What does the ‘d’ in ‘d-day’ mean?

What Does the ‘D’ in ‘D-Day’ Mean?

Landing craft and ships unload troops and supplies at Omaha Beach a few days after D-Day. (Photo: Conseil Régional de Basse-Normandie / US National Archives)

What Does the ‘D’ in ‘D-Day’ Mean?

Landing craft and ships unload troops and supplies at Omaha Beach a few days after D-Day. (Photo: Conseil Régional de Basse-Normandie / US National Archives)

It was the largest invasion ever assembled, before or since, landed 156,000 Allied troops by sea and air on five beachheads in Normandy, France.

D-Day was the start of Allied operations which would ultimately liberate Western Europe, defeat Nazi Germany and end the Second World War.

We’ve compiled a list of frequently-asked questions about D-Day. We hope that you will visit The D-Day Story to find out more about it.

Why Is It Called D-Day?

On the morning of June 6, 1944, Allied forces staged an enormous assault on German positions on the beaches of Normandy, France.

The invasion is often known by the famous nickname “D-Day,” yet few people know the origin of the term or what, if anything, the “D” stood for.

Most argue it was merely a redundancy that also meant “day,” but others have proposed everything from “departure” to “decision” to “doomsday.”

According to the U.S. military, “D-Day” was an Army designation used to indicate the start date for specific field operations. In this case, the “D” in D-Day doesn’t actually stand for anything—it’s merely an alliterative placeholder used to designate a particular day on the calendar. 

READ MORE: D-Day Facts About the Epic Invasion

What Does the ‘D’ in ‘D-Day’ Mean?

The military also employed the term “H-Hour” to refer to the time on D-Day when the action would begin.

This shorthand helped prevent actual mission dates from falling into enemy hands, but it also proved handy when the start date for an attack was still undecided.

Military planners also used a system of pluses and minuses to designate any time or day occurring before or after D-Day or H-Hour. 

For example, D+2 meant two days after D-Day, while H-1 referred to one hour before H-Hour. These terms allowed units to effectively coordinate their operations ahead of time even when they didn’t know their actual start date, and they also provided flexibility in the event that the launch day shifted.

Use of these terms stretches back to World War I. One American field order from September 1918 noted, “The First Army will attack at H-Hour on D-Day with the object of forcing the evacuation of the St. Mihiel salient.” Other nations had their own shorthand. In World War I, the French used the code date “le Jour J,” while the British called their operation start days “Z-Day” and “Zero Hour.”

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

What Does the ‘D’ in ‘D-Day’ Mean?

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.”

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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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What Does the ‘D’ in ‘D-Day’ Stand For? Experts Disagree With Eisenhower’s Answer

The D-Day landing — when, on June 6, 1944, more than 160,000 Allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy, France, to begin the operation that would liberate Western Europe from Nazi Germany’s control — was one of the most complicated military feats in history.

And even 75 years later, thanks in part to none other than Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, then supreme commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces, some confusion continues to surround one of the few things about it that seems simple: the name.

The most widely acknowledged explanation for why that event is remembered as “D-Day” is a straightforward one. The “D” stands for “day.”

“It simply signifies the day that the invasion will launch and puts all the timetables into play,” says Keith Huxen, Senior Director of Research and History at the National WWII Museum.

The term H-Hour worked similarly, with “H” referring to the time on D-Day when the Allied troops hit the beaches. (H-Hour was 6:30 a.m. local time for the Normandy landings.

) Used in combination with minus and plus signs, the term also designated the number of hours before and after an operation’s start time.

It’s a question people have been asking since that very week. As Stephen E. Ambrose points out in D-Day, June 6, 1944, The Climactic Battle of World War II, TIME answered that question in the letters section of the June 12, 1944, issue:


Everybody refers to D-Day, H-Hour. Can you please tell me what they stand for or how they originated?


¶ D for Day, H for Hour means the undetermined (or secret) day and hour for the start of a military operation. Their use permits the entire timetable for the operation to be scheduled in detail and its various steps prepared by subordinate commanders long before a definite day and time for the attack have been set. When the day and time are fixed, subordinates are so informed.

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So far as the U.S. Army can determine, the first use of D for Day, H for Hour was in Field Order No. 8, of the First Army, A.E.F., issued on Sept. 7, 1918, which read: “The First Army will attack at H–Hour on D-Day with the object of forcing the evacuation of the St. Mihiel salient.”—ED.

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That said, competing explanations do exist. In Paul Dickson’s War Slang: American Fighting Words and Phrases Since the Civil War, the author quotes a range of alternative explanations from the Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins by Robert Hendrickson:

The French maintain the D means “disembarkation,” still others say “debarkation,” and the more poetic insist D-Day is short for “day of decision.

” When someone wrote to General Eisenhower in 1964 asking for an explanation, his executive assistant Brigadier General Robert Schultz answered: “General Eisenhower asked me to respond to your letter.

Be advised that any amphibious operation has a ‘departed date’; therefore the shortened term ‘D-Day’ is used.”

D-Day 75th anniversary is today: What was D-Day? What does the ‘D’ stand for?

Today – June 6, 2019 – marks the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

On that day on June 6, 1944, more than 160,000 Allied troops landed along a 50-mile stretch of heavily fortified French coastline to fight Nazi Germany on the beaches of Normandy, France. U.S. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower referred to the operation as a crusade in which “we will accept nothing but full victory.”

More than 5,000 Ships and 13,000 aircraft supported the D-Day invasion, and by day’s end, the Allies gained a foothold in Continental Europe, though the cost in lives was high. More than 9,000 Allied soldiers were killed or wounded. For another 100,000 soldiers, it was the start of a long, hard march across Europe in the final push to defeat Adolph Hitler’s Germany.

The day was the largest amphibious military assault the world had ever seen.

The “D” in “D-Day”

The day has become well known for its name, “D-Day,” though few people are aware of what the “D” stands for. According to the U.S. Army, its meaning is surprisingly simple, though not immune from debate.

“Disagreements between military historians and etymologists (people who study the history and meaning of words) about the meaning of D-Day abound,” the Army said in its explanation of the phrase.

Here's one often-repeated explanation of its origin from Stephen Ambrose's “D Day: June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II,” written in 1995:

“Time magazine reported on June 12, 1944 that as far as the Army can determine, the first use of “D” for day, “H” for hour was in Field Order No. 8 of the First Army A.E.F. issued on Sept. 20, 1918, which read “The First Army will attack at H-Hour on D-Day…”

In other words, “D” in D-Day merely stands for 'Day.” The Army said the coded designation was used for the day of any important invasion or military operation. For military planners, the days before and after a D-Day were indicating using plus or minus signs, meaning D-4 represents four days before a D-Day, etc.

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Eisenhower later clarified its meaning, writing in 1964 that “any amphibious operation has a departed date; therefore, the shortened term D-Day is used.”

That’s why military historians will tell you the Normandy invasion was just one of several D-Days of World War II. Every amphibious assault – including those in the Pacific, North Africa, Sicily and Italy- had its own D-Day, the Army said.

Here’s what the ‘D’ in D-Day stands for – National

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June 6, 1944 — better known as D-Day — was one of the most important days of the Second World War, when Britain, Canada, the United States and their Allies started the military push that would end in Adolf Hitler‘s defeat less than a year later.

Hitler’s forces had effectively conquered mainland Europe by the end of 1940, leaving the Allies with nothing but the island of Britain as a base. For the Allies, D-Day was about retaking territory on the mainland so they could fight a proper ground war with the Nazis.

The Allies stormed the beaches of Normandy, France in the world’s largest-ever amphibious invasion, braving heavy German resistance and sustaining thousands of casualties so they could gain a foothold on the edge of Nazi-controlled mainland Europe.

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WATCH: Canadian D-Day 75 ceremony held on Juno Beach

6:03 Canadian D-Day 75 ceremony held on Juno Beach

Canadian D-Day 75 ceremony held on Juno Beach ​​

That D-Day set the stage for many more “D-Days” to come, as the western Allies pushed Germany on one side while the U.S.S.R. waged a brutal campaign from the other.

The Allies’ success meant D-Day would forever be associated with the invasion of Normandy. Many have come up with meanings for that “D,” including “Day of Days” or “Doomsday.”

  • However, the actual meaning is more mundane.
  • WATCH: How Canadians shaped the greatest invasion in history

The Allies had code names for everything, and “D-Day” was commonly used to signal the first day of a secret attack. The “D” simply refers to the start day, and numbers are used to refer to what comes before and after.

For example, the day before D-Day would be “D minus one,” and two days after would be “D plus two.

” It’s essentially the same as the countdown for a rocket launch, when “T” is takeoff time and “minus” indicates the seconds before takeoff.

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“The letters are derived from the words for which they stand,” according to the U.S. Army’s historical website.

In other words, the “D” in D-Day is a placeholder for “Day.”

WATCH: French Air Force pays tribute to D-Day landings with colourful airshow

2:03 French Air Force pays tribute to D-Day landings with colourful airshow

French Air Force pays tribute to D-Day landings with colourful airshow

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