By Hunter Scott, National Youth Representative, World War II Veterans Committee

The “D” in D-Day

Perhaps one of the greatest unsolved mysteries surrounding the Normandy Invasion is the meaning of the D in D-Day. As I was polling a few of my friends at the University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill, I found that they, too, were a bit perplexed by the question. Nonetheless, came up with some very unique answers. “Doomsday? Death-Day? Dismay-Day? Disaster-Day? Dispatch-Day?” Or just plain “Dang-good-time-to-invade-Day.” The list of responses could really go on for, well, as many pertinent “D” words as there are in the dictionary, but let me offer a few more realistic suggestions. Hopefully this column will finally answer the number one asked question at the National D-Day Museum in New Orleans.

The D question is by no means a new question. In fact, even in 1944 many people were wondering about the meaning behind the D. According to the D-Day Museum, the D in D-Day stands for—are you ready for this? “Day.” Seems a little redundant, eh? Day-Day. It is hard to believe that after all the creative guessing by my fellow Tar Heels, the meaning of the letter D was right in front of us all along. The Army has said that the D in D-Day is more alliteration of the D sound and stands for the “Day” of engagement or the opening day of an event. For instance, H-Hour of D-Day would mean that a plan is to be executed at a certain hour, H, on a particular day, D. In the case of the Normandy Invasion, D-Day was June 6, 1944. For any day after D-Day, one would simply say D plus the number of days had passed since the invasion. The day after D-Day would be D+1; the week after would be D+7, and so on.

The letter D stood for the opening “Day” of a scheduled mission, and was often referred to as D-Day if a date had not yet been set, or, for security matters, if those in “the know” wanted to keep the date a top secret piece of information. The term D-Day is most commonly associated with perhaps the most well known battle of World War II, the battle of Normandy; however, the actual term is more generic. D-Day is a general term which refers to the beginning day of any engagement.

Historians and etymologists have been debating the meaning of the D for more than fifty years. Hopefully this column has shed some light on the more widely-accepted meaning of the letter. Now those doomsday or dispatch-day traditions can finally be silenced. For now you know.

(Hunter Scott is National Youth Representative for the World War II Veterans Committee. He was instrumental in persuading Congress to pass legislation to overturn the court martial of Captain Charles McVay of the USS Indianapolis. Hunter is currently a freshman at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and is a member of his school’s Naval ROTC program.)