The Royal Canadian Mint has launched their annual silver dollar, a firm favourite with many collectors of Canadian coins, and has chosen the 75th anniversary of the Allied invasion of the European continent as the subject for it.
After almost five years of a harsh occupation, fighting, terror, and deportations, much of the European continent were preparing themselves for liberation from their oppressors. At the beginning of 1944, the tide was turning for the Third Reich and Hitler’s forces on the Russian front. Weaknesses were beginning to show, and this was the prime opportunity which was needed by Allied troops to establish a firm stronghold in Europe, and to create a Western front which would essentially divide and conqueror German forces in France and Belgium.
The date for this action, D-Day, was set for the 6th June 1944, and along with the fighting forces of the United States, Great Britain, and Free French forces, about 14,000 Canadian soldiers stormed the beaches of Normandy as the Allies launched Operation Overlord. D-Day was the most massive amphibious landing in history, and the stakes were high. The immediate objective was to gain a foothold in Fortress Europe, and to achieve this, Allied troops had to break through a coastline fortified with mined obstacles, concrete pillboxes, machine-gun nests and heavy artillery batteries manned by German fighters.
In one of the most carefully prepared operations of the war, all forces consisting of air, ground, and naval soldiers underwent intensive training to eliminate possible communication or logistical issues. By May 1944, troops, aircraft, ships, vehicles, supplies, and equipment had secretly amassed in southeast England, bound for the northern coast of France. Prefabricated harbours known as Mulberries were built for unloading cargo and underwater pipelines (code-named Pluto) and were put into place to convey fuel and oil across the English Channel.
The code-name for the landing was referred to as Juno and until the morning of the 5th June, troopswho would be part of this momentous and historic military action only knew their landing destination by code name:
- Utah and Omaha Beaches, (American forces) in the west.
- Gold Beach, (British forces) and Sword Beach, (British and French forces) in the east.
- Juno Beach, (14,000 Canadian and 8,000 British forces) in the centre.
As the weather would be a key factor, the landings were initially scheduled for the 5th June 1944, when a full moon would also contribute light to help illuminate the enemy’s defences. However, a storm front was being tracked and moved in on the 4th, and the landings were postponed. The weather improved on the 5th but it wasn’t ideal either, and many of the troops got seasick during the rough channel crossing.
The fleet, from battleships and destroyers to landing craft infantry (LCIs) and transport ships (nearly 7,000 Allied vessels), took part in the assault phase known as Operation Neptune. In the face of danger and uncertainty, Canadians fought to come ashore at Saint-Aubin-sur-Mer, Bernières-sur-Mer, Courseulles-sur-Mer, and Graye-sur-Mer, knowing that success on D-Day would undoubtedly hasten the fighting in Europe. D-Day was the beginning of the end for not only German forces but Hitler as well. D-Day compelled the Germans to fight a two-front war as they had in World War I, and, yet again, the Germans could not handle war on both sides.
Wise tactics and an extremely well-motivated fighting force on the side of the Allies meant that by the end of June 1944, about a million Allied troops reached France, with reinforcements for the infantry of D-Day coming in. On the 26th June 1944, it was announced that the Allies captured the French port of Cherbourg with German forces in retreat. By the 25th August 1944, news came that Paris had been liberated, which is what the French had been waiting to hear. On the 16th December 1944, German troops tried another offensive to keep their line and stronghold by advancing 50 miles into Allied lines, creating what had been referred to as “the bulge.” However, on the 16th January 1945, Germany was soundly and permanently defeated in the Battle of the Bulge due to the Allies resistance, as well as the German forces’ lack of supplies.
By March 1945, United States troops had crossed the Rhine, which resulted in German troops retreating once more. The writing was firmly on the wall: Germany would lose the war. On the 30th of April, the world learned that Adolph Hitler committed suicide along with his long-term companion Eva Braun, whom he had married hours earlier. On the 7th May 1945, commanders of the Allied forces announced that Germany had unconditionally surrendered and the fighting in Europe was officially at an end. Without the surprise invasion of Operation Overlord, the turning point in World War II would not have happened. We owe our freedom to the tens of thousands of men who took part in this extraordinary act of bravery
“They had trained for months, knowing that 3rd Canadian Infantry Division and 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade would be assault troops on D-Day. But for the vast majority, this was their first battle ever, the first time they experienced enemy fire. And one can only imagine with difficulty the fear—and the hope—they felt as their landing craft approached the far shore.”– Dr. Stephen Harris, CD, PhD, Directorate of History and Heritage, Canadian Armed Forces
The annual silver dollar is designed by Tony Bianco, who takes a step back in time to the morning of June 6, 1944, as the first wave of Canadian troops storms Juno Beach. The scene shares the same inspiration as the Juno Beach Centre Association’s D-Day anniversary logo and re-creates a moment caught on film when the North Shore (New Brunswick) Regiment landed on Nan Red Beach (La Rive Plage). In the foreground, an infantry soldier has a strained expression on his face after surveying what lies ahead (this is his first real combat experience). A reassuring pat is a touching moment of humanity and a gesture of solidarity amid enemy fire and fear, while the wedding ring is a reminder of loved ones back home. In the sky above, a sequence of dots and dashes represent the letter “V” (for “victory” or “victoire”) in Morse code. This signal began as a symbol of defiance and resistance in occupied Belgium, and it quickly spread to other countries. BBC radio broadcasts transmitted the letter “V” in Morse code, with a “dot dot dot dash” sequence that resembled the opening notes of Beethoven’s famous Fifth Symphony. The code alluded to the radio broadcasts that announced the Allied landings that day. The reverse includes the word CANADA, the double dates 1944 and 2019, and the face value, DOLLAR.
The obverse features an effigy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II by Susanna Blunt that has been included on all circulating and many commemorative Canadian coins since 2003.
|Dollar||.999 silver||23.1 g||36. mm||Proof||20,000|
|Dollar||.999 silver||23.1 g||36 mm||Proof with select gold highlights||15,000|
The annual Canadian silver commemorative dollar is available separately and is encapsulated and presented in a custom Royal Canadian Mint case, along with a certificate of authenticity. The Proof versions with select gold highlights are available as part of the 2019 Silver Proof Set containing the six circulation denominations and is presented in a leather book-style case. For more information about these coins and others available from the Royal Canadian Mint, please visit their website.