'The eyes of the world are upon you': 77 years ago, the Allies stormed the beaches of Normandy

The D-Day landings were the largest amphibious assault in history, and broke Hitler's chokehold on Europe in World War II.
U.S. troops prepare to storm the beaches of Normandy on D-Day.

"The eyes of the world are upon you. The hope and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you."

So began the June 6, 1944 message from Dwight Eisenhower, then a general who later became president, to the American forces who soon would embark on the largest amphibious invasion in history; an invasion that broke Hitler's World War II chokehold on western Europe. 

Launched on "D-Day" following months of secret preparations, the pivotal assault sent more than 160,000 Allied troops to the beaches of Normandy in France. 

Weighted down by equipment, the soldiers forged through rough surf and into a brutal barrage of enemy machine gun fire and artillery. The day brought many heroes, among them Army Rangers who scaled the formidable cliffs of Pointe du Hoc; soldiers who pushed on through withering fire; and men who fought valiantly until their last breath.

The day's toll was heavy. The dead and wounded from Germany were 4,000-9,000. The Allies suffered some 4,500 dead and 6,000 wounded.

The full text of Eisenhower's "Order of the Day" from that morning is as follows.

"Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force!

"You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hope and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you.

"In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.

"Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely.

"But this is the year 1944! Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of 1940-41. The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats, in open battle, man-to-man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our Home Fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men. The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to Victory!

"I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full Victory! Good luck! And let us beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking."