Skip to content

Initiated on June 6, 1944, D-Day marked the largest amphibious landing in military history.

The RAF’s mission was to support the Allies in seizing a lodgement area on the French Normandy coast between Le Harve and Cherbourg. Designated landing beaches included Utah and Omaha for American forces, and Gold, Juno and Sword for the British and Canadians.

Air Plan

In 1943 the Allies planned Operation Overlord to open a new front in German-occupied northern France.

The RAF’s role was vital to support naval and ground forces. There were six key tasks:

  1. Control of the air
  2. Air reconnaissance
  3. Isolation of the battle area
  4. Air support for the invasion armies
  5. Operations against the German Navy
  6. Airlift for airborne forces
RAF Personnel
8000 RAF Personnel Took part in D-Day preparations
RAF Aircraft
5000 RAF AIRCRAFTSupported D-Day operations
4,310 ParatroopersWere dropped onto Normandy beaches

Invasion Stripes

The invasion of Siciliy in the summer of 1943 had taught the perils of wrong identification of aircraft. Several aircraft were lost to friendly fire. Jumpy gunners tended to fire first, ask questions later. For this reason, the Allied aircraft were painted in clear identification markings, called invasion stripes.

These were five black and white bands painted on the wings and rear fuselage. For security reasons, the orders to paint the stripes were not given until 3 June. In most cases, the stripes were painted only hours before D-Day, the paint still wet.

Phases of Air Operations

To make Overlord happen, three phases of air operations were planned:

1. Preliminary Phase

The Tactical Air Force flew low over Normandy to engage in air reconnaissance, providing critical intelligence for invasion planing in the months and days before D-Day.


Bomber Command targeted railway networks, coastal gun batteries, radar stations, and naval installations. Operation Fortitude, a deception plan, was implemented to mislead Germans about the actual location.


Fighter and Coastal Command provided direct air support during the D-Day landing, including protecting the Allied Forces from the German Navy and keeping the Luftwaffe at bay.

Tons of Bombs
5328 Tons of Bombs Were dropped
225000 SortiesWere flown by the end of the Battle for Normandy
RAF Vehicles
456 RAF VehiclesLanded on the beaches on D-Day

Transport Command

RAF Transport Command played a crucial role in facilitating the Allied invasion by dropping paratroops and gliders full of men onto the beaches.

In the days following D-Day, Transport Command brought in more troops and delivered much needed supplies, while also flying wounded soldiers back to hospitals in England.

Women Auxilliary Air Force nurse attends to wounded soldier. The RAF Douglas Dakotas, seen in the background, were adapted for the purpose of casualty evacuation. Each aircraft could carry 24 casualties.


The RAF, working in tandem with the USAAF, established overwhelming air superiority over Normandy.

Between February and June 1944, intensive air attacks disrupted German rail traffic in northern France by 85%, strategically hindering their ability to reinforce the landing area.

Rose Davies, RAF Veteran

Ground crews loading rocket projectiles on to a Royal Air Force Typhoon fighter bomber at a Normandy airfield, June 1944.


The RAF’s critical role in Operation Overlord culminated in the liberation of Paris by 25th August 1944.

Their contribution, alongside the USAAF and Allied Forces, ensured air superiority, isolated the invasion area, and facilitated the Allied advance, ultimately leading to the defeat of Nazi Germany in Europe.

Visit the Royal Air Force Museum to learn more