'What Is D-Day?' And Other Questions: Your Guide To The 71st Anniversary Of A Huge Day In History

05/06/2015 20:09 BST | Updated 05/06/2015 20:59 BST

On Saturday, the world will remember the 425,000 soldiers who died during the Battle of Normandy 71 years ago.

D-Day was one of the biggest coordinated military operations by Allied forces during the Second World War, the successful capturing of the French beaches paving the way for a decisive advance across Europe.

The historic invasion on June 6, 1944 marked a turning point in the war, but the bloody battle came at great cost as hundreds of thousands perished.

Preparations are underway for the 71st anniversary commemorations to honour those lost.

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A WW2 veteran searches for his friend's grave

But as generations pass and memories fade, perhaps the most fitting tribute to those who gave their lives is to educate and inform one another about exactly happened.

As such, the HuffPostUK has put together a fact file:

'What is D-Day?'

This was the name given to the day that marked a commencement of 'Operation Neptune' - the first stage of a wider assault on Nazi-ruled North-West Europe.

Troops from Britain, the United States and Canada, bolstered by infantry from colonial and other international outposts, stormed six beaches in an early-morning attack to take back French land from German occupation.

Almost half-a-million people died in the Battle of Normandy - 209,000 of them Allies, but their lives helped pave the way for the toppling of the Nazi regime.

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Normandy veteran Alan King, from the Norwich and District NVA, holds a photo of himself (front second left) and his comrades from B Company taken on VE Day 1945, whilst visiting Sword Beach, Normandy, France

'Why is it called D-Day?'

According to the official D-Day Museum, the single letter does not stand for any of a number of commons misconceptions. That includes "Deliverance", "Doom", or "Debarkation". It doesn't stand for anything, says the museum.

"The 'D' is derived from the word 'Day'," they explain. "'D-Day' means the day on which a military operation begins. The term "D-Day" has been used for many different operations, but it is now generally only used to refer to the Allied landings in Normandy.

"When a military operation is being planned, its actual date and time is not always known exactly. The term 'D-Day' was therefore used to mean the date on which operations would begin, whenever that was to be. The day before D-Day was known as 'D-1', while the day after D-Day was 'D+1', and so on."

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A re-enactor plays the bagpipes on Sword beach

'Where did the soldiers land?'

This map from the National Archives shows where British Airborne forces landed, and the location Pegasus Bridge, key to the success of the mission, shown in the large and small circle center-right of the picture.

It also shows the six landing beaches, Utah, Pointe du Hoc, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword, denoted by red arrows. (Click to enlarge)

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To commemorate the Normany landings, veterans laid wreaths at Colleville-Montgomery, in France, beside a statue of British commander Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, who commanded Allied land forces in the invasion of Normandy.

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