39 Surprising Things Queen Elizabeth II Owns

Eddie Mulholland, WPA Pool/Getty Images
Eddie Mulholland, WPA Pool/Getty Images

On June 13, 2020, Queen Elizabeth II will be feted as part of Trooping the Colour, an event that has marked the official birthday of the reigning British sovereign for more than 270 years. April 21, the Queen's actual birthday, is also celebrated as such. Of course, having two birthdays is just one of the many perks that come with being the head of the royal family. From bats to Bentleys, here are 39 surprising things owned by Queen Elizabeth II.

1. All the swans on the River Thames

 Queen Elizabeth II, accompanied by Swan Marker David Barber (red jacket), watches from the steam launch 'Alaska' as a swan upper places a swan back into the river during a swan upping census on the River Thames on July 20, 2009 near Windsor, England
Sang Tan, WPA Pool/Getty Images

Though she's more of a Corgi lover, Queen Elizabeth II has quite the menagerie of pets—especially if you consider the fact that she technically owns (or at least co-owns) all of the unclaimed mute swans on open water in England and Wales, though she "only exercises her ownership on certain stretches of the Thames and its surrounding tributaries." She shares ownership of the birds with the Worshipful Company of Vintners and the Worshipful Company of Dyers, an arrangement that dates back to the 15th century (back when the animals were considered a delicacy).

So just how many swans does the Queen have? We'll know soon enough: each year, they're counted during a five-day event known as the Swan Upping. This year's event will take place from July 13 to July 17 on the Thames between Sunbury and Abingdon, England.

2. A pair of Dorgis

Queen Elizabeth II speaks with Prime Minister of New Zealand John Key at a audience held at Windsor Castle on October 29, 2015 in Windsor, England
Steve Parsons, WPA Pool/Getty Images

Speaking of Corgis: In April 2018, it was reported that Willow—the Queen's last Corgi—had passed away at the age of 14. It marked the end of a canine era for Elizabeth, who has regularly been photographed surrounded by members of her beloved breed over the past 75-plus years. (She and her sister, Princess Margaret, were gifted their first Corgi—whom they named Dookie—in 1933.) While Elizabeth confirmed in 2015 that there will be no more Corgis in her future (she doesn't want to leave any behind), she isn't dog-less. She still has two "dorgis"—a cross between a corgi and a dachshund—named Vulcan and Candy, who can regularly be found at her side.

3. All the dolphins in the United Kingdom

A pair of dolphins
iStock

Dolphins and sturgeons and whales, oh my. Much like the aforementioned swans, the Queen's got a solid claim on many of the country's aquatic creatures. A statute from 1324, which originated during the reign of King Edward II, stated that, "… The king shall have wreck of the sea throughout the realm, whales and sturgeons taken in the sea or elsewhere within the realm, except in certain places privileged by the king." The law still stands today and covers not just whales and sturgeons but dolphins and porpoises, too, when they are captured within three miles of the UK.

Until recently the Crown also laid claim to the bulk of Scotland's wild crustaceans, but that now rests with Marine Scotland.

4. Nearly all of London's Regent Street

People, cars and double-decker bus passing by London's Regent Street
iStock

Located in the heart of London's West End, Regent Street is one of the world's most famous roads. Measuring approximately 1.25 miles in length, the street runs through both Piccadilly Circus and Oxford Circus and attracts more than 7.5 million visitors per year—and it's all part of the Crown Estate, meaning it legally belongs to Her Majesty. (Though she's not entitled to any of the royalties from the many storefronts that inhabit it.)

5. Half of the UK's shoreline

Red telephone box illuminated at sunrise on seaside beach in England
iStock

Cityscapes aren't the only real estate in the Queen's portfolio. The Crown Estate also owns "just under half of the coastline around England, Wales, and Northern Ireland."

6. Six royal residences

A photo of Windsor Castle
iStock

One thing the royal family is not lacking in is places to call home. While Buckingham Palace—and its 775 rooms—is the Queen's main abode, her portfolio of lavish properties also includes Windsor Castle (the world's largest occupied castle); Holyrood Palace, a 12th-century monastery-turned-royal palace in Edinburgh, Scotland; and Hillsborough Castle in Northern Ireland, which sits on 100 acres. The Sandringham Estate, where the royal family spends Christmas, and Balmoral Castle, her favorite summer estate, are two of the Queen's personal possessions (she inherited them from her father).

7. More than 200 Launer handbags

Queen Elizabeth II holds her Launer black handbag during a reception following the King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery during their 70th anniversary parade at Hyde Park on October 19, 2017 in London, England
Hannah McKay, WPA Pool/Getty Images

The Queen is rarely seen without a handbag, which she actually uses to send signals to her staff. But she doesn't carry just any old bag: She prefers purses from luxury London designer Launer—the Royale (appropriately) and Traviata styles are her favorites—and the brand's CEO estimates that she has about 200 of them. At approximately $2500 a pop, that's a mighty pricey purse collection.

8. A private ATM

Person getting cash from an ATM.
iStock

It's doubtful that the Queen has much need to dig through her Launer purse in search of a tenner. But if the need for cash arose, there's a private money machine in the basement of Buckingham Palace, courtesy of Coutts bank, that's specifically for members of the royal family.

9. The best seat in the house at Wimbledon

 The Duke of Kent (L) and Queen Elizabeth II watch Andy Murray of Great Britain in action against Jarkko Nieminen of Finland on Day Four of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on June 24, 2010 in London,
Oli Scarff, WPA Pool/Getty Images

In 2010, Her Majesty stunned the crowd at Wimbledon when she showed up to watch Andy Murray play. It was the first time she had attended the world-famous tennis tournament in more than 30 years. She may not be a regular spectator, but she still commands the best seat in the house: the Royal Box, which is tucked just behind the court's south baseline.

"There is a view, among those who have attended the royal box, that it is one of the most special experiences in sport," Alexandra Willis, the head of communications, content, and digital at The All England Lawn Tennis Club, told The New York Times in 2017. "It's because of the fact that it's by invitation only—you can't just decide it's something you want to attend." Though the Queen may not be the biggest fan, the Duchess of Cambridge is a frequent fixture in the Royal Box.

10. The Tower of London

The Tower of London
iStock

Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London—better known as simply the Tower of London—is yet another one of the Queen's possessions in right of the Crown. The property, which dates to the 11th century, has played an enormous role in royal history and is still one of the city's most visited tourist attractions. And it all belongs to Queen Elizabeth—including the Crown Jewels and, by extension, the Tower's famed flock of ravens.

11. 150,000 works of art (many of them priceless)

 A member of staff at the Queens Gallery views a painting in the Royal Collection on March 13, 2012 in Edinburgh, Scotland
Jeff J Mitchell, Getty Images

The Queen's position puts her in charge of The Royal Collection, one of the world's largest and most impressive art collections (though she doesn't own it personally, it is held in trust by her). Of the million-plus pieces included in the collection are approximately 150,000 artworks from some of the great masters (think Rembrandt, Rubens, and Raphael). While some of these pieces are displayed in museums or otherwise made available for public viewing, many of them hang in royal palaces and estates.

12. Queen Victoria's sketchbook

An engraving of Albert and Victoria in wedding clothes
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

In addition to priceless works of art, The Royal Collection also features many personal artifacts from kings and queens past. Among the most impressive: Queen Victoria's sketchbook. (Elizabeth is Queen Victoria’s great-great-granddaughter.)

13. A winning team of race horses

Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon (1930 - 2002), and Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, riding at Ascot Racecourse, UK, 27th June 1968
Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Horses have long been one of the Queen's great passions—though it goes beyond riding them. She's also a savvy investor when it comes to race horses, and is said to have approximately 30 horses in training. As of late 2017, according to Harper's Bazaar, her impressive roster of race horses have earned the Queen close to $9 million over the past three decades with their 451 race wins. Her first victory came in 1949, when Monaveen—a horse she co-owned with her mom—won at Fontwell Park.

14. A car collection worth more than $10 million

 Queen Elizabeth II, Captain-General of the Royal Regiment of Artillery, oversees a Royal Review from an open-top Range Rover on the occasion of their Tercentenary at Knighton Down on May 26, 2016 in Lark Hill, England
Chris Jackson, Getty Images

Given that she served as a truck driver and mechanic during World War II, perhaps it's unsurprising that the Queen is a bit of a gearhead. While she's most often seen tooling around in her beloved Land Rover Defender—she's owned about 30 of them so far—her collection of cars goes way beyond that and is estimated to be worth about $10 million. Among some of the models in her collection: three Rolls-Royces, two Bentleys, and a custom Range Rover LWB Landaulet that features the royal flag and an open-air top (so that she can wave to her adoring public).

15. A tiara covered in 1333 diamonds

 The Diamond Diadem is displayed in an exhibition in Buckingham Palace celebrating the 60th anniversary of Her Majesty The Queens Coronation on July 25, 2013 in London, England
Oli Scarff, Getty Images

Any Queen worth her castle has got a great tiara, but Elizabeth has a lot of them. Among the many pieces of glittering headgear she inherited is the Diamond Diadem, which might be her most famous piece of jewelry. It's set with 1333 diamonds, including a four-carat yellow diamond in the center. While the Queen has worn it to every State Opening of Parliament since 1952, the piece was originally made for George IV to wear at his lavish 1821 coronation.

16. A massive Fabergé collection

 Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh are presented with a gold musical Faberge style egg by the Sultan of Oman, before a State Banquet at his Palace on November 26, 2010 in Muscat, Oman
John Stillwell, Pool/Getty Images

While you may be content to amass Beanie Babies or Precious Moments figurines, the Queen has a much more befitting collecting habit: Fabergé eggs and accessories. Also part of the Royal Collection, the collection was started by Queen Alexandra and Edward VII around the turn of the century and is now estimated to include 600 pieces. Many of the pieces have been put on display to the public, including a blue cigarette case that was given to Edward VII by one of his many mistresses, Alice Keppel. Following the king's death, his widow, Queen Alexandra, returned the item to Keppel.

17. Westminster Abbey

London's Westminster Abbey
iStock

Westminster Abbey has played an integral part in some of the most important moments in royal history. In addition to being the setting for every coronation since 1066, it has hosted more than a dozen royal weddings and hundreds of royal funerals, memorial services, and beyond. Westminster Abbey is known a "royal peculiar," meaning that it belongs directly to the monarch, not a diocese.

18. Hyde Park

Italian Gardens at Hyde Park in London
iStock

With so many royal residences to choose from, the Queen is probably set in terms of green space. But if she ever wanted to stretch her legs a bit and mingle with some commoners, she owns some of England's most famous wide-open spaces, including Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, The Regent's Park and Primrose Hill, and The Green Park.

19. A gold record

 Rod Stewart (L) Ozzy Osbourne (2nd L) sing with Cliff Richard (2nd R) and Paul McCartney (R) sing together during 'Party at the Palace' in London 03 June 2002
ADRIAN DENNIS, AFP/Getty Images

We may never know if the Queen's got vocal chops, but we know that HM is the recipient of at least one gold record. In 2002, the royal family marked Elizabeth's 50th year on the throne with a Golden Jubilee celebration, complete with a star-studded concert dubbed the "Party at the Palace."

EMI later released a CD of the concert, which sold 100,000 copies within its first week in release. The Queen was sent a golden record in honor of this achievement, making her the only member of the royal family to earn that rock star accolade.

20. A bat colony

A colony of bats
iStock

The Queen is obviously a devoted animal lover, which might explain why she doesn't mind sharing Balmoral Castle with the colony of bats that has taken up residence in the property's main hall. She apparently likes to catch them with a butterfly net as they dart around her summer home.

21. The world's largest clear-cut diamond

The rough Cullinan I, or Great Star of Africa, diamond.
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Weighing in at 530.2 carats, the Great Star of Africa—properly known as Cullinan I (after South African mining magnate Sir Thomas Cullinan)—is the world’s largest clear-cut diamond, worth somewhere in the region of $51 million. In 1910, it and several other stones cut from a gigantic diamond unearthed in South Africa five years earlier were presented to Mary of Teck (the consort of George V and Elizabeth II’s grandmother).

Back in the UK, the diamond was incorporated into the Sovereign’s Sceptre with Cross, the three-foot-long staff held by the monarch during their coronation. As such the diamond is now part of the Crown Jewels, which technically remain under the ownership of the Crown.

22. Three Crown dependencies

Sunrise at Douglas Lighthouse, Isle of Man
Sunrise at Isle of Man's Douglas Lighthouse.
Stephen Meadows/iStock via Getty Images

The Queen is the head of state of the United Kingdom, of course, as well as 14 overseas territories (including Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands) and the 16 so-called Commonwealth realms (including Canada, Australia, and New Zealand). But as the current reigning monarch, the Queen also technically owns three British island territories—namely, the Isle of Man, and the two largest of the Channel Islands, Jersey and Guernsey—which together comprise her “Crown Dependencies.”

The islands are all self-governing, so the Queen’s role in each one is largely ceremonial. Nevertheless, the arrangements linking these islands to the British Crown are ancient ones—so ancient, in fact, that their legislature has never been updated to make an allowance for a female monarch, and as a consequence the Queen technically holds the titles of Lord (not Lady) of Mann in the Isle of Man, and Duke (not Duchess) of Normandy in Jersey and Guernsey.

23. An Aberdeen angus cow

Black Aberdeen Angus cow at pasture in England
naumoid/iStock via Getty Images

While on an official visit to Canada in 2005, the Queen was presented with an Aberdeen Angus cow at the Calgary Stampede agricultural show. Sadly, she wasn’t able to bring her new gift back home to Buckingham Palace, so the cow remained in Calgary as the founding member of the Stampede’s own herd of cattle.

24. Two tortoises from the Seychelles

Aldabra Giant Tortoise at tropical island in Seychelles
Katiekk2/iStock via Getty Images

One gift the queen was able to bring home with her from her foreign travels was a pair of native Aldabra giant tortoises, presented to her during an official visit to the Seychelles in 1972. Originally housed at London Zoo, the zoo has since rehomed the animals—which, given that they can reportedly live to more than 200 years old, will likely outlive the queen herself.

25. Her own flag

Queen Elizabeth II's personal flag
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

The queen has her own coat of arms of course, and various rules and regulations govern the use of the Britain’s Union Jack and the Royal Standard flag in her presence. But she also has her own personal flag—depicting a crowned letter E in a circle of roses, on a navy blue background—which the royal household can opt to use on any building or vehicle in which the queen is staying or traveling. Reportedly, the flag was designed in 1960 at the queen’s own request to symbolize her as an individual, separate from her role as sovereign or head of state.

26. Four Guinness World records

Queen Elizabeth II departs church at Hillington in Sandringham on January 19, 2020 in King's Lynn, England
Chris Jackson/Getty Images

The Queen has been presented with and currently holds four Guinness World Record titles: she is officially the world’s longest reigning queen, the world’s oldest reigning monarch, the world’s wealthiest queen, and appears on the money of more sovereign countries than any other person.

27. A gold Blue Peter badge

Kate Armistead, 12, from Devizes in Wiltshire, shakes hands with Queen Elizabeth II before showing her winning design for an an emblem for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, in a competition run by BBC TVs Blue Peter program.
John Stillwell - WPA Pool/Getty Images

In case you’ve never heard of it, Blue Peter is a long-running BBC children’s television program that, unbelievably, has been broadcast practically every week in the UK since 1958. As such, it’s now something of a cornerstone in British culture—not to mention the longest running children’s television program in the entire world.

As absolutely anyone from Britain will know, the show awards badges (bearing its famous sailboat logo) for all sorts of achievements, ranging from viewer competitions to fundraising activities, sporting achievements and conservationism. But in 2002, the program awarded its highest honor—a gold Blue Peter badge—to Queen Elizabeth II to celebrate her 50 years on the throne. Other gold badge honorees include JK Rowling, Steven Spielberg, Sir David Attenborough, and both the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who were awarded their gold badges in 2017 in recognition of their work raising awareness of children’s mental health.

28. The British seabed

An aerial view of Cornwall's Porthcurnick Beach Bay
Nathaniel Taylor/iStock via Getty Images

Probably the weirdest thing on this list (and that’s saying something), the queen technically owns all of the UK's territorial seabed through the British Crown Estate, from the mean low water mark out to a distance of 12 nautical miles.

29. An offshore wind farm

Wind turbines generating renewable energy, out at sea off the Kentish coast, UK
Sophie Shoults/iStock via Getty Images

Because the queen owns the British seabed, she also owns an offshore wind farm. Specifically: Thanet Offshore Wind Farm, which is located seven miles off the coast of Kent in the North Sea and, upon its opening in 2010, was the largest offshore wind farm in the world. In fact, the Crown owns quite a few offshore green-energy projects, including Europe’s largest tidal power plant, which is currently under construction in the Pentland Firth off the far northern tip of Scotland.

30. The UK's continental shelf

White cliffs of Dover overlooking the English Channel
Xantana/iStock via Getty Images

The 1964 Continental Shelf Act decreed that the Crown, as an extension of its ownership of the seabed, could lay claim to the UK’s continental shelf, up to a distance of 200 nautical miles in some places. The queen ultimately bears rights to the subsoil and minerals that lie in the UK’s marine shelf, while the government lays claim to the coal, oil, and gas deposits.

31. All of Scotland's gold mines

Chris Sangster, chief executive of Scotgold, inspects the Tyndrum gold mine on July 22, 2008 in Tyndrum Scotland.
Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

The Queen also owns the rights to all of Scotland’s gold mining activities. Which is potentially very bad news for the anonymous prospector who discovered Britain’s biggest ever gold nugget—worth at least $65,000—in a Scottish river in 2018. It remains unclear whether he sought permission to remove the gold from the river in which he found it; without it, the gold should legally automatically pass into the ownership of the Crown.

32. 25,000 acres of forest

A photo of Entwistle Reservoir in Darwen, Lancashire, UK
Daniel_Kay/iStock via Getty Images

The Crown Estate also owns around a quarter of a million acres of rural land across the UK, most of which is used or leased for agriculture and mineral extraction. Around 8 percent of the Crown’s rural holdings are forested, however—meaning the queen owns and controls roughly 25000 acres (or 95 square miles) of British woodland.

33. Trafalgar Square

London's Trafalgar Square
lachris77/iStock via Getty Images

As well as owning much of Regent Street, Trafalgar Square—home to Nelson’s Column and the British National Gallery—is also owned by the Crown. Why? The site now occupied by one of London’s most famous landmarks was originally the location of the royal stables and falconry mews.

34. Queen Victoria's wedding dress

The wedding of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert
Culture Club/Getty Images

As a part of the Royal Collection, the Queen also owns Queen Victoria’s wedding dress—a cream and white silk, satin, and lace ensemble that proved so popular it helped to establish white as the customary color of bride’s gowns.

35. Henry VIII's armor

Armor of King Henry VIII on display
Jupiterimages/iStock via Getty Images

Another item from the Royal Collection, the queen owns an impressive suit of armor produced sometime in the 1540s, and once owned by Henry VIII. To accommodate the king’s increasing waist size, the armor was at some point widened with a 2-inch section of plate metal, inserted and riveted into the back piece.

36. Queen Elizabeth II's own tartan

Wearing the Balmoral Tartan', Balmoral, 1936 (1937). From Coronation Souvenir Book 1937, edited by Gordon Beckles
The Print Collector/Getty Images

Thanks to their Scottish roots, the British royal family as a whole has their own style of tartan—named “Royal Stewart”—which has apparently been the official tartan of members of the current British royal line since the late 11th century. As the reigning monarch, however, the queen herself is the sole owner of a grey, black, and red pattern of tartan—named “Balmoral”—that was designed by her great-great-grandfather Prince Albert in 1853. Even fellow members of the royal family technically have to ask the queen’s permission to wear it.

37. Millions of square feet of retail space

Views capture the opening of 800,000 sq ft Westgate Oxford on October 24, 2017 in Oxford, England
John Phillips/Getty Images for Westgate Oxford

Through the British Crown’s real estate empire, the queen owns or part owns 14 retail parks and three shopping centers—totaling some 4.3 million square feet of retail space.

38. A baptismal font

'The Lily Font', 1953. The piece (1840) is part of the Royal Collection at the Tower of London. From The Crown Jewels, by Martin Holmes FSA
The Print Collector/Getty Images

In 1840, Queen Victoria commissioned a silver-gilt font for the baptism of her first child, Princess Victoria, the Princess Royal. The Lily Font, as it is known, is now part of the Royal Collection, under the ownership of the Queen, and has been used at the baptisms of almost all members of the royal family ever since.

39. A national collection of mulberries

Photo of a mulberry bush
c12/iStock via Getty Images

The site now occupied by Buckingham Palace was once (partly) a vast mulberry grove planted by James I in the 17th century in a failed attempt to rear his own silkworms. King James might have been unsuccessful, but the palace’s connection to these notoriously difficult-to-cultivate fruits lives on: in 2000, the Queen personally requested that the head gardener at Buckingham Palace plant a definitive collection of mulberry bushes—some 29 different species in total—that now comprise the plant’s official British National collection.

This Smart Accessory Converts Your Instant Pot Into an Air Fryer

Amazon
Amazon

If you can make a recipe in a slow cooker, Dutch oven, or rice cooker, you can likely adapt it for an Instant Pot. Now, this all-in-one cooker can be converted into an air fryer with one handy accessory.

This Instant Pot air fryer lid—currently available on Amazon for $80—adds six new cooking functions to your 6-quart Instant Pot. You can select the air fry setting to get food hot and crispy fast, using as little as 2 tablespoons of oil. Other options include roast, bake, broil, dehydrate, and reheat.

Many dishes you would prepare in the oven or on the stovetop can be made in your Instant Pot when you switch out the lids. Chicken wings, French fries, and onion rings are just a few of the possibilities mentioned in the product description. And if you're used to frying being a hot, arduous process, this lid works without consuming a ton of energy or heating up your kitchen.

The lid comes with a multi-level air fry basket, a broiling and dehydrating tray, and a protective pad and storage cover. Check it out on Amazon.

For more clever ways to use your Instant Pot, take a look at these recipes.

At Mental Floss, we only write about the products we love and want to share with our readers, so all products are chosen independently by our editors. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a percentage of any sale made from the links on this page. Prices and availability are accurate as of the time of publication.

13 Memorable Facts About D-Day

American troops landing on Omaha beach at Normandy on D-Day.
American troops landing on Omaha beach at Normandy on D-Day.
Keystone/Getty Images

The Normandy landings—an event better known as “D-Day”—became a pivotal moment in the Second World War. Heavy losses were inflicted on both sides, but with planning, deception, and semiaquatic tanks, the Allied forces pulled off what is considered the biggest amphibious invasion in history. Here are a few things you should know about the historic crusade to liberate France from Nazi Germany.

1. D-Day occurred on June 6, 1944.

The D-Day invasion was several years in the making. In December 1941, the United States formally entered World War II. Shortly thereafter, British and American strategists began entertaining the possibility of a huge offensive across the English Channel and into Nazi-occupied France. But first, the Allies swept through northern Africa and southern Italy, weakening the Axis hold on the Mediterranean Sea. Their strategy resulted in Italy’s unconditional surrender in September 1943 (though that wasn’t the end of the war in Italy). Earlier that year, the Western allies started making preparations for a campaign that would finally open up a new front in northwestern France. It was going to be an amphibious assault, with tens of thousands of men leaving England and then landing on France’s Atlantic coastline.

2. Normandy was chosen as the D-Day landing site because the Allies were hoping to surprise German forces.

Since the Germans would presumably expect an attack on the Pas de Calais—the closest point to the UK—the Allies decided to hit the beaches of Normandy instead. Normandy was also within flying distance of war planes stationed in England, and it had a conveniently located port.

3. D-Day action centered around five beaches that were code-named "Utah," "Omaha," "Gold," "Juno," and "Sword."

American assault troops and equipment landing on Omaha beach on the Northern coast of France.
Fox Photos/Getty Images

Altogether, the D-Day landing beaches encompassed 50 miles of coastline real estate [PDF]. The Canadian 3rd Division landed on Juno; British forces touched down on Gold and Sword; and the Americans were sent to Utah and Omaha. Of the five beaches, Omaha had the most bloodshed: Roughly 2400 American casualties—plus 1200 German casualties—occurred there. How the beaches got their code-names is a mystery, although it’s been claimed that American general Omar Bradley named “Omaha” and “Utah” after two of his staff carpenters. (One of the men came from Omaha, Nebraska, while the other called Provo, Utah, home.)

4. Pulling off the D-Day landings involved some elaborate trickery to fool the Nazis.

If the Allies landed in France, Hitler was confident that his men could repel them. “They will get the thrashing of their lives,” the Führer boasted. But in order to do that, the German military would need to know exactly where the Allied troops planned to begin their invasion. So in 1943, the Allies kicked off an ingenious misinformation campaign. Using everything from phony radio transmissions to inflatable tanks, they successfully convinced the Germans that the British and American forces planned to make landfall at the Pas de Calais. Duped by the charade, the Germans kept a large percentage of their troops stationed there (and in Norway, which was the rumored target of another bogus attack). That left Normandy relatively under-defended when D-Day came along.

5. D-Day was planned with the help of meteorologists.

The landings at Normandy and subsequent invasion of France were code-named “Operation Overlord,” and General Dwight D. Eisenhower (the future U.S. president) led the operation. To choose the right date for his invasion, Eisenhower consulted with three different teams of meteorologists, who predicted that in early June, the weather would be best on June 5, 6, or 7; if not then, they'd have to wait for late June.

Originally, Eisenhower wanted to start the operation on June 5. But the weather didn’t cooperate. To quote geophysicist Walter Munk, “On [that date], there were very high winds, and Eisenhower made the decision to wait 24 hours. However, 24 hours later, the Americans predicted there would be a break in the storm and that conditions would be difficult, but not impossible.” Ultimately, Ike began the attack on June 6, even though the weather was less than ideal. It’s worth noting that if he’d waited for a clearer day, the Germans might have been better prepared for his advance. (As for the dates they'd suggested for late June? There was a massive storm.)

6. "D-Day" was a common military term, according to Eisenhower's personal aide.

A few years after Eisenhower retired from public life, he was asked if the “D” in “D-day” stood for anything. In response to this inquiry, his aide Robert Schultz (a brigadier general) said that “any amphibious operation has a ‘departed date’; therefore the shortened term ‘D-Day’ is used” [PDF].

7. D-Day was among the largest amphibious assaults in military history.

U.S. troops in landing craft, during the D-Day landings.
Keystone/Getty Images

On D-Day, approximately 156,115 Allied troops—representing the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, France, Greece, New Zealand, Norway, and Poland—landed on the beaches of Normandy. They were accompanied by almost 7000 nautical vessels. In terms of aerial support, the Allies showed up with more than 10,000 individual aircrafts, which outnumbered the German planes 30 to one.

8. On D-Day, floating tanks were deployed by the Allies.

The brainchild of British engineers, the Sherman Duplex Drive Tanks (a.k.a. “Donald Duck” tanks) came with foldable canvas screens that could be unfurled at will, turning the vehicle into a crude boat. Once afloat, the tanks were driven forward with a set of propellers. They had a top nautical speed of just under 5 mph. The Duplex Drives that were sent to Juno, Sword, and Gold fared a lot better than those assigned to Omaha or Utah. The one at Omaha mostly sank because they had to travel across larger stretches of water—and they encountered choppier waves.

9. When the D-Day attack started, Adolf Hitler was asleep.

On the eve of D-Day, Hitler was entertaining Joseph Goebbels and some other guests at his home in the Alps. The dictator didn’t go to bed until 3 a.m. Just three and a half hours later, at 6:30 a.m., the opening land invasions at Normandy began. (And by that point, Allied gliders and paratroopers had been touching down nearby since 12:16 in the morning.) Hitler was finally roused at noon, when his arms minister informed him about the massive assault underway in Normandy. Hitler didn’t take it seriously and was slow to authorize a top general’s request for reinforcements. That mistake proved critical.

10. DWIGHT Eisenhower was fully prepared to accept blame if things went badly on D-Day.

General Dwight D Eisenhower watches the Allied landing operations from the deck of a warship in the English Channel on D-Day.
Keystone/Getty Images

While Hitler was partying in the Alps, Eisenhower was drafting a bleak message. The success of Operation Overlord was by no means guaranteed, and if something went horribly awry, Ike might have had no choice but to order a full retreat. So he preemptively wrote a brief statement that he intended to release if the invasion fell apart. “Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops,” it said. “My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.”

11. Knocking out German communications was one of the keys to victory on D-Day.

Hitler may not have had all of his troops in the right spot, but the Germans who’d been stationed at Normandy did enjoy some crucial advantages. At many localities—Omaha Beach included—the Nazi forces had high-powered machine guns and fortified positions. That combination enabled them to mow down huge numbers of Allied troops. But before the dawn broke on June 6, British and American paratroopers had landed behind enemy lines and taken out vital lines of communication while capturing some important bridges. Ultimately, that helped turn the tide against Germany.

12. Theodore Roosevelt's son earned a medal of honor for fighting on D-Day.

It was the 56-year-old brigadier general Theodore Roosevelt Jr. who led the first wave of troops on Utah Beach. The men, who had been pushed off-course by the turbulent waters, missed their original destination by over 2000 yards. Undaunted, Roosevelt announced, “We’re going to start the war from right here.” Though he was arthritic and walked with a cane, Roosevelt insisted on putting himself right in the heart of the action. Under his leadership, the beach was taken in short order. Roosevelt, who died of natural causes one month later, was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

13. D-Day was the opening chapter in a long campaign.

The Normandy invasion was not a one-day affair; it raged on until Allied forces crossed the River Seine in August [PDF]. Altogether, the Allies took about 200,000 casualties over the course of the campaign—including 4413 deaths on D-Day alone. According to the D-Day Center, “No reliable figures exist for the German losses, but it is estimated that around 200,000 were killed or wounded with approximately 200,000 more taken prisoner.” On May 7, 1945—less than a year after D-Day—Germany surrendered, ending the war in its European Theater.