In the first years of World War II, Great Britain had reeled from shocking defeats on the seas and in France against Nazi Germany. By November 1942, though, the British had won a crucial victory in North Africa, leading Winston Churchill to tell the nation that the momentum had turned, but victory remained a long way off. “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end,” Churchill warned. “But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

Seventy-one years ago today, the Allies finally delivered the blow that truly was the beginning of the end. Operation Overlord, the overwhelming assault on Hitler’s Fortress Europe, aimed at liberating France and forcing the Germans to split their forces from the Eastern Front, thus crushing Hitler and his genocial, maniacal regime. It would cost many American, British, French, Canadian, Australian, and Polish lives, along with troops from other allied nations, but D-Day’s success doomed the Nazis.

It didn’t just happen, though. A year ago, John Hurt narrated a film about Operation Overlord with archival footage — much of it in color — that gives plenty of historical context to Overlord. It gives an intriguing insight into the era, especially of the preparation for the greatest amphibious assault in military history. It also gives insight into the grim determination it took on the part of everyone involved to prevail to victory, no matter the cost.

Let this be a salute to the men who fought for freedom, and a recognition of the costs they risked to preserve it. God bless them all.