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What Does the “D” in D-Day Actually Mean?

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D-Day

Today is the 70th anniversary of D-Day, when Allied troops stormed the beaches at Normandy. It was a turning point of WWII, and not a day the world will soon forget. On the anniversary, a lot of people might wondering what the “D” in “D-Day” stands for, so we looked into it.

According to the National WWII Museum, June 6th, 1944 wasn’t the only “D-Day.” The term was used for any important operation. “D-Day” was the day of the operation itself, and the days leading up to and after the operation were indicated with “+” and “-“. So the “D” is essentially a variable. If June 6th, 1944 was “D-Day” then June 1st, 1944 was “D-5”, and June 8th was “D+2.”

Since the variable references a specific day, “D” in “D-Day” essentially stands for “Day.”

Of course, that’s not the only explanation. The Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins by Robert Hendrickson says the French meaning of the D is “disembarkation,” and it also quotes a letter from Eisenhower’s executive assistant, Brigadier General Robert Schultz, in 1964 who responded to a letter to Eisenhower asking to clarify the meaning of “D-Day.” Schultz wrote, “Be advised that any amphibious operation has a ‘departed date’; therefore the shortened term ‘D-Day’ is used.”

Whatever the original meaning of “D-Day,” it has become synonymous with June 6th, 1944 because of the significant impact that particular operation had on World War II as well as world history.

(via National WWII Museum, image via Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

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Glen is a comedian, writer, husband, and father. He won his third-grade science fair and is a former preschool science teacher, which is a real job.