VIRIN: 450130-A-ZZ999-101
2
Battle of the Coral Sea
Japanese and Allied forces clashed in the Battle of the Coral Sea May 4-8, 1942, the first battle using aircraft carrier planes. Among them, the USS Lexington and USS Yorktown. It was also the first naval engagement in which ships of the opposing sides never saw each other. Coral Sea also marked the first time the Allies successfully stopped a Japanese advance.
01:13
3
Battle of Midway
From June 4 to 7, 1942, the U.S. and Japanese navies fought for the island of Midway, home to a U.S. naval base. America's ultimate victory there, against a larger and more combat-experienced Japanese fleet, is considered one of the greatest naval battles in U.S. history and the war's turning point in the Pacific.
04:06
4
Battle of Guadalcanal
Also code-named Operation Watchtower, the Battle of Guadalcanal was fought in the Solomon Islands from Aug. 7, 1942, to Feb. 9, 1943. It was the Marine Corps' first offensive battle of World War II and the Pacific. Allies overwhelmed Japanese forces, including the decimation of Japan's elite group of naval aviators.
02:34
5
Battle of Normandy
On June 6, 1944, nearly 160,000 Allied troops landed along a heavily fortified, 50-mile stretch of French coastline in the historic operation known as D-Day. Allied casualties were heavy — an estimated 10,000 killed, wounded and missing in action — but by day's end, the Allies had gained a foothold to begin liberating Europe.
Listen to Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower's D-Day Message:
01:47
6
Liberation of Paris
Allied forces liberated Paris from the Germans on Aug. 25, 1944. The city's population was starving after four years of Nazi occupation, and a French Resistance agent told American military leaders Aug. 21 that an uprising had begun and the Germans would kill thousands of people if the Allies did not send help. Gen. Omar Bradley, commander of the 12th Army Group, sent in American and French forces, freeing the City of Light.
Soldiers march down the Champs-Elysees.
Victory Parade
U.S. soldiers march down the Champs-Elysees in Paris during the Victory Parade, Aug. 29, 1944.
Photo By: Army
VIRIN: 440829-O-ZZ999-101Y
7
Battle of the Bulge
This German counteroffensive launched Dec. 16, 1944, saw the loss of some 75,000 Americans, while the Germans lost 80,000 to 100,000. But by the end of January 1945, American units had retaken all ground they had lost. Read more about the Battle of the Bulge.
Three service members wearing white sheets walk across a snow-covered field.
Luxembourg Patrol
Three members of an American patrol cross a snow-covered field on a scouting mission in Lellig, Luxembourg, Dec. 30, 1944, wearing white bedsheets to camouflage them.
Photo By: Army
VIRIN: 441230-A-ZZ999-101Q
8
Battle of Iwo Jima
U.S. Marines battled the Imperial Army of Japan on Iwo Jima after American forces invaded the island on Feb. 19, 1945, a battle that would last five weeks. Read more about the Battle of Iwo Jima.
Listen to the emotional recollections from veterans: 
02:09
9
Battle of Okinawa
The last major amphibious assault of World War II, the Battle for Okinawa, began on April 1, 1945, when U.S. soldiers and Marines landed under heavy naval gunfire and aircraft support. The campaign lasted 82 days, ending with Allied victory.
A soldier holds a flag up on a mountaintop as others crouch around him.
At the Pinnacle
The flag of the Army's 77th Infantry Division flies for the first time at the pinnacle of Mount Iegusugu, April 21, 1945.
Photo By: Naval History and Heritage Command
VIRIN: 450421-N-ZZ999-101
10
Victory in Europe
President Harry S. Truman, British Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill and Soviet Premier Josef Stalin simultaneously announced that Nazi Germany had surrendered on May 8, 1945 – one day after formal surrender negotiations began in Rheims, France. Celebrations erupted in cities around the world.
Three sailors read newspapers with giant 'It's V-E Day!' headlines.
Big News
British sailors in New York City read report of Germany’s surrender, May 7, 1945.
Photo By: Naval History and Heritage Command
VIRIN: 450507-O-ZZ999-101
11
Victory Over Japan
President Harry S. Truman announced the unconditional surrender of Japan at 7 p.m. on Aug. 14, 1945, addressing reporters gathered at the White House. The news sent millions of American and Allied troops and civilians out into streets around the world to celebrate, though the Japanese didn’t formally sign surrender documents ending World War II until Sept. 2. Americans celebrate victory over Japan, or V-J Day, on this date; in Great Britain, V-J Day is Aug. 15, which was when the announcement arrived in the United Kingdom.
A crowd smiles for a photo and holds up peace signs.
Surrender Celebration
American service members gather in front of the Red Cross club in Paris to celebrate the unconditional surrender of the Japanese, Aug. 15, 1945.
Photo By: National Archives
VIRIN: 450815-O-ZZ999-101Y
 

On Dec. 31, 1946, President Harry S. Truman issued a presidential proclamation declaring an official end to World War II.

Army Gen. George S. Patton stands and waves from an open jeep as people line a downtown street.
L.A. Welcome
Army Gen. George S. Patton acknowledges the cheers of welcoming crowds in Los Angeles, June 9, 1945.
Photo By: National Archives
VIRIN: 450609-O-ZZ999-101Y

 

As the world marks D-Day 75 years later, observances include events in France and at the National World War II Memorial in Washington.


Battle-Scarred Flag From U.S. D-Day Landing Craft Returns Home
Ship’s American flag from World War II.
World War II Flag
A World War II flag flown aboard a U.S. landing craft during the D-Day invasion at Normandy, France, in 1944 is presented to officials of the Smithsonian Institution during a White House ceremony, July 18, 201.
Photo By: D. Myles Cullen, White House
VIRIN: 190719-O-ZZ999-4444
Reading of Names of Nearly 9,000 American Service Members
Service members stand in a line, each holding a flag.
Memorial Honor
A joint service color guard presents the colors during an event at the National World War II Memorial, June 5, 2019. Volunteers read the names of nearly 9,000 American service members who were killed in France during Operation Overlord, which began June 6, 1944.
Photo By: C. Todd Lopez, DOD
VIRIN: 190605-D-NU123-007
Video: Senators Travel to Normandy to Help Mark the 75th Anniversary of D-Day
A sculptured memorial on the beach with flowers and American flags planted in the sand.
Les Braves Memorial
Flowers and flags mark Les Braves memorial at Omaha Beach, Normandy, France, May 31,2019.
Photo By: Army Sgt. Dommnique Washington
VIRIN: 190531-A-OH153-0541