D-Day beachheads at midnight, 6-7 June 1944

D-Day beachheads at midnight, 6-7 June 1944

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The D-Day Companion, ed. Jane Penrose. A selection of thirteen separate essays on different aspects of the D-Day lands, from the initial planning to post-war memorials; this is an excellent piece of work that sets the D-Day landings firmly in context. An excellent starting point for anyone who wants to learn more about Operation Overlord, but its wide range of topics means it is likely to be of value to anyone with an interest in the subject. [see more]

Allies prepare for D-Day

On June 5, 1944, more than 1,000 British bombers drop 5,000 tons of bombs on German gun batteries placed at the Normandy assault area, while 3,000 Allied ships cross the English Channel in preparation for the invasion of Normandy𠅍-Day.

The day of the invasion of occupied France had been postponed repeatedly since May, mostly because of bad weather and the enormous tactical obstacles involved. Finally, despite less than ideal weather conditions—or perhaps because of them—General Eisenhower decided on June 5 to set the next day as D-Day, the launch of the largest amphibious operation in history. Ike knew that the Germans would be expecting postponements beyond the sixth, precisely because weather conditions were still poor.

Among those Germans confident that an Allied invasion could not be pulled off on the sixth was Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, who was still debating tactics with Field Marshal Karl Rundstedt. Runstedt was convinced that the Allies would come in at the narrowest point of the Channel, between Calais and Dieppe Rommel, following Hitler’s intuition, believed it would be Normandy. Rommel’s greatest fear was that German air inferiority would prevent an adequate defense on the ground it was his plan to meet the Allies on the coast�ore the Allies had a chance to come ashore. Rommel began constructing underwater obstacles and minefields, and set off for Germany to demand from Hitler personally more panzer divisions in the area.

Bad weather and an order to conserve fuel grounded much of the German air force on June 5 consequently, its reconnaissance flights were spotty. That night, more than 1,000 British bombers unleashed a massive assault on German gun batteries on the coast. At the same time, an Allied armada headed for the Normandy beaches in Operation Neptune, an attempt to capture the port at Cherbourg. But that was not all. In order to deceive the Germans, phony operations were run dummy parachutists and radar-jamming devices were dropped into strategically key areas so as to make German radar screens believe there was an Allied convoy already on the move. One dummy parachute drop succeeded in drawing an entire German infantry regiment away from its position just six miles from the actual Normandy landing beaches. All this effort was to scatter the German defenses and make way for Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion of Normandy.

D-Day beachheads at midnight, 6-7 June 1944 - History

Omaha Beach

The planning for D-Day began in 1943. The Russians had been asking from 1942 for the Allies to open a second front against the Nazis, but the initial answer was the invasion of North Africa. The British were opposed to landing in France too early and urged delay. Finally May 1944 was set as the date for the attack. The invasion was assigned the name Operation Overlord. For almost a year a steady stream of men and material were transported to England prepare for the invasion. Thirty-nine allied divisions 22 American, 12 British, 3 Canadian and one Polish and French prepared for the invasion. As part of the plans the Allies set up fake armies to keep the Germans guessing as to where the invasion would take place. With no port close by the Germans were not expecting Normandy to be the location for the invasion.

Because of a lack of landing craft the invasion was delay from May until June. The invasion was set for June 5th but bad weather forced the invasion to be delayed for one day. In the month before the invasion Allied air forces bombed targets throughout France to try make it difficult for the German to reinforce their forces.

The invasion forces included 6,939 ships, 1213 warships, 4,126 landing craft, 736 support ships and 864 merchant ships. At midnight 2,2000 British, Canadian and American planes started attacking targets around the coast and inland. As part of the operations airborne troops were landed behind the lines, who were tasked with either capturing or destroying key bridges and junctions. Many of the airborne troops missed their targets when landing, but the failure of some of the troops to land in the right locations, confused the Germans who were unsure where the main assault was coming. An earlier destruction of the German radar station allowed the fleet to remain undetected until 2 AM.

The invasion was divided into a number of different locations. One was Utah beach. There the 4th Infantry landed 2000 yards south of their intended target due to a strong current. The mistaken location turned out to be a good location. Because they landed to the south they did not achieve their first day objectives, but by nightfall they had landed 21,000 troops and sustained only 179 casualties.

The most heavily defended beach was Omaha Beach and there the troops had a hard time landing. When they first did land they were often pinned down by the German troops . Many of the tanks landing craft never made it to beach. Slowly the overwhelming number of allied troops with strong support from naval ships offshore allowed the American troops of the 1st and 29th Infantry Divisions slowly move off the beach and conquer the heights above. Casualties that first day at Omaha were 2,000 troops and it took until the third day of invasion for the goals of D-day to all be achieved at Omaha Beach

The invasion on at Gold Beach began a little later due to the difference in tides. The shore included fortified houses, but they were quickly cleared by troops of the British 30th Division. There was also heavy gun emplacement located at near the beach, three of which were knocked out by direct naval gunfire the fourth by charges placed at the rear of one of the emplacement. By the end of the day both the beach and the heights above were in British hands.

The British X corps were responsible for capturing the Sword Beach, Most of their amphibious
tanks made it to the beach, thus providing cover for the infantry. The beach was covered with obstacles that slowed the advance, but slowly the troops who were soon joined by French troops cleared the beach. In the course of the day the troops who captured Sword beach suffered 1,000 casualties.

All together the Allies had 10,000 casualties on D-Day with 4,414 confirmed dead. However, in the course of the first day 160,000 Allied troops landed. While none of the objectives of the first day were achieved , by the end of June and additional 800,000 men with all their equipment were landed and their was no stopping the better equipped Allied troops, the Germans could only hope to slow them down.

D-Day beachheads at midnight, 6-7 June 1944 - History

O n June 6, 1944, more than 150,000 Allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy, France, in the largest seaborne invasion in history. Arriving by sea and by air, American soldiers, sailors and airmen struggled against tremendous odds to secure the beachheads, and eventually, to reclaim France and turn the tide of the war. The events of &ldquoD-Day&rdquo launched the Allies on a path to victory, though it came at a tremendous cost&mdashnearly 6,000 American casualties.

In 2019, we observe the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Many, if not most, of those who took part in the invasion are no longer with us. Now we turn to oral histories, memoirs, photographs, diaries, and artwork to better understand what they experienced. Below, we offer 12 collections representing the wide variety of individuals without whom D-Day would not have been a success: soldiers and sailors, doctors and nurses, engineers and pilots, seasoned fighters and those who had never before been in combat.

In addition, we invite you to view &ldquoD-Day Journeys: Personal Geographies of D-Day,&rdquo a Story Map which chronicles the individual journeys of four D-Day veterans. The Story Map combines text, images and multimedia content&mdashincluding digitized letters, snapshots, maps, and oral history interviews&mdashfor an immersive user experience. Observe the journeys of four men who personally witnessed the invasion of Normandy&mdashand glimpse their lives before, on, and after June 6, 1944. Follow this link to access the Story Map. [read blog series] [read news release]


In June 1940, Germany's leader Adolf Hitler had triumphed in what he called "the most famous victory in history"—the fall of France. [21] British craft evacuated to England over 338,000 Allied troops trapped along the northern coast of France (including much of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF)) in the Dunkirk evacuation (27 May to 4 June). [22] British planners reported to Prime Minister Winston Churchill on 4 October that even with the help of other Commonwealth countries and the United States, it would not be possible to regain a foothold in continental Europe in the near future. [23] After the Axis invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin began pressing for a second front in Western Europe. Churchill declined because he felt that even with American help the British did not have adequate forces for such a strike, [24] and he wished to avoid costly frontal assaults such as those that had occurred at the Somme and Passchendaele in World War I. [25] Two tentative plans code-named Operation Roundup and Operation Sledgehammer were put forward for 1942–43, but neither was deemed by the British to be practical or likely to succeed. [26] Instead, the Allies expanded their activity in the Mediterranean, launching the invasion of French North Africa in November 1942, the invasion of Sicily in July 1943, and invading Italy in September. [27] These campaigns provided the troops with valuable experience in amphibious warfare. [28]

Attendees at the Trident Conference in Washington in May 1943 took the decision to launch a cross-Channel invasion within the next year. [29] Churchill favoured making the main Allied thrust into Germany from the Mediterranean theatre, but the Americans, who were providing the bulk of the men and equipment, over-ruled him. [30] British Lieutenant-General Frederick E. Morgan was appointed Chief of Staff, Supreme Allied Commander (COSSAC), to begin detailed planning. [29] The initial plans were constrained by the number of available landing-craft, most of which were already committed in the Mediterranean and in the Pacific. [31] In part because of lessons learned in the Dieppe Raid of 19 August 1942, the Allies decided not to directly assault a heavily defended French seaport in their first landing. [32] The failure at Dieppe also highlighted the need for adequate artillery and air support, particularly close air support, and specialised ships able to travel extremely close to shore. [33] The short operating-range of British aircraft such as the Spitfire and Typhoon greatly limited the number of potential landing-sites, as comprehensive air-support depended upon having planes overhead for as long as possible. [34] Morgan considered four sites for the landings: Brittany, the Cotentin Peninsula, Normandy, and the Pas de Calais. As Brittany and Cotentin are peninsulas, the Germans could have cut off the Allied advance at a relatively narrow isthmus, so these sites were rejected. [35]

Pas de Calais, the closest point in continental Europe to Britain, was the location of launch sites for V-1 and V-2 rockets, then still under development. [d] The Germans regarded it as the most likely initial landing zone and accordingly made it the most heavily fortified region [36] however, it offered the Allies few opportunities for expansion as the area is bounded by numerous rivers and canals. [37] On the other hand, landings on a broad front in Normandy would permit simultaneous threats against the port of Cherbourg, coastal ports further west in Brittany, and an overland attack towards Paris and eventually into Germany. The Allies therefore chose Normandy as the landing site. [38] The most serious drawback of the Normandy coast—the lack of port facilities—would be overcome through the development of artificial harbours. [39]

The COSSAC staff planned to begin the invasion on 1 May 1944. [37] The initial draft of the plan was accepted at the Quebec Conference in August 1943. General Dwight D. Eisenhower was appointed commander of Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF). [40] General Bernard Montgomery was named commander of the 21st Army Group, which comprised all of the land forces involved in the invasion. [41] On 31 December 1943, Eisenhower and Montgomery first saw the COSSAC plan, which proposed amphibious landings by three divisions, with two more divisions in support. The two generals immediately insisted on expanding the scale of the initial invasion to five divisions, with airborne descents by three additional divisions, to allow operations on a wider front and to speed up the capture of the port at Cherbourg. This significant expansion required the acquisition of additional landing craft, which caused the invasion to be delayed by a month until June 1944. [41] Eventually the Allies committed 39 divisions to the Battle of Normandy: 22 American, 12 British, three Canadian, one Polish, and one French, totalling over a million troops. [42] [43] [e]

Allied invasion plan Edit

"Overlord" was the name assigned to the establishment of a large-scale lodgement on the Continent. [44] The first phase, the amphibious invasion and establishment of a secure foothold, was code-named Operation Neptune. [39] To gain the required air superiority needed to ensure a successful invasion, the Allies launched a bombing campaign (codenamed Operation Pointblank) to target German aircraft-production, fuel supplies, and airfields. Under the Transport Plan, communications infrastructure and road and rail links were bombed to cut off the north of France and to make it more difficult to bring up reinforcements. These attacks were widespread so as to avoid revealing the exact location of the invasion. [39] Elaborate deceptions were planned to prevent the Germans from determining the timing and location of the invasion. [45]

The coastline of Normandy was divided into seventeen sectors, with codenames using a spelling alphabet—from Able, west of Omaha, to Roger on the east flank of Sword. Eight further sectors were added when the invasion was extended to include Utah on the Cotentin Peninsula. Sectors were further subdivided into beaches identified by the colours Green, Red, and White. [46]

Allied planners envisaged preceding the sea-borne landings with airborne drops: near Caen on the eastern flank to secure the Orne River bridges, and north of Carentan on the western flank. The initial goal was to capture Carentan, Isigny, Bayeux, and Caen. The Americans, assigned to land at Utah and Omaha, were to cut off the Cotentin Peninsula and capture the port facilities at Cherbourg. The British at Sword and Gold, and the Canadians at Juno, were to capture Caen and form a front line from Caumont-l'Éventé to the south-east of Caen in order to protect the American flank, while establishing airfields near Caen. Possession of Caen and its surroundings would give the Anglo-Canadian forces a suitable staging area for a push south to capture the town of Falaise. A secure lodgement would be established and an attempt made to hold all territory captured north of the Avranches-Falaise line during the first three weeks. The Allied armies would then swing left to advance towards the River Seine. [47] [48] [49]

The invasion fleet, led by Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay, was split into the Western Naval Task Force (under Admiral Alan G Kirk) supporting the American sectors and the Eastern Naval Task Force (under Admiral Sir Philip Vian) in the British and Canadian sectors. [50] [51] The American forces of the First Army, led by Lieutenant General Omar Bradley, comprised VII Corps (Utah) and V Corps (Omaha). On the British side, Lieutenant-General Miles Dempsey commanded the Second Army, under which XXX Corps was assigned to Gold and I Corps to Juno and Sword. [52] Land forces were under the overall command of Montgomery, and air command was assigned to Air Chief Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory. [53] The First Canadian Army included personnel and units from Poland, Belgium, and the Netherlands. [3] Other Allied nations also participated. [54]

Reconnaissance Edit

The Allied Expeditionary Air Force undertook over 3,200 photo-reconnaissance sorties from April 1944 until the start of the invasion. Photos of the coastline were taken at extremely low altitude to show the invaders the terrain, obstacles on the beach, and defensive structures such as bunkers and gun emplacements. To avoid alerting the Germans as to the location of the invasion, this work had to be undertaken over the entire European coastline. Inland terrain, bridges, troop emplacements, and buildings were also photographed, in many cases from several angles, to give the Allies as much information as possible. [55] Members of Combined Operations Pilotage Parties clandestinely prepared detailed harbour maps, including depth soundings. [56]

An appeal for holiday pictures and postcards of Europe announced on the BBC produced over ten million items, some of which proved useful. Information collected by the French resistance helped provide details on Axis troop movements and on construction techniques used by the Germans for bunkers and other defensive installations. [57]

Many German radio messages were encoded using the Enigma machine and other enciphering techniques and the codes were changed frequently. A team of code breakers stationed at Bletchley Park worked to break codes as quickly as possible to provide advance information on German plans and troop movements. British military intelligence code-named this information Ultra intelligence as it could only be provided to the top level of commanders. The Enigma code used by Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt, Oberbefehlshaber West (Supreme Commander West OB West), commander of the Western Front, was broken by the end of March. German intelligence changed the Enigma codes right after the Allied landings of 6 June but by 17 June the Allies were again consistently able to read them. [58]

Technology Edit

In response to the lessons learned at the disastrous Dieppe Raid, the Allies developed new technologies to help ensure the success of Overlord. To supplement the preliminary offshore bombardment and aerial assaults, some of the landing craft were equipped with artillery and anti-tank guns to provide close supporting fire. [59] The Allies had decided not to immediately attack any of the heavily protected French ports and two artificial ports, called Mulberry harbours, were designed by COSSAC planners. Each assembly consisted of a floating outer breakwater, inner concrete caissons (called Phoenix breakwaters) and several floating piers. [60] The Mulberry harbours were supplemented by blockship shelters (codenamed "Gooseberries"). [61] With the expectation that fuel would be difficult or impossible to obtain on the continent, the Allies built a "Pipe-Line Under The Ocean" (PLUTO). Specially developed pipes 3 inches (7.6 cm) in diameter were to be laid under the Channel from the Isle of Wight to Cherbourg by D-Day plus 18. Technical problems and the delay in capturing Cherbourg meant the pipeline was not operational until 22 September. A second line was laid from Dungeness to Boulogne in late October. [62]

The British military built a series of specialised tanks, nicknamed Hobart's Funnies, to deal with conditions expected during the Normandy campaign. Developed under the supervision of Major-General Percy Hobart, these were specially modified M4 Sherman and Churchill tanks. Examples include the Sherman Crab tank (equipped with a mine flail), the Churchill Crocodile (a flame-throwing tank), and the Armoured Ramp Carrier, which other tanks could use as a bridge to scale sea-walls or to overcome other obstacles. [63] In some areas, the beaches consisted of a soft clay that could not support the weight of tanks. The "bobbin" tank would overcome this problem by deploying a roll of matting over the soft surface and leaving the material in place as a route for more conventional tanks. [64] The Armoured Vehicle Royal Engineers (AVREs) were modified for many tasks, including laying bridges and firing large charges into pillboxes. [65] The Duplex-Drive tank (DD tank), another design developed by Hobart's group, was a self-propelled amphibious tank kept afloat using a waterproof canvas screen inflated with compressed air. [66] These tanks were easily swamped, and on D-Day, many sank before reaching the shore, especially at Omaha. [67]

Deception Edit

In the months leading up to the invasion, the Allies conducted Operation Bodyguard, the overall strategy designed to mislead the Germans as to the date and location of the main Allied landings. [68] Operation Fortitude included Fortitude North, a misinformation campaign using fake radio-traffic to lead the Germans into expecting an attack on Norway, [69] and Fortitude South, a major deception designed to fool the Germans into believing that the landings would take place at Pas de Calais in July. A fictitious First U.S. Army Group was invented, supposedly located in Kent and Sussex under the command of Lieutenant General George S. Patton. The Allies constructed dummy tanks, trucks, and landing craft, and positioned them near the coast. Several military units, including II Canadian Corps and 2nd Canadian Division, moved into the area to bolster the illusion that a large force was gathering there. [45] [70] As well as the broadcast of fake radio-traffic, genuine radio messages from 21st Army Group were first routed to Kent via landline and then broadcast, to give the Germans the impression that most of the Allied troops were stationed there. [71] Patton remained stationed in England until 6 July, thus continuing to deceive the Germans into believing a second attack would take place at Calais. [72] Military and civilian personnel alike were aware of the need for secrecy, and the invasion troops were as much as possible kept isolated, especially in the period immediately before the invasion. One American general was sent back to the United States in disgrace after revealing the invasion date at a party. [45]

The Germans thought they had an extensive network of spies operating in the UK, but in fact, all their agents had been captured, and some had become double agents working for the Allies as part of the Double-Cross System. The double agent Juan Pujol García, a Spanish opponent of the Nazis known by the code name "Garbo", developed over the two years leading up to D-Day a fake network of informants that the Germans believed were collecting intelligence on their behalf. In the months preceding D-Day, Pujol sent hundreds of messages to his superiors in Madrid, messages specially prepared by the British intelligence service to convince the Germans that the attack would come in July at Calais. [71] [73]

Many of the German radar stations on the French coast were destroyed by the RAF in preparation for the landings. [74] On the night before the invasion, in Operation Taxable, 617 Squadron (the famous "Dambusters") dropped strips of "window", metal foil that German radar operators interpreted as a naval convoy approaching Cap d'Antifer (about 80 km from the actual D-Day landings). The illusion was bolstered by a group of small vessels towing barrage balloons. No. 218 Squadron RAF also dropped "window" near Boulogne-sur-Mer in Operation Glimmer. On the same night, a small group of Special Air Service (SAS) operators deployed dummy paratroopers over Le Havre and Isigny. These dummies led the Germans to believe an additional airborne assault had occurred. [75]

Rehearsals and security Edit

Training exercises for the Overlord landings took place as early as July 1943. [76] As the nearby beach resembled the planned Normandy landing-site, the town of Slapton in Devon, was evacuated in December 1943, and taken over by the armed forces as a site for training exercises that included the use of landing craft and the management of beach obstacles. [77] A friendly fire incident there on 27 April 1944 resulted in as many as 450 deaths. [78] The following day, an additional estimated 749 American soldiers and sailors died when German torpedo-boats surprised members of Assault Force "U" conducting Exercise Tiger. [79] [80] Exercises with landing craft and live ammunition also took place at the Combined Training Centre in Inveraray in Scotland. [81] Naval exercises took place in Northern Ireland, and medical teams in London and elsewhere rehearsed how they would handle the expected waves of casualties. [82] Paratroopers conducted exercises, including a huge demonstration drop on 23 March 1944 observed by Churchill, Eisenhower, and other top officials. [83]

Allied planners considered tactical surprise to be a necessary element of the plan for the landings. [84] Information on the exact date and location of the landings was provided only to the topmost levels of the armed forces. Men were sealed into their marshalling areas at the end of May, with no further communication with the outside world. [85] Troops were briefed using maps that were correct in every detail except for the place names, and most were not told their actual destination until they were already at sea. [86] A news blackout in Britain increased the effectiveness of the deception operations. [45] Travel to and from the Republic of Ireland was banned, and movement within several kilometres of the coast of England restricted. [87]

Weather forecasting Edit

The invasion planners specified a set of conditions regarding the timing of the invasion, deeming only a few days in each month suitable. A full moon was desirable, as it would provide illumination for aircraft pilots and have the highest tides. The Allies wanted to schedule the landings for shortly before dawn, midway between low and high tide, with the tide coming in. This would improve the visibility of obstacles the enemy had placed on the beach while minimising the amount of time the men had to spend exposed in the open. Specific criteria were also set for wind speed, visibility, and cloud cover. [88] Eisenhower had tentatively selected 5 June as the date for the assault, however, on 4 June, conditions were clearly unsuitable for a landing high winds and heavy seas made it impossible to launch landing craft, and low clouds would prevent aircraft from finding their targets. [89]

By the evening of 4 June, the Allied meteorological team, headed by Group Captain James Stagg of the Royal Air Force, predicted that the weather would improve sufficiently so that the invasion could go ahead on 6 June. He met Eisenhower and other senior commanders at their headquarters at Southwick House in Hampshire to discuss the situation. [90] General Montgomery and Major-General Walter Bedell Smith, Eisenhower's chief of staff, were eager to launch the invasion. Admiral Bertram Ramsay was prepared to commit his ships, while Air Chief Marshal Trafford Leigh-Mallory expressed concern that the conditions would be unfavourable for Allied aircraft. After much discussion, Eisenhower decided that the invasion should go ahead. [91] Allied control of the Atlantic meant that German meteorologists did not have access to as much information as the Allies on incoming weather patterns. [74] As the Luftwaffe meteorological centre in Paris predicted two weeks of stormy weather, many Wehrmacht commanders left their posts to attend war games in Rennes, and men in many units were given leave. [92] Marshal Erwin Rommel returned to Germany for his wife's birthday and to meet Hitler to try to get more Panzers. [93]

Had Eisenhower postponed the invasion, the next available period with the right combination of tides (but without the desirable full moon) was two weeks later, from 18 to 20 June. As it happened, during this period the invaders would have encountered a major storm lasting four days, between 19 and 22 June, that would have made the initial landings impossible. [89]

German preparations and defences Edit

Nazi Germany had at its disposal 50 divisions in France and the Low Countries, with another 18 stationed in Denmark and Norway. [f] Fifteen divisions were in the process of formation in Germany, but there was no strategic reserve. [94] The Calais region was defended by the 15th Army under Generaloberst (Colonel General) Hans von Salmuth, and Normandy by the 7th Army commanded by Generaloberst Friedrich Dollmann. [95] [96] Combat losses throughout the war, particularly on the Eastern Front, meant the Germans no longer had a pool of able young men from which to draw. German soldiers were now on average six years older than their Allied counterparts. Many in the Normandy area were Ostlegionen (eastern legions)—conscripts and "volunteers" from Turkestan, [97] Russia, Mongolia, and elsewhere. The Wehrmacht had provided them mainly with unreliable captured equipment they lacked motorised transport. [98] Formations that arrived later, such as the 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend, were, for the most part, younger and far better equipped and trained than the static troops stationed along the coast. [99]

In early 1944, OB West was significantly weakened by personnel and materiel transfers to the Eastern Front. During the Soviet Dnieper–Carpathian Offensive (24 December 1943 – 17 April 1944), the German High Command was forced to transfer the entire II SS Panzer Corps from France, consisting of the 9th and 10th SS Panzer Divisions, as well as the 349th Infantry Division, 507th Heavy Panzer Battalion and the 311th and 322nd StuG Assault Gun Brigades. All told, the German forces stationed in France were deprived of 45,827 troops and 363 tanks, assault guns, and self-propelled anti-tank guns. [100] It was the first major transfer of forces from France to the east since the creation of Führer Directive 51, which no longer allowed any transfers from the west to the east. [101] There were also transfers to the Italian front: von Rundstedt complained that many of his best units had been sent on a "fool's errand" to Italy, saying it was "madness . that frightful boot of a country should have been evacuated . we should have held a decent front with a few divisions on the Alpine frontier." [102]

The 1st SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler, 9th, 11th, 19th and 116th Panzer divisions, alongside the 2nd SS Panzer Division "Das Reich", had only arrived in March–May 1944 to France for extensive refit after being badly damaged during Dnieper-Carpathian operation. Seven of the eleven panzer or panzergrenadier divisions stationed in France were still not fully operational or only partially mobile in early June 1944. [103]

Atlantic Wall Edit

Alarmed by the raids on St Nazaire and Dieppe in 1942, Hitler ordered the construction of fortifications all along the Atlantic coast, from Spain to Norway, to protect against an expected Allied invasion. He envisioned 15,000 emplacements manned by 300,000 troops, but due to shortages, particularly of concrete and manpower, most of the strongpoints were never built. [104] As the expected site of an Allied invasion, Pas de Calais was heavily defended. [104] In the Normandy area the best fortifications were concentrated at the port facilities at Cherbourg and Saint-Malo. [105]

A report by Rundstedt to Hitler in October 1943 regarding the weak defences in France led to the appointment of Rommel to oversee the construction of further fortifications along the expected invasion-front, which stretched from the Netherlands to Cherbourg. [104] [106] Rommel was given command of the newly re-formed Army Group B, which included the 7th Army, the 15th Army, and the forces guarding the Netherlands. [107] [108] Nazi Germany's tangled command structure made it difficult for Rommel to achieve his task. He was not allowed to give orders to the Organisation Todt, which was commanded by armaments minister Albert Speer, so in some places he had to assign soldiers to do construction work. [105]

Rommel believed that the Normandy coast could be a possible landing point for the invasion, so he ordered the construction of extensive defensive works along that shore. In addition to concrete gun-emplacements at strategic points along the coast, he ordered wooden stakes, metal tripods, mines, and large anti-tank obstacles to be placed on the beach to delay the approach of landing craft and to impede the movement of tanks. [109] Expecting the Allies to land at high tide so that the infantry would spend less time exposed on the beach, he ordered many of these obstacles to be placed at the high-tide mark. [88] Tangles of barbed wire, booby traps, and the removal of ground cover made the approach hazardous for infantry. [109] On Rommel's order, the number of mines along the coast was tripled. [105] Given the Allied air supremacy (4,029 Allied aircraft assigned to operations in Normandy plus 5,514 aircraft assigned to bombing and defence, versus 570 Luftwaffe planes stationed in France and the Low Countries [88] ), booby-trapped stakes known as Rommelspargel (Rommel's asparagus) were set up in meadows and fields to deter airborne landings. [105]

Mobile reserves Edit

Rommel, believing that the Germans' best chance was to stop the invasion at the shore, requested that mobile reserves—especially tanks—be stationed as close to the coast as possible. Rundstedt, General Leo Geyr von Schweppenburg (commander of Panzer Group West), and other senior commanders believed that the invasion could not be stopped on the beaches. Geyr argued for a conventional doctrine: keeping the Panzer formations concentrated in a central position around Paris and Rouen and deploying them only when the main Allied beachhead had been identified. Geyr also noted that in the Italian Campaign the armour stationed near the coast had been damaged by naval bombardment. Rommel's opinion was that because of the overwhelming Allied air superiority, large-scale movement of tanks would not be possible once the invasion was underway. Hitler made the final decision: he left three divisions under Geyr's command and gave Rommel operational control of three tank-divisions as reserves. Hitler took personal control of four divisions as strategic reserves, not to be used without his direct orders. [110] [111] [112]

You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.

By May 1944, 1.5 million American troops had arrived in the United Kingdom. [57] Most were housed in temporary camps in the south-west of England, ready to move across the Channel to the western section of the landing zone. British and Canadian troops were billeted in accommodation further east, spread from Southampton to Newhaven, and even on the east coast for men who would be coming across in later waves. A complex system called Movement Control assured that the men and vehicles left on schedule from twenty departure points. [85] Some men had to board their craft nearly a week before departure. [114] The ships met at a rendezvous point (nicknamed "Piccadilly Circus") south-east of the Isle of Wight to assemble into convoys to cross the Channel. [115] Minesweepers began clearing lanes on the evening of 5 June, [89] and a thousand bombers left before dawn to attack the coastal defences. [116] Some 1,200 aircraft departed England just before midnight to transport three airborne divisions to their drop zones behind enemy lines several hours before the beach landings. [117] The American 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions were assigned objectives on the Cotentin Peninsula west of Utah. The British 6th Airborne Division was assigned to capture intact the bridges over the Caen Canal and River Orne. [118] The Free French 4th SAS battalion of 538 men was assigned objectives in Brittany (Operation Dingson, Operation Samwest). [119] [120] Some 132,000 men were transported by sea on D-Day, and a further 24,000 came by air. [85] Preliminary naval bombardment commenced at 05:45 and continued until 06:25 from five battleships, twenty cruisers, sixty-five destroyers, and two monitors. [85] [121] Infantry began arriving on the beaches at around 06:30. [122]

Beaches Edit

The craft bearing the U.S. 4th Infantry Division assaulting Utah were pushed by the current to a spot about 1,800 metres (2,000 yd) south of their intended landing zone. The troops met light resistance, suffering fewer than 200 casualties. [123] [124] Their efforts to push inland fell far short of their targets for the first day, but they were able to advance about 4 miles (6.4 km), making contact with the 101st Airborne Division. [48] [125] The airborne landings west of Utah were not very successful, as only ten per cent of the paratroopers landed in their drop zones. Gathering the men together into fighting units was made difficult by a shortage of radios and by the terrain, with its hedgerows, stone walls and marshes. [126] [127] The 82nd Airborne Division captured its primary objective at Sainte-Mère-Église and worked to protect the western flank. [128] Its failure to capture the river crossings at the River Merderet resulted in a delay in sealing off the Cotentin Peninsula. [129] The 101st Airborne Division helped protect the southern flank and captured the lock on the River Douve at La Barquette, [127] but did not capture the assigned nearby bridges on the first day. [130]

At Pointe du Hoc, the task for the two hundred men of the 2nd Ranger Battalion, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel James Rudder, was to scale the 30 metres (98 ft) cliffs with ropes and ladders to destroy the gun battery located there. While under fire from above, the men scaled the cliff, only to discover that the guns had already been withdrawn. The Rangers located the weapons, unguarded but ready to use, in an orchard some 550 metres (600 yd) south of the point, and disabled them. Under attack, the men at the point became isolated, and some were captured. By dawn on D+1, Rudder had only 90 men able to fight. Relief did not come until D+2, when members of the 743rd Tank Battalion arrived. [131]

Omaha, the most heavily defended sector, was assigned to the U.S. 1st Infantry Division, supplemented by troops from the U.S. 29th Infantry Division. [124] [132] They faced the 352nd Infantry Division, rather than the expected single regiment. [133] Strong currents forced many landing craft east of their intended position or delayed them. Casualties were heavier than all the other landings combined, as the men were subjected to fire from the cliffs above. [134] Problems clearing the beach of obstructions led to the beachmaster calling a halt to further landings of vehicles at 08:30. A group of destroyers arrived around this time to offer supporting artillery fire. [135] Exit from Omaha was possible only via five gullies, and by late morning barely six hundred men had reached the higher ground. By noon, as the artillery fire took its toll and the Germans started to run out of ammunition, the Americans were able to clear some lanes on the beaches. They also started clearing the draws of enemy defences so that vehicles could move off the beach. [136] The tenuous beachhead was expanded over the following days, and the D-Day objectives were accomplished by D+3. [137]

At Gold, high winds made conditions difficult for the landing craft, and the amphibious DD tanks were landed close to shore or directly on the beach instead of further out as planned. [138] Aerial attacks had failed to hit the Le Hamel strongpoint, and its 75 mm gun continued to do damage until 16:00. On the western flank, the 1st Battalion, Hampshire Regiment captured Arromanches (future site of Mulberry "B"), and contact was made on the eastern flank with the Canadian forces at Juno. [139]

Landings of infantry at Juno were delayed because of rough seas, and the men arrived ahead of their supporting armour, suffering many casualties while disembarking. Most of the offshore bombardment had missed the German defences. In spite of these difficulties, the Canadians quickly cleared the beach and created two exits to the villages above. Delays in taking Bény-sur-Mer led to congestion on the beach, but by nightfall, the contiguous Juno and Gold beachheads covered an area 12 miles (19 km) wide and 7 miles (10 km) deep. [140] Casualties at Juno were 961 men. [141]

On Sword, 21 of 25 DD tanks succeeded in getting safely ashore to provide cover for the infantry, who began disembarking at 07:30. They quickly cleared the beach and created several exits for the tanks. In the windy conditions, the tide came in more quickly than expected, making manoeuvring the armour difficult. [142] The 2nd Battalion, King's Shropshire Light Infantry advanced on foot to within a few kilometres of Caen, but had to withdraw due to lack of armour support. [143] At 16:00, the German 21st Panzer Division mounted a counterattack between Sword and Juno and nearly succeeded in reaching the coast. They met stiff resistance from the British 3rd Infantry Division and were soon recalled to assist in the area between Caen and Bayeux. [144] [145]

The first components of the Mulberry harbours were brought across on D+1 and the structures were in use for unloading by mid-June. [61] One was constructed at Arromanches by the British, the other at Omaha by the Americans. Severe storms on 19 June interrupted the landing of supplies and destroyed the Omaha harbour. [146] The repaired Arromanches harbour was able to receive around 6,000 tons of materiel daily and was in continuous use for the next ten months, but most shipments were brought in over the beaches until the port of Cherbourg was cleared of mines and obstructions on 16 July. [147] [148]

Allied casualties on the first day were at least 10,000, with 4,414 confirmed dead. [149] The Germans lost 1,000 men. [150] The Allied invasion plans had called for the capture of Carentan, St. Lô, Caen, and Bayeux on the first day, with all the beaches (other than Utah), linked with a front line 10 to 16 kilometres (6 to 10 mi) from the beaches none of these objectives were achieved. [48] The five bridgeheads were not connected until 12 June, by which time the Allies held a front around 97 kilometres (60 mi) long and 24 kilometres (15 mi) deep. [151] Caen, a major objective, was still in German hands at the end of D-Day and would not be completely captured until 21 July. [152] Nearly 160,000 troops crossed the English Channel on 6 June, and more than two million Allied troops were in France by the end of August. [153]

Cherbourg Edit

In the western part of the lodgement, US troops were to occupy the Cotentin Peninsula, especially Cherbourg, which would provide the Allies with a deep water harbour. The terrain behind Utah and Omaha was characterised by bocage, with thorny hedgerows on embankments 3 to 4 feet (0.91 to 1.2 m) high with a ditch on either side. [154] Many areas were additionally protected by rifle pits and machine-gun emplacements. [155] Most of the roads were too narrow for tanks. [154] The Germans had flooded the fields behind Utah with sea water for up to 2 miles (3.2 km) from the coast. [156] German forces on the peninsula included the 91st Infantry Division and the 243rd and 709th Static Infantry Divisions. [157] By D+3 the Allied commanders realised that Cherbourg would not quickly be taken, and decided to cut off the peninsula to prevent any further reinforcements from being brought in. [158] After failed attempts by the inexperienced 90th Infantry Division, Major General J. Lawton Collins, the VII Corps commander, assigned the veteran 9th Infantry Division to the task. They reached the west coast of the Cotentin on 17 June, cutting off Cherbourg. [159] The 9th Division, joined by the 4th and 79th Infantry Divisions, took control of the peninsula in fierce fighting from 19 June Cherbourg was captured on 26 June. By this time, the Germans had destroyed the port facilities, which were not brought back into full operation until September. [160]

Caen Edit

Fighting in the Caen area versus the 21st Panzer, the 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend and other units soon reached a stalemate. [161] During Operation Perch, XXX Corps attempted to advance south towards Mont Pinçon but soon abandoned the direct approach in favour of a pincer attack to encircle Caen. XXX Corps made a flanking move from Tilly-sur-Seulles towards Villers-Bocage with part of the 7th Armoured Division, while I Corps tried to pass Caen to the east. The attack by I Corps was quickly halted and XXX Corps briefly captured Villers-Bocage. Advanced elements of the British force were ambushed, initiating a day-long Battle of Villers-Bocage and then the Battle of the Box. The British were forced to withdraw to Tilly-sur-Seulles. [162] [163] After a delay because of storms from 17 to 23 June, Operation Epsom began on 26 June, an attempt by VIII Corps to swing around and attack Caen from the south-west and establish a bridgehead south of the Odon. [164] Although the operation failed to take Caen, the Germans suffered many tank losses after committing every available Panzer unit to the operation. [165] Rundstedt was dismissed on 1 July and replaced as OB West by Field Marshal Günther von Kluge after remarking that the war was now lost. [166] The northern suburbs of Caen were bombed on the evening of 7 July and then occupied north of the River Orne in Operation Charnwood on 8–9 July. [167] [168] Operation Atlantic and Operation Goodwood captured the rest of Caen and the high ground to the south from 18 to 21 July, by when the city was nearly destroyed. [169] Hitler survived an assassination attempt on 20 July. [170]

Breakout from the beachhead Edit

After securing territory in the Cotentin Peninsula south as far as Saint-Lô, the U.S. First Army launched Operation Cobra on 25 July and advanced further south to Avranches by 1 August. [171] The British launched Operation Bluecoat on 30 July to secure Vire and the high ground of Mont Pinçon. [172] Lieutenant General Patton's U.S. Third Army, activated on 1 August, quickly took most of Brittany and territory as far south as the Loire, while the First Army maintained pressure eastward toward Le Mans to protect their flank. By 3 August, Patton and the Third Army were able to leave a small force in Brittany and drive eastward towards the main concentration of German forces south of Caen. [173] Over Kluge's objections, on 4 August Hitler ordered a counter-offensive (Operation Lüttich) from Vire towards Avranches. [174]

While II Canadian Corps pushed south from Caen toward Falaise in Operation Totalize on 8 August, [175] Bradley and Montgomery realised that there was an opportunity for the bulk of the German forces to be trapped at Falaise. The Third Army continued the encirclement from the south, reaching Alençon on 11 August. Although Hitler continued to insist until 14 August that his forces should counter-attack, Kluge and his officers began planning a retreat eastward. [176] The German forces were severely hampered by Hitler's insistence on making all major decisions himself, which left his forces without orders for periods as long as 24 hours while information was sent back and forth to the Führer's residence at Obersalzberg in Bavaria. [177] On the evening of 12 August, Patton asked Bradley if his forces should continue northward to close the gap and encircle the German forces. Bradley refused because Montgomery had already assigned the First Canadian Army to take the territory from the north. [178] [179] The Canadians met heavy resistance and captured Falaise on 16 August. The gap was closed on 21 August, trapping 50,000 German troops but more than a third of the German 7th Army and the remnants of nine of the eleven Panzer divisions had escaped to the east. [180] Montgomery's decision-making regarding the Falaise Gap was criticised at the time by American commanders, especially Patton, although Bradley was more sympathetic and believed Patton would not have been able to close the gap. [181] The issue has been the subject of much discussion among historians, criticism being levelled at American, British and Canadian forces. [182] [183] [184] Hitler relieved Kluge of his command of OB West on 15 August and replaced him with Field Marshal Walter Model. Kluge committed suicide on 19 August after Hitler became aware of his involvement in the 20 July plot. [185] [186] An invasion in southern France (Operation Dragoon) was launched on 15 August. [187]

The French Resistance in Paris rose against the Germans on 19 August. [188] Eisenhower initially wanted to bypass the city to pursue other targets, but amid reports that the citizens were going hungry and Hitler's stated intention to destroy it, de Gaulle insisted that it should be taken immediately. [189] French forces of the 2nd Armoured Division under General Philippe Leclerc arrived from the west on 24 August, while the U.S. 4th Infantry Division pressed up from the south. Scattered fighting continued throughout the night, and by the morning of 25 August Paris was liberated. [190]

Operations continued in the British and Canadian sectors until the end of the month. On 25 August, the U.S. 2nd Armored Division fought its way into Elbeuf, making contact with British and Canadian armoured divisions. [191] The 2nd Canadian Infantry Division advanced into the Forêt de la Londe on the morning of 27 August. The area was strongly held the 4th and 6th Canadian brigades suffered many casualties over the course of three days as the Germans fought a delaying action in terrain well suited to defence. The Germans pulled back on 29 August, withdrawing over the Seine the next day. [191] On the afternoon of 30 August, the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division crossed the Seine near Elbeuf and entered Rouen to a jubilant welcome. [192]

Eisenhower took direct command of all Allied ground forces on 1 September. Concerned about German counter-attacks and the limited materiel arriving in France, he decided to continue operations on a broad front rather than attempting narrow thrusts. [193] The linkup of the Normandy forces with the Allied forces in southern France occurred on 12 September as part of the drive to the Siegfried Line. [194] On 17 September, Montgomery launched Operation Market Garden, an unsuccessful attempt by Anglo-American airborne troops to capture bridges in the Netherlands to allow ground forces to cross the Rhine into Germany. [193] The Allied advance slowed due to German resistance and the lack of supplies (especially fuel). On 16 December the Germans launched the Ardennes Offensive, also known as the Battle of the Bulge, their last major offensive of the war on the Western Front. A series of successful Soviet actions began with the Vistula–Oder Offensive on 12 January. Hitler committed suicide on 30 April as Soviet troops neared his Führerbunker in Berlin, and Germany surrendered on 7 May 1945. [195]

The Normandy landings were the largest seaborne invasion in history, with nearly 5,000 landing and assault craft, 289 escort vessels, and 277 minesweepers. [115] They hastened the end of the war in Europe, drawing large forces away from the Eastern Front that might otherwise have slowed the Soviet advance. The opening of another front in western Europe was a tremendous psychological blow for Germany's military, who feared a repetition of the two-front war of World War I. The Normandy landings also heralded the start of the "race for Europe" between the Soviet forces and the Western powers, which some historians consider to be the start of the Cold War. [196]

Victory in Normandy stemmed from several factors. German preparations along the Atlantic Wall were only partially finished shortly before D-Day Rommel reported that construction was only 18 per cent complete in some areas as resources were diverted elsewhere. [197] The deceptions undertaken in Operation Fortitude were successful, leaving the Germans obliged to defend a huge stretch of coastline. [198] The Allies achieved and maintained air superiority, which meant that the Germans were unable to make observations of the preparations underway in Britain and were unable to interfere via bomber attacks. [199] Transport infrastructure in France was severely disrupted by Allied bombers and the French Resistance, making it difficult for the Germans to bring up reinforcements and supplies. [200] Much of the opening artillery barrage was off-target or not concentrated enough to have any impact, [201] but the specialised armour worked well except on Omaha, providing close artillery support for the troops as they disembarked onto the beaches. [202] The indecisiveness and overly complicated command structure of the German high command was also a factor in the Allied success. [203]

Allies Edit

From D-Day to 21 August, the Allies landed 2,052,299 men in northern France. The cost of the Normandy campaign was high for both sides. [13] Between 6 June and the end of August, the American armies suffered 124,394 casualties, of whom 20,668 were killed. [g] The American armies suffered 10,128 soldiers missing. [13] Casualties within the First Canadian and Second British Armies are placed at 83,045: 15,995 killed, 57,996 wounded, and 9,054 missing. [h] Of these, Canadian losses amounted to 18,444, with 5,021 killed in action. [204] The Allied air forces, having flown 480,317 sorties in support of the invasion, lost 4,101 aircraft and 16,714 airmen (8,536 members of the USAAF, and 8,178 flying under the command of the RAF). [13] [205] The Free French SAS paratroopers suffered 77 killed, with 197 wounded and missing. [206] Allied tank losses have been estimated at around 4,000, with losses split evenly between the American and British/Canadian armies. [14] Historians slightly differ on overall casualties during the campaign, with the lowest losses totaling 225,606 [207] [208] and the highest at 226,386. [209] [210]

Germany Edit

German forces in France reported losses of 158,930 men between D-Day and 14 August, just before the start of Operation Dragoon in Southern France. [211] In action at the Falaise pocket, 50,000 men were lost, of whom 10,000 were killed and 40,000 captured. [14] Sources vary on the total German casualties. Niklas Zetterling, on examining German records, places the total German casualties suffered in Normandy and facing the Dragoon landings to be 288,695. [15] Other sources arrive at higher estimates: 400,000 (200,000 killed or wounded and a further 200,000 captured), [195] 500,000 (290,000 killed or wounded, 210,000 captured), [11] to 530,000 in total. [16]

There are no exact figures regarding German tank losses in Normandy. Approximately 2,300 tanks and assault guns were committed to the battle, [i] of which only 100 to 120 crossed the Seine at the end of the campaign. [11] While German forces reported only 481 tanks destroyed between D-day and 31 July, [211] research conducted by No. 2 Operational Research Section of 21st Army Group indicates that the Allies destroyed around 550 tanks in June and July [212] and another 500 in August, [213] for a total of 1,050 tanks destroyed, including 100 destroyed by aircraft. [214] Luftwaffe losses amounted to 2,127 aircraft. [17] By the end of the Normandy campaign, 55 German divisions (42 infantry and 13 panzer) had been rendered combat ineffective seven of these were disbanded. By September, OB West had only 13 infantry divisions, 3 panzer divisions, and 2 panzer brigades rated as combat effective. [215]

Civilians and French heritage buildings Edit

During the liberation of Normandy, between 13,632 and 19,890 French civilians were killed, [20] and more were seriously wounded. [19] In addition to those who died during the campaign, 11,000 to 19,000 Normans are estimated to have been killed during pre-invasion bombing. [19] A total of 70,000 French civilians were killed throughout the course of the war. [19] Land mines and unexploded ordnance continued to inflict casualties upon the Norman population following the end of the campaign. [216]

Prior to the invasion, SHAEF issued instructions (later the basis for the 1954 Hague Convention Protocol I) emphasising the need to limit the destruction to French heritage sites. These sites, named in the Official Civil Affairs Lists of Monuments, were not to be used by troops unless permission was received from the upper echelons of the chain of command. [217] Nevertheless, church spires and other stone buildings throughout the area were damaged or destroyed to prevent them being used by the Germans. [218] Efforts were made to prevent reconstruction workers from using rubble from important ruins to repair roads, and to search for artefacts. [219] The Bayeux tapestry and other important cultural treasures had been stored at the Château de Sourches near Le Mans from the start of the war, and survived intact. [220] The occupying German forces also kept a list of protected buildings, but their intent was to keep the facilities in good condition for use as accommodation by German troops. [219]

Many cities and towns in Normandy were totally devastated by the fighting and bombings. By the end of the Battle of Caen there remained only 8,000 liveable quarters for a population of over 60,000. [218] Of the 18 listed churches in Caen, four were seriously damaged and five were destroyed, along with 66 other listed monuments. [220] In the Calvados department (location of the Normandy beachhead), 76,000 citizens were rendered homeless. Of Caen's 210 pre-war Jewish population, only one survived the war. [221]

Looting was a concern, with all sides taking part—the retreating Germans, the invading Allies, and the local French population taking advantage of the chaos. [219] Looting was never condoned by Allied forces, and any perpetrators who were found to be looting were punished. [222]

The beaches of Normandy are still known by their invasion code names. Significant places have plaques, memorials, or small museums, and guide books and maps are available. Some of the German strong points remain preserved Pointe du Hoc, in particular, is little changed from 1944. The remains of Mulberry harbour B still sits in the sea at Arromanches. Several large cemeteries in the area serve as the final resting place for many of the Allied and German soldiers killed in the Normandy campaign. [223]

Above the English channel on a bluff at Omaha Beach, the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial has hosted numerous visitors each year. The site covers 172.5 acres and contains the remains of 9,388 American military dead, most of whom were killed during the invasion of Normandy and ensuing military operations in World War II. Included are graves of Army Air Corps crews shot down over France as early as 1942 and four American women. [224]

D-Day invasion: What is D-Day and what happened on June 6, 1944?

On June 6, 1944, the invasion of Europe began behind the largest landing force the world had ever seen.

The invasion, which became known as D-Day, began as Operation Neptune, part of Operation Overlord which was the code name for the Allied invasion of northwest Europe during World War II.

U.S. Gen. Dwight David Eisenhower, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe, along with military leaders in Britain, planned and directed the invasion.

It would be Eisenhower who would tell the troops that he had "full confidence" in the men's "courage and devotion to duty and skill in battle."

So what happened on that day? Here’s what unfolded just after midnight on June 6, 1944.

The operation began at 12:15 a.m. on June 6, 1944, when more than 13,000 Americans from the 82nd and 101st Airborne divisions began to parachute behind German lines.

About three hours later, Allied bombers began to hit the German lines near the 50-mile strip along the Normandy coast of France.

The bombing was relentless at times. According to historians, 7 million pounds of bombs would be dropped by the end of the day.

Two hours later, at 5 a.m., seven battleships, 18 cruisers, and 43 destroyers began a naval bombardment of the coast. The attack lasted nearly 90 minutes, leading up to the troop landings which began at 6:31 a.m.

Allied troops -- made up of American, Canadian and British forces -- headed ashore on 50 miles of coastline that had been divided into five landing zones – Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword.

U.S. troops took Utah and Omaha, Canadians landed at Juno and British troops took Gold and Sword.

How many people took part in the D-Day invasion?

There were 160,000 Allied troops – of that number, 73,000 were Americans.

What was the toll? It's estimated that 4,500 Allied forces died in the invasion. More than 2,000 Americans were killed at Omaha Beach, alone.

The numbers • 1,600 aircraft flew cover as troops landed on the beaches. • 14,674 sorties were flown on June 6, 1944. • 127 Allied planes were shot down or crashed. • 1,213 naval combat ships, 4,126 landing ships and landing craft, 736 ancillary craft and 864 merchant vessels took part in the invasion. • 50,000 German troops were spread out along the landing area. • 172.5 acres in the Normandy American Cemetery is one of 14 permanent American World War II military cemeteries on foreign soil. • 10,000 Allied troops were expected to be killed on that day less than half of that number were killed in the invasion.

Remembering the sacrifice

On the 40th anniversary of the invasion, President Ronald Reagan delivered one of the most moving speeches ever given at a D-Day memorial ceremony, remembering the “boys of Pointe du Hoc,” a group of Army Rangers who took a high point along Omaha Beach. Here is that speech:

‘The Yanks are coming’: Soldiers hit the Normandy beaches on D-Day in 1944

On June 6, 1944, The Patriot had a message for Adolf Hitler the leader of the Nazi party in Germany.

The headline to the left of the masthead said, "GOOD EVENING, Herr Hitler: The Yanks are coming!”

On that day during World War II, soldiers swarmed the beaches of Normandy, France, to begin the liberation of German-occupied western Europe.

On D-Day, more than 160,000 Allied troops landed on 50 miles of beaches in Normandy, France, to fight Nazi Germany.

Carrying full equipment, American assault troops move onto a beachhead code-named Omaha Beach, on the northern coast of France on June 6, 1944, during the Allied invasion of the Normandy coast. (AP Photo) ASSOCIATED PRESS

From history.com: "The invasion was one of the largest amphibious military assaults in history and required extensive planning. Prior to D-Day, the Allies conducted a large-scale deception campaign designed to mislead the Germans about the intended invasion target. By late August 1944, all of northern France had been liberated, and by the following spring the Allies had defeated the Germans. The Normandy landings have been called the beginning of the end of war in Europe."

The death toll was tremendous - more than 9,000 soldiers were killed or wounded, "but their sacrifice allowed more than 100,000 soldiers to begin the slow, hard slog across Europe, to defeat Adolf Hitler's crack troops," according to www.army.mil/d-day/.

The United Press reported, "American, British and Canadian invasion forces landed in Northwestern France today, established beachheads in Normandy, and by evening had 'gotten over the first five or six hurdles' in the greatest amphibious assault of all time."

Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower's order of the day:

"Soldiers, sailors and airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force. You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hope and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave allies and brothers-in-arms on other fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe and security for ourselves in a free world.

Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely.

But this is the year 1944! Much has happened since the Nazi triumph of 1940-41. The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats, in open battle, man-to-man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our home fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men. The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to victory.

I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory.

Good luck. And let us beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking."

Wynning History

In the early morning hours of June 6, 1944, the people of Pennsylvania’s Coal Region learned the momentous news that Allied forces had begun the invasion of Hitler’s “Fortress Europe.” Thoughts and prayers turned to the local boys who were participating in one of the largest military operations in human history.

The following are dispatches and stories demonstrating how communities across the Coal Region responded on D-Day.

In Carbondale, Mayor William L. Monahan issued a proclamation urging stores in that city to close at 3:15 p. m. He also recommended that industries and factories not on war work take time out at the same hour to allow employees to silently wish our servicemen Godspeed in their attack of the Nazi forces.

Special services were held in Carbondale churches last night. A special D-Day service was held yesterday afternoon following the sounding of the whistles and tolling of bells in St. Luke’s Episcopal Church.

The Tribune,Scranton, June 7, 1944

D-Day in Freeland dawned bright and clear at 5:46 a. m, as an orange-yellow sun, which six hours earlier had sent its beams over American troops pushing up beaches of Northern France, peek over the rooftops of a sleeping and quiet town. Ten minutes later it had moved up in the sky and hid its bright face behind a gloomy blue overcast.

Only early risers and nightshift men going home to bed knew about the invasion. Whistles did not blow and church bells did toll.

Men going to work at nearby collieries stopped at Fairchild’s News Agency for first copies of the Standard-Sentinel. Only a few were on hand for morning paper employees had stopped the shipment of the first papers, without D-Day news, in order to bring out a special edition with last-minute flashes. By 6:30, the latest editions with new details had arrived and were being snatched, up quickly.

The invasion, besides proving a surprise to the tense Germans, put the quietus on many North Side residents who had been setting invasion dates since the first of May. As far as could be learned, no one had guessed June 6th.

The false alarms in recent weeks, the steady pounding of Germany from the air without any outward evidence of the invasion to come, made some North Siders feel that there would be no invasion from the West, that the Allied main effort would be in Italy and the Balkans. Today’s news ended these beliefs.

As the United Nations armies, fed by mighty U. S. factories and the combined intelligence and work of U. S. labor and management, moved into the historic pathway of invasion armies in Northern France on the shortest route to Berlin. Freeland and North Side residents knew that hundreds of their boys were taking part in the air and on the ground in smashing down the ramparts of Nazi and Fascist intolerance and tyranny.

The Plain Speaker,Hazleton, June 7, 1944

Interest in the news of the invasion of the French coast by the Allies was shown in Hazleton today in many forms.

Many person brought their portable radios to their places of employment to listen in once in a while, and some miners took their sets into the mines where they kept tabs on the news from the Normandy beachhead.

The miners turned out for work as usual and all collieries were operated except Evans at Beaver Meadows, where work on construction of new coal pockets made suspension necessary.

The Plain Speaker, Hazleton, June 6, 1944

A survey made today of the church services yesterday when news came that the Allied push into Europe had started revealed that a large percentage of Hazleton’s population went to church to pray for victory and safety for the boys who were storming the channel beachheads.

Ministers reported that a steady stream of persons went to the churches at all hours of the day and that the attendance at many formal services last night was very large, matching Sunday worship turnouts.

In one church the minister found the janitor had not learned of “D-Day” and donned his bathrobe to open the edifice. As he did so the stream of persons coming to pray or meditate started. Ministers commented on the many strangers who came to the churches.

One edifice had so large a turnout of those who went to church in the morning that the minister called for formal services which were welcomed by those who had come for private prayer and meditation.

Last night some of the congregations were given regular services with the full choir in service.

Hazleton met Invasion Day in a sober frame of mind. Radios were in operation in many homes all day and portables were used in many offices and business places…

The Plain Speaker,Hazleton, June 7, 1944

Mount Carmel

Residents of the community observed with prayer the momentous announcement that American, English and Canadian forces crossed the Channel and landed on the Normandy coast of France. The invasion was begun between the hours of midnight and 1:30 a. m. The official announcement came over the radio at 3:32 a. m., (our time.)

In countless homes throughout the community the mothers and fathers, who have sons “over there,” were on their knees, praying for their loved ones and for success of the invasion.

Many went to work this morning with heavy hearts and troubled minds, their thoughts on that Channel far away. Strange silence gripped them as they wended their weary way. They exchanged few words, if any, except “did you hear, the Invasion has begun?”

Three hundred employees of the Pre-Vue Sport Wear, Inc., 31 North Spruce, and 150 employees of the Sunbury Manufacturing ‘ Company, Sixth and Locust, reported, and after hearing of the invasion, decided to go to church and then go home…

Mount Carmel Item, Mount Carmel, June 6, 1944

“D-Day Meditation – Characteristic of scenes enacted in Catholic and Protestant churches and Jewish synagogues and temples throughout this region yesterday is this view of young girls with rosaries in their hands, offering special prayers in St. Peter’s Cathedral in observance of D-Day.” – Scranton Tribune

News of the long awaited Allied invasion of Europe was received with calm in the Lackawanna Valley yesterday and was marked by solemn services in churches throughout the region during the day and last night.

Coming at an early hour yesterday morning, the news that the Allies had landed in France found few persons in the Scranton area on the streets and it was not until The Tribune reached the public in the morning that the majority of regional residents received the information…

Practically all of the more than 150 churches and their congregations totaling more than 50,000 persons conducted special D-Day service last night…

The sounding of factory whistles and tolling of church bells yesterday at 3:15 p.m. officially signified the day of prayer and was meant to call persons to reverent meditation, the Rev. Mr. Woods explained…

“Now that the hour of invasion of Nazi-controlled Europe has come, it is fitting and proper that we should pause and meditate on the important event at hand.

Let us all, therefore go to our respective houses of worship and pray to Almighty God for help and guidance in this crucial hour. Let us all firmly resolve to continue our efforts with greater vigor in the purchase of bonds, in the war plants and in every activity that will help the war.

Let us display our flags as a symbol that we are united on this great day.”

Scranton Mayor Howard J. Snowdon

While regional residents were following the war news with the greatest anxiety, hundreds of mothers, fathers, wives, and sweethearts of area men who have been known to be based in England shed many a tear during worried moments. Many were observed kneeling in meditation in local churches during last night’s services.

Homes in residential sections throughout the city were bedecked with American Flags and the Stars and Stripes later in the day were unfurled in front of business places in Central City…

Joint services were held by the congregations of Madison Avenue Temple and Temple Israel in the latter temple last night. Rabbi Arthur T. Buch and Cantor William S. Horn officiated. A special service also was held in Linden Street Temple and was attended by members of Sandy Weisburger Post, No. 165, Jewish War Veterans. Rabbi Henry Guterman conducted the services…

The Tribune, Scranton, June 7, 1944

Simultaneously with the announcement of the invasion, churches in Pottsville and most towns throughout the county were thrown open today for prayers to be offered for its success.

Bells of many churches were rung announcing that the long awaited hour had arrived and as soon as the public began to stream there in ones and twos to offer pleas on bended knee. There was intense but suppressed excitement which was gradually replaced by calmness as radio and news reports brought encouraging reports, lending hope that the prayers were being answered…

Pottsville Republican, Pottsville, June 6, 1944

Tears, cheers, excitement and complacency – but above all, prayer – mingled together in Shenandoah and vicinity today when news of the long-awaited invasion of Hitler’s “unconquerable” fortress in Europe broke with resounding echo over the entire world.

Men, women and children received the first flash messages when they arose from their beds at various intervals and hundreds turned first to prayer and church, where the only answer to Victory and Peace can be found.

It was noticeable that the residents of this area were silent as they went to worship, work and school. There was no noisy celebration, for mothers, sisters and wives were thinking only of their sons, brothers and husband and sweethearts who at this very moment are in the thick of battle on foreign soil. “Isn’t it wonderful?” was heard spoken by many, only to be crossed with “Isn’t it terrible?”

There were varied expressions of surprise, happiness, anxiety and fear as the word “invasion” rocked the foundations of the universe. Most of the people were reticent, according to reports, knowing full well the seriousness of the occasion, realizing that anything can happen now, yet hoping against hope that all would go well, “according to plan…”

Evening Herald,Shenandoah, June 6, 1944


Wyoming Valley residents awoke today to hear in definite terms, the news that has been whispered and hinted at for months in every family circle where fighting men are overseas.

As in a great wave, symbolic of the wave of men, munitions and material of war now sweeping across the channel to France, thousands of persons of the home front, representative of every creed, race, and religion poured into Wyoming Valley’s churches to offer prayer for the fighting forces…

Here are some of the most important highlights summing up the effects of the invasion news since dawn this morning:

Wilkes-Barre City schools were dismissed following morning sessions at 11 a.m. today in order to permit children to join their parents at places of worship, Superintendent A.E. Bacon announced.

All central city stores under jurisdiction of Wilkes-Barre Wyoming Valley Merchants’ Association remained closed until noon today under a pre-arranged schedule so that employees could attend services…

The baseball game between Wilkes-Barre and Albany scheduled for Artillery Park, was postponed…

Other glimpses of the effect of the latest war development on the home front indicated: Heavy trading on local stock market exchanges pick-up in the purchases of United States War Bonds at banks and post-offices be-decking of central city streets with the Stars and Stripes, and raising of the colors over Honor Roll plaques flood of telephone calls to the offices of the daily newspaper as to confirmation of the invasion news.

The Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, Wilkes-Barre, June 6, 1944

Members of a Wyoming Valley Red Cross Chapter who were holding a blood drive in Wilkes-Barre on June 6, 1944.

Featured Image: Young women praying in Scranton, Pennsylvania on June 6, 1944

How many troops took part?

Up to 7,000 ships and landing craft were involved, delivering a total of 156,000 men and 10,000 vehicles to the five beaches along the carefully selected stretch of the Normandy coast.

The landings would not have been possible without the support of massive air and naval forces, which were much stronger than the Germans'.

But on D-Day alone, as many as 4,400 troops died from the combined allied forces. Some 9,000 were wounded or missing.

Total German casualties on the day are not known, but are estimated as being between 4,000 and 9,000 men.

Thousands of French civilians also perished, mainly as a result of bombing raids carried out by allied forces.

Only Two Renville County newspaper recognized D-Day on June 8, 1944

Only two Renville County newspapers published a headline that stated the phrase “D-Day” on June 8, 1944, this included The Franklin Tribune and the Sacred Heart News. Today, June 6, 2019, marks the 75th anniversary of this notorious battle of World War II. Read the following articles below!

Franklin Tribune published June 8, 1944

Franklin Tribune June 8, 1944
Nation Startled Tuesday Morning with Radio Announcement of Invasion by Allied Forces Crossing English Channel into Northern France–Absence of Arial and U-Boat Opposition Brings Speculation that Hitler Maybe Setting Trap–
While the invasion of Europe by the Allies had been eagerly awaited for some time, people the country over were startled Tuesday morning when they tuned in their favorite morning radio programs and found instead that they were tuned to the broadcast of world-history making news that “D” Day and “H” Hour were history, and that invasion of northern France was well underway.
By the time most people arose that morning and switched on their radios, the first beach-head on French soil had been well established in its first phase and Allied Soldiers were fanning out over the countryside to mop up any resistance the enemy might bring into action in an attempt to block their way before the sea-borne artillery and supplies could be stabilized or landed.
Practically all radio commercial programs were shunted all day Tuesday to give way to the news flashes constantly coming in from the war zone and the comments and interpretations given by experienced reporters on the scene.
Rome and the battle lines south of there were taken during this weekend–a victory which up to that time was considered of major importance but that Rome was taken without damage to that ancient city, seemed to receive little notice after the northern invasion got underway.
News coming from the invasion fronts were in reality largely lacking in tangible detail. But one can gather that the invasion really entailed several beachheads extending fifty miles along the Normandy coast. As these beachheads were made temporarily secure, the soldiers fanned out to the inland to meet any counter attacks by the enemy, and to bring these landings in contact with each other.
Caens, a town nine miles south of the central landing place, was the first town taken, and here also the Allies met with terrific opposition which continued throughout Wednesday.
Where Hitler’s vaunted “Luftwaffe” is is still a puzzle. There is speculation as to the possibility that a trap may be contemplated by the Germans once the Allies reach one of the strongly fortified lines which were expected by the Germans to black the invasion.
The fall of Rome and the route of the German Italian army, has put a strong poser before Hitler, and the Russian army on the east holds a real threat. This will probably answer the question of where the German air force is located. Any big shift and concentration of the enemy air force would leave some other sector vulnerable to attack.
The latest reports on Wednesday evening before going to press are to the effect that the battle for the north coastal points are going ahead satisfactorily and according to schedule. Montgomery’s army is driving the disorganized German army northward from Rome towards the south boundary of France and the Russian army is poised for another major offensive in the Balkans.

Sacred Heart News published June 8, 1944

Tuesday, June 6, is ‘D-Day’–Successful Landings Made By Allies on Cherbourg Beachhead
The kick-off of what many consider to be the real start of the European war came at dawn Tuesday (about midnight by our time) when 4,000 naval vessels and “air trains” of transport planes unloaded Allied troops along a 100-mile front between Cherbourg and Le Havre, France.
The British-based English, Canadian and U.S. soldiers succeeded at once in clearing the beaches of enemy resistance, aided by a terrific combat force overheard. Paratroops landed further inland to wipe out enemy defense posts, while from across the channel more trips by ships and planes continued the following day to bring reinforcements.
Early Thursday, the invasion forces captured Bayeux, a 9,000 population cathedral town at the base of the Cherbourg peninsula. Meanwhile, strong fighting was going on at Caen south-southeast of Bayeux, and at St. Mere Eglise, off one of the chief beach-heads just below Cherbourg.
Whiles a Nazi military spokesman had broadcast Tuesday that the invasion came “just where we expected it,” events of the day proved otherwise. German Resistance has been increasing steadily since the first attack began, indicating that the enemy was taken by surprise when the landings started. There is evidence that the German high command had lost contact with its defense forces in the Charbourg area Tuesday, and was fishing vainly for information as to exact progress of the fighting.
Nazis Fleeing Italy
The invasion of France eclipsed the triumph of the Allied troops in Italy, who took Rome Sunday with but little resistance from the German armies, and by Tuesday were pursuing the remnants of Kesselring’s 10th and 4th armies 40 miles north of the eternal city.
General Sir Harold Alexander, the commander-in-chief of the Italian campaign for the Allies, proclaimed Wednesday that “the strength of the German armies has been broken”.
Worst Fighting Ahead
The worst of the fighting in France is expected at any moment when the Germans have organized their air and land strength for a showdown fight. Bad weather has kept the air battle from developing, and the Allied landings are expected in Holland, Belgium and possibly farther north. The inhabitants of the occupied nations have been counseled by General Dwight D. Eisenhower, commander of the invasion, to await the signal from him before attempting action against the Germans.
Meanwhile, the temporary quiet on the Russian front, where American air bases have been put into use the last two weeks, holds dreadful possibilities of fresh attack from the east. The Nazis make no secret of the gravity of their plight.

Olivia Times Journal published June 8, 1944.

With the invasion of Europe running into its third day, Allied forces have cleared and consolidated their beachheads on a 60-mile front and have captured the Nazi-fortified city of Bayeux on the Normandy peninsula.

Officials this morning said the British, American and Candian invasion forces were “doing better than expected,” in the face of ferocious armored counterattacks by German reserves.

Landing on a 60-mile coastal front in Normandy in northern France began Tuesday moring when radio reports of the start of the invasion began reaching Olivia residents.
The invasion which involved 4,000 watercraft crossing the English channel, together with a supporting force of 11,000 airplanes, met only minor opposition at first, as thought the Germans had been caught napping.

However, as operations progressed, Olivians, who have kept close to their radios since Tuesday, heard of strengthened German opposition.

Fighting is expected to increase in severity as more enemy reserves comes into action against the advancing Allies.
General Dwight D. Eisenhower, supreme commander, and Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsey, commander of the Allied naval forces, conferred for 4 1/2 hours off the invasion coast yesterday.

For the most part, Olivia residents took the news of the invasion calmly there was no fanfare, no blowing of whistles.

Businessmen kept the radios on in their shops and stores Tuesday and yesterday, picking up minute-by-minute reports of the progress of the gigantic operation.

American flags were displayed in front of most of the business placed in the village on Tuesday.

Olivia pastors sought the prayers of local citizens on behalf of the success of the invasion, and an organized prayer service was held in the Methodist church Tuesday evening.
Instead of cheering at the news of the beginning of the battle of Europe, Olivians, as well as the populace throughout the nation, have accepted it grimly, and a stern seriousness has pervaded the community since the first reports reached here.
Undoubtedly hundreds of Renville count young men, including many from Olivia, are taking an active part in the initial landing efforts and numerous others will be sent into the battle zone within the next few days.
Parents, wives, brothers, sisters, children, and friends of these men are anxiously awaiting word of the success of their undertakings.

Published in the Sacred Heart News on June 29, 1944

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