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D-Day, the Battle of Normandy

D-Day, the Battle of Normandy



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The Battle of Normandy was fought during World War II in the summer of 1944, between the Allied nations and German forces occupying Western Europe. More than 60 years later, the Normandy Invasion, or D-Day, remains the largest seaborne invasion in history, involving nearly three million troops crossing the English Channel from England to Normandy in occupied France.Twelve Allied nations provided fighting units that participated in the invasion, including Australia, Canada, Belgium, France, Czechoslovakia, Greece, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.Operation Overlord was the codename for the Allied invasion of northwest Europe. Operation Overlord also began on D-Day, and continued until Allied forces crossed the River Seine on August 19.The battle began months before the invasion, when Allied bombers began to pound the Normandy coast and farther south, to destroy transportation links, and disrupt the German army's build-up of their military strength. Gliders also brough in men, light artillery, jeeps, and small tanks.

There has been some confusion regarding the meaning of the “D” in D-Day. The most likely explanation is offered by the U.S. Army in their published manuals. The Army began to use the codes “H-hour” and “D-Day” during World War I, to indicate the time or date of an operation’s beginning. So the “D” may simply refer to the “day” of invasion.With the invasion of Normandy, General Dwight D. Eisenhower faced a task of magnitude and hazards never before attempted. He would have to move his forces 100 miles across the English Channel and storm a heavily fortified coastline. His enemy was the weapon-and-tank-superior German army commanded by Erwin Rommel, one of the most brilliant generals of the war. Less than 15 percent of the Allied forces coming aboard the ships had ever seen combat.An invading army had not crossed the unpredictable and dangerous English Channel since 1688. Once the massive Allied force set out, there was no turning back. The Allies boasted a 5,000-vessel armada that stretched as far as the eye could see, transporting both men and vehicles across the channel to the French beaches. In addition, the Allies had 4,000 smaller landing craft and more than 11,000 aircraft.By nightfall on June 6, more than 9,000 Allied soldiers were dead or wounded, but more than 100,000 had made it ashore and secured French coastal villages. Within weeks, supplies were being unloaded at Utah and Omaha beachheads at the rate of more than 20,000 tons per day. By June 11, more than 326,000 troops, 55,000 vehicles, and 105,000 tons of supplies had been landed on the beaches. By June 30, the Allies had established a firm foothold in Normandy. Allied forces crossed the River Seine on August 19.Military intelligence was an important part of the Normandy invasion. British and American cryptographers working in London deciphered coded messages that the German believed to be unbreakable. Messages could quite often be delivered to Eisenhower within two and a half hours of the time the Germans had sent it. In addition, reconnaissance teams took infrared pictures of Omaha Beach while avoiding German patrols.There is no official casualty figure for D-Day. It is estimated that more than 425,000 Allied and German troops were killed, wounded, or went missing during the battle. That figure includes more than 209,000 Allied casualties. In addition to roughly 200,000 German troops killed or wounded, the Allies also captured 200,000 soldiers. Captured Germans were sent to American prisoner-of-war camps at the rate of 30,000 per month, from D-Day until Christmas 1944. Between 15,000 and 20,000 French civilians were killed during the battle.In the end, the invasion of Normandy succeeded in its objective by sheer force of numbers. By July 1944, some one million Allied troops, mostly American, British, and Canadian, were entrenched in Normandy. During the great invasion, the Allies assembled nearly three million men and stored 16 million tons of arms, munitions, and supplies in Britain.The occupation of Normandy was crucial for the Western Allies to bring the war to the western border of Germany. If the Normandy invasion had not occurred, there could conceivably have been a complete possession of northern and western Europe by Soviet forces.


D-Day, the Battle of Normandy - History

General Dwight D. Eisenhower was appointed the Supreme Allied Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force during World War II. As leader of all Allied troops in Europe, he led "Operation Overlord," the amphibious invasion of Normandy across the English Channel. Eisenhower faced uncertainty about the operation, but D-Day was a military success, though at a huge cost of military and civilian lives lost, beginning the liberation of Nazi-occupied France. Read more.


1) after the dieppe raid, the allies prepare for d-day

The Dieppe Raid, bearing the unfortunate code name of Operation Jubilee, was carried out on 19 August 1942 with appalling casualties. It did at least provide valuable information on how not to carry out such amphibious operations, of which this was the first on any scale. Consisting mainly of Canadian troops, it was principally designed to test the German defences. With over 900 deaths among the Canadians alone, it fuelled German propaganda on the invincibility of their so-called ‘Atlantic Wall’.


Normandy bears the marks of the passing of this battle in the form of the many cemeteries across the region where the memory of those who fell is kept alive: British, Americans, Canadians, Poles, Australians, New Zealanders, French, Belgians. The Norwegians, Dutch, and other Allies who fought alongside them are also honoured in the many ceremonies held each summer. The suffering of the local population in Normandy should not be forgotten either as the fighting and bombing produced civilian death and destruction on a huge scale. Then there are the German cemeteries….

What follows invites you to reflect upon this terrible page of history by visiting – or re-visiting – the D-Day Landing Beaches, the many cemeteries, battlefield sites, and museums relating to D-Day and the Battle of Normandy. Freedom is not free it has a price, and it had to be fought for and defended. We, our children and grandchildren, still enjoy the first fruits of peace, reconciliation and freedom, and here in Normandy we are best placed to make your stay meaningful.


Photo Gallery

But by day’s end, 155,000 Allied troops𠄺mericans, British and Canadians–had successfully stormed Normandy’s beaches and were then able to push inland. Within three months, the northern part of France would be freed and the invasion force would be preparing to enter Germany, where they would meet up with Soviet forces moving in from the east.

Before the Allied assault, Hitler’s armies had been in control of most of mainland Europe and the Allies knew that a successful invasion of the continent was central to winning the war. Hitler knew this too, and was expecting an assault on northwestern Europe in the spring of 1944. He hoped to repel the Allies from the coast with a strong counterattack that would delay future invasion attempts, giving him time to throw the majority of his forces into defeating the Soviet Union in the east. Once that was accomplished, he believed an all-out victory would soon be his.

For their part, the Germans suffered from confusion in the ranks and the absence of celebrated commander Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, who was away on leave. At first, Hitler, believing that the invasion was a feint designed to distract the Germans from a coming attack north of the Seine River, refused to release nearby divisions to join the counterattack and reinforcements had to be called from further afield, causing delays.

He also hesitated in calling for armored divisions to help in the defense. In addition, the Germans were hampered by effective Allied air support, which took out many key bridges and forced the Germans to take long detours, as well as efficient Allied naval support, which helped protect advancing Allied troops.

Though D-Day did not go off exactly as planned, as later claimed by British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery𠄿or example, the Allies were able to land only fractions of the supplies and vehicles they had intended in France–the invasion was a decided success. By the end of June, the Allies had 850,000 men and 150,000 vehicles in Normandy and were poised to continue their march across Europe.

The heroism and bravery displayed by troops from the Allied countries on D-Day has served as inspiration for several films, most famously The Longest Day (1962) and Saving Private Ryan (1998). It was also depicted in the HBO series Band of Brothers (2001).


Contents

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]

Explanatory notes Edit

  1. ^ The Italian Social Republic forces during Operation Overlord were composed by the 4,000 men of the 1ª Divisione Atlantica Fucilieri di Marina. Circa 100 of them were stationed on the island of Cézembre. Viganò 1991, p. 181. Other forces include former prisoners-of-war put in labor and anti-air units. Frittoli 2019.
  2. ^ Around 812,000 were American and 640,000 were British and Canadian (Zetterling 2000, p. 408).
  3. ^ In addition, the Allied air forces made 480,317 sorties directly connected to the operation, with the loss of 4,101 planes and 16,714 lives. Tamelander & Zetterling 2003, p. 341.
  4. ^ V-weapons were first launched against the UK on 12 June (Wilmot 1997, p. 316).
  5. ^ The British 79th Armoured Division never operated as a single formation (Buckley 2006, p. 13), and thus has been excluded from the total. In addition, a combined total of 16 (three from the 79th Armoured Division) British, Belgian, Canadian, and Dutch independent brigades were committed to the operation, along with four battalions of the Special Air Service (Ellis, Allen & Warhurst 2004, pp. 521–523, 524).
  6. ^ As of November 1943. They also had 206 divisions on the Eastern Front, 24 in the Balkans, and 22 in Italy. Wilmot 1997, p. 144.
  7. ^ American casualties are sourced from the G-3 War Room Summary 91, dated 5 September 1944, covering the campaign (Pogue 1954, Chapter XIV, footnote 10). In 1953, the US Statistical and Accounting Branch, Office of the Adjutant General issued a final report on US casualties (excluding Air Force losses) for the period from 6 June to 14 September 1944. This source shows the number killed in action during the Battle of Normandy (6 June – 24 July 1944) as 13,959 and Northern France (25 July to 14 September 1944) as 15,239 for a total of 29,198. Total deaths among battle casualties (including accidental deaths, disease, etc) for Normandy (6 June – 24 July 1944) were 16,293 and in Northern France (25 July – 14 September 1944) were 17,844, for a total of 34,137 (US Army 1953, p. 92).
  8. ^ British casualties are sourced from "War Diary, 21st Army Group, 'A' Section, SITEP" dated 29 August 1944 (D'Este 2004, pp. 517–518).
  9. ^ The most common tank/assault gun deployed at Normandy by the Germans was by far the Panzer IV, followed by the Panther (650) and Stug III (550). Also present were 120–130 Tiger Is, 20 Tiger 2s, and smaller numbers of other types, including Marders and Jagdpanthers. Buckley 2006, pp. 117–120.

Citations Edit

  1. ^ abBeevor 2009, p. 82.
  2. ^Beevor 2009, p. 76.
  3. ^ abcWilliams 1988, p. x.
  4. ^Beevor 2009, p. 492.
  5. ^US Navy website.
  6. ^Luxembourg Army website.
  7. ^Badsey 1990, p. 85.
  8. ^Zetterling 2000, p. 32.
  9. ^Zetterling 2000, p. 34.
  10. ^Shulman 2007, p. 192.
  11. ^ abcdWilmot 1997, p. 434.
  12. ^Buckley 2006, pp. 117–120.
  13. ^ abcdeTamelander & Zetterling 2003, p. 341.
  14. ^ abcTamelander & Zetterling 2003, p. 342.
  15. ^ abZetterling 2000, p. 77.
  16. ^ abGiangreco, Moore & Polmar 2004, p. 252.
  17. ^ abTamelander & Zetterling 2003, pp. 342–343.
  18. ^Zetterling 2000, p. 83.
  19. ^ abcdBeevor 2009, p. 519.
  20. ^ abFlint 2009, pp. 336–337.
  21. ^Dear & Foot 2005, p. 322.
  22. ^Churchill 1949, p. 115.
  23. ^Zuehlke 2004, p. 20.
  24. ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, pp. 8–10.
  25. ^Churchill 1951, p. 582.
  26. ^Zuehlke 2004, pp. 21–22.
  27. ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, pp. 10–11.
  28. ^Beevor 2012, p. 319.
  29. ^ abFord & Zaloga 2009, p. 11.
  30. ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, p. 10.
  31. ^Wilmot 1997, pp. 177–178, chart p. 180.
  32. ^Whitmarsh 2009, p. 9.
  33. ^Zuehlke 2004, p. 23.
  34. ^Gilbert 1989, pp. 397, 478.
  35. ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, pp. 13–14.
  36. ^Beevor 2009, pp. 33–34.
  37. ^ abWilmot 1997, p. 170.
  38. ^Ambrose 1994, pp. 73–74.
  39. ^ abcFord & Zaloga 2009, p. 14.
  40. ^Gilbert 1989, p. 491.
  41. ^ abWhitmarsh 2009, pp. 12–13.
  42. ^Weinberg 1995, p. 684.
  43. ^Ellis, Allen & Warhurst 2004, pp. 521–533.
  44. ^Churchill 1951, p. 642.
  45. ^ abcdBeevor 2009, p. 3.
  46. ^Buckingham 2004, p. 88.
  47. ^Churchill 1951, pp. 592–593.
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  49. ^Ellis, Allen & Warhurst 2004, pp. 78, 81.
  50. ^Churchill 1951, p. 594.
  51. ^Goldstein, Dillon & Wenger 1994, p. 6.
  52. ^Whitmarsh 2009, Map, p. 12.
  53. ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, p. 25.
  54. ^Evans 2008, p. 623.
  55. ^Zuehlke 2004, p. 81.
  56. ^Whitmarsh 2009, p. 21.
  57. ^ abWhitmarsh 2009, p. 11.
  58. ^Whitmarsh 2009, pp. 27–28.
  59. ^Wilmot 1997, p. 181.
  60. ^Wilmot 1997, p. 183.
  61. ^ abWilmot 1997, p. 321.
  62. ^Whitmarsh 2009, pp. 89–90.
  63. ^Wilmot 1997, p. 182.
  64. ^Wilmot 1997, p. 195.
  65. ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, p. 208.
  66. ^Zuehlke 2004, pp. 42–43.
  67. ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, p. 73.
  68. ^Weinberg 1995, p. 680.
  69. ^Brown 2007, p. 465.
  70. ^Zuehlke 2004, pp. 71–72.
  71. ^ abWhitmarsh 2009, p. 27.
  72. ^Beevor 2009, p. 282.
  73. ^Beevor 2009, p. 4.
  74. ^ abWhitmarsh 2009, p. 34.
  75. ^Bickers 1994, pp. 19–21.
  76. ^Zuehlke 2004, p. 35.
  77. ^Goldstein, Dillon & Wenger 1994, pp. 50–51, 54–57.
  78. ^Lewis 1990, p. 254.
  79. ^Fenton 2004.
  80. ^Lewis 1990, p. 227.
  81. ^Zuehlke 2004, p. 36.
  82. ^Goldstein, Dillon & Wenger 1994, pp. 59, 61.
  83. ^Goldstein, Dillon & Wenger 1994, pp. 61–62.
  84. ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, p. 46.
  85. ^ abcdWhitmarsh 2009, p. 30.
  86. ^Whitmarsh 2009, pp. 30, 36.
  87. ^Dear & Foot 2005, p. 667.
  88. ^ abcWhitmarsh 2009, p. 31.
  89. ^ abcWhitmarsh 2009, p. 33.
  90. ^Beevor 2009, p. 21.
  91. ^Wilmot 1997, pp. 224–226.
  92. ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, p. 131.
  93. ^Beevor 2009, pp. 42–43.
  94. ^Wilmot 1997, p. 144.
  95. ^Beevor 2009, p. 34.
  96. ^Goldstein, Dillon & Wenger 1994, p. 13.
  97. ^Zaloga 2013, pp. 58–59.
  98. ^Goldstein, Dillon & Wenger 1994, pp. 16–19.
  99. ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, p. 37.
  100. ^Liedtke 2015, pp. 227–228, 235.
  101. ^Liedtke 2015, p. 225.
  102. ^Williams 2013, p. 182.
  103. ^Liedtke 2015, pp. 224–225.
  104. ^ abcFord & Zaloga 2009, p. 30.
  105. ^ abcdWhitmarsh 2009, p. 13.
  106. ^Beevor 2009, p. 33.
  107. ^Goldstein, Dillon & Wenger 1994, p. 11.
  108. ^Whitmarsh 2009, p. 12.
  109. ^ abFord & Zaloga 2009, pp. 54–56.
  110. ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, p. 31.
  111. ^Whitmarsh 2009, p. 15.
  112. ^Wilmot 1997, p. 192.
  113. ^Whitmarsh 2009, p. 42.
  114. ^Beevor 2009, pp. 1–2.
  115. ^ abBeevor 2009, p. 74.
  116. ^Beevor 2009, p. 79.
  117. ^Beevor 2009, p. 51.
  118. ^Beevor 2009, p. 51–52.
  119. ^Corta 1952, pp. 157–161.
  120. ^Corta 1997, pp. 64–79.
  121. ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, p. 69.
  122. ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, p. 70.
  123. ^Beevor 2009, p. 118.
  124. ^ abHughes 2010, p. 5.
  125. ^Whitmarsh 2009, p. 51.
  126. ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, pp. 166–167.
  127. ^ abBeevor 2009, p. 116.
  128. ^Beevor 2009, p. 115.
  129. ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, p. 172.
  130. ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, Map, p. 170.
  131. ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, pp. 95–104.
  132. ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, pp. 64–65, 334.
  133. ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, p. 45.
  134. ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, pp. 76–77, 334.
  135. ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, pp. 90–91.
  136. ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, pp. 56, 83.
  137. ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, p. 337.
  138. ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, pp. 281–282.
  139. ^Wilmot 1997, pp. 270–273.
  140. ^Wilmot 1997, pp. 275–276.
  141. ^Beevor 2009, p. 131.
  142. ^Wilmot 1997, pp. 277–278.
  143. ^Beevor 2009, pp. 143, 148.
  144. ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, pp. 326–327.
  145. ^Wilmot 1997, p. 283.
  146. ^Beevor 2009, pp. 215–216.
  147. ^Wilmot 1997, p. 387.
  148. ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, p. 331.
  149. ^Whitmarsh 2009, p. 87.
  150. ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, p. 335.
  151. ^Horn 2010, p. 13.
  152. ^Wilmot 1997, p. 360.
  153. ^Dear & Foot 2005, pp. 627–630.
  154. ^ abWilmot 1997, p. 301.
  155. ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, p. 175.
  156. ^Whitmarsh 2009, p. 49.
  157. ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, pp. 118–120.
  158. ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, p. 179.
  159. ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, p. 182.
  160. ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, pp. 185–193.
  161. ^Beevor 2009, p. 186.
  162. ^Ellis, Allen & Warhurst 2004, pp. 247–254.
  163. ^Forty 2004, pp. 36, 97.
  164. ^Wilmot 1997, p. 342.
  165. ^Beevor 2009, pp. 232–237.
  166. ^Wilmot 1997, p. 347.
  167. ^Copp 2000, p. 73.
  168. ^Beevor 2009, p. 273.
  169. ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, pp. 340–341.
  170. ^Beevor 2009, pp. 332–333.
  171. ^Beevor 2009, Map, p. 344.
  172. ^Beevor 2009, pp. 366–367.
  173. ^Wilmot 1997, pp. 398–400.
  174. ^Wilmot 1997, pp. 399–400.
  175. ^Wilmot 1997, p. 410.
  176. ^Beevor 2009, pp. 434–435.
  177. ^Wilmot 1997, pp. 416–417.
  178. ^Beevor 2009, p. 440.
  179. ^Wilmot 1997, p. 418.
  180. ^Wilmot 1997, p. 420.
  181. ^Bradley 1951, p. 377.
  182. ^Beevor 2009, pp. 439–440.
  183. ^Wilmot 1997, p. 424.
  184. ^Hastings 2006, p. 369.
  185. ^Wilmot 1997, pp. 421, 444.
  186. ^Evans 2008, p. 642.
  187. ^Beevor 2009, pp. 445, 447.
  188. ^Wilmot 1997, p. 429.
  189. ^Beevor 2009, pp. 481, 483, 494.
  190. ^Wilmot 1997, p. 430.
  191. ^ abStacey 1960, p. 286.
  192. ^Stacey 1948, p. 219.
  193. ^ abFord & Zaloga 2009, pp. 341–342.
  194. ^Wilmot 1997, p. 485.
  195. ^ abWhitmarsh 2009, p. 109.
  196. ^Gaddis 1990, p. 149.
  197. ^Wilmot 1997, p. 290.
  198. ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, p. 343.
  199. ^Wilmot 1997, p. 289.
  200. ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, p. 36.
  201. ^Copp 2003, p. 259.
  202. ^Wilmot 1997, p. 291.
  203. ^Wilmot 1997, p. 292.
  204. ^Stacey 1960, p. 271.
  205. ^Ellis, Allen & Warhurst 2004, pp. 487–488.
  206. ^Corta 1997, pp. 288–289.
  207. ^Beevor 2009, p. 522.
  208. ^D'Este 2004, p. 517.
  209. ^Ellis, Allen & Warhurst 2004, pp. 488, 493.
  210. ^Tamelander & Zetterling 2003, pp. 341–342.
  211. ^ abTamelander & Zetterling 2003, p. 343.
  212. ^Shulman 2007, p. 166.
  213. ^Copp 2000, pp. 399–400.
  214. ^Zetterling 2000, p. 408.
  215. ^Zaloga 2015, p. 470.
  216. ^Flint 2009, p. 305.
  217. ^Flint 2009, p. 350.
  218. ^ abBeevor 2009, p. 520.
  219. ^ abcFlint 2009, p. 354.
  220. ^ abFlint 2009, p. 352.
  221. ^Flint 2009, p. 337.
  222. ^Flint 2009, p. 292.
  223. ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, pp. 345–354.
  224. ^Traces of War.
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We spoke with Sessions and history professor William Hitchcock, author of “The Bitter Road to Freedom: A New History of the Liberation of Europe” and “The Age of Eisenhower: America and the World in the 1950s,” about D-Day, Eisenhower’s legacy, and the power struggles it set off in France.

Q. How did the D-Day invasion come about, and what was Eisenhower’s contribution?

Hitchcock: Older people overwhelmingly identify Ike as one of the great figures of the mid-century because of D-Day, because of the war. He is one of a very few for whom being president was not necessarily the most important thing in their lives. He really won his place in history in the European war.

D-Day was two years of preparation, but there are so many disagreements about it – and that is where Eisenhower’s talents really shone.

The British did not want to invade Germany from France they thought it would be too difficult. This explains the North Africa landings, and the Italian campaign – all of that was the British insisting they should go through a softer approach.

The Russians were slaughtering the Germans. Privately, the British were delighted that the Russians, after Stalingrad, had got the upper hand and they were slowly grinding their way westward. The German/Russian campaign is so enormous, it is soaking up so much of the German resources, but they could never say that publicly because at the same time [Soviet Marshal Joseph] Stalin keeps saying, “Where is the second front? Why haven’t you opened a second front? Is this a conspiracy to let us do all the work?” There is a careful kind of dance going on.

[U.S. President Franklin D.] Roosevelt is in the middle of this because he wants to get onto the continent, but he needs the British to support the plan.

Eisenhower is very much the man to solve this dilemma. It is so much about his personal skills and reconciling very strong personalities. He has to be the mediator between Roosevelt and [British Prime Minister Winston] Churchill, between [U.S. Army] Gen. [George] Marshall and [British Field Marshall Lord] Alanbrooke, between commanders like [U.S. Army Gen. George] Patton and [British Field Marshal Bernard] Montgomery.

He is also the guy who has to generate a sense of purpose and unity and optimism, even though he doesn’t believe in the strategy he has been given, which is go to North Africa first and then fight in Italy and then eventually we will get to France. At every stage he says that’s a terrible idea, but he does it anyway. And this is a really important part of his biography – dealing with failure.

It is a big part of who he becomes. It’s not just the one day. It is the two years of work that goes into its shape, how he handles the rest of his career and his presidency, of dealing with failure, of dealing with the media on an almost daily basis, contending with big, powerful personalities who disagree. These are talents that have emerged during the war that become part of his career.

Sessions: For a lot of Americans, what was happening in Europe seemed like not really American business. American interest was more invested in the Pacific conflict, where the U.S. had been attacked by the Japanese, than it was in being involved in another European war. So with Churchill and Stalin and Roosevelt, it took a lot of lobbying to get Americans into the war in Europe. Roosevelt’s conviction that American public opinion needed to be prepared for it is one of the reasons that the D-Day invasion was postponed as long as it was.

Q. What were the elements of the invasion?

Hitchcock: The scale of the whole operation is so enormous, and Eisenhower is at the head of an enormous planning staff that is carrying out this incredibly complicated logistical feat.

There is a huge air campaign, but they can’t bomb just in Normandy because then the Germans will say, “Well, that’s where the Americans are probably going to land.” So they carpet bomb much of the coast, taking aircraft away from bombing the Germans in the battlefields and their factories. There are not enough airplanes to do it all, so they have to divert airplanes to bomb the coastline while not giving away the destination.

And there is an enormous intelligence component. There are deception operations in an effort to fool the Germans as to where they are landing. The U.S. creates an entire fictious army located in Britain that is supposedly commanded by Patton in a secret operation called “Fortitude.” And they are running phony radio traffic for this phony army to fool the Germans into thinking that Patton is going to land much further north.

There is the dimension of working with [French] resistance forces. Eisenhower brought a few resistance leaders in, but he could not tell them too much because he didn’t want the resistance to leak the information. So Charles de Gaulle is not informed about the invasion of his own country until two days before D-Day. And this causes endless grievances after the war.

Sessions: For people in the north of France, D-Day meant days, if not weeks, of bombardment prior to the landing. It meant close to 10 weeks of fighting in which their villages changed hands. The advancing Allies, because they had air superiority, were bombing from the sky. There were artillery bombardments as the Allies approach each town. Being liberated meant, for many people, being in the line of fire in very literal ways, and having to calculate if the Germans were driven out, were they going to come back?


Contents

After the German Army invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin began pressing his new allies for the creation of a second front in western Europe. [13] In late May 1942 the Soviet Union and the United States made a joint announcement that a ". full understanding was reached with regard to the urgent tasks of creating a second front in Europe in 1942." [14] However, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill persuaded U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt to postpone the promised invasion as, even with U.S. help, the Allies did not have adequate forces for such an activity. [15]

Instead of an immediate return to France, the western Allies staged offensives in the Mediterranean Theatre of Operations, where British troops were already stationed. By mid-1943 the campaign in North Africa had been won. The Allies then launched the invasion of Sicily in July 1943 and subsequently invaded the Italian mainland in September the same year. By then, Soviet forces were on the offensive and had won a major victory at the Battle of Stalingrad. The decision to undertake a cross-channel invasion within the next year was taken at the Trident Conference in Washington in May 1943. [16] Initial planning was constrained by the number of available landing craft, most of which were already committed in the Mediterranean and Pacific. [17] At the Tehran Conference in November 1943, Roosevelt and Churchill promised Stalin that they would open the long-delayed second front in May 1944. [18]

The Allies considered four sites for the landings: Brittany, the Cotentin Peninsula, Normandy, and the Pas-de-Calais. As Brittany and Cotentin are peninsulas, it would have been possible for the Germans to cut off the Allied advance at a relatively narrow isthmus, so these sites were rejected. [19] With the Pas-de-Calais being the closest point in continental Europe to Britain, the Germans considered it to be the most likely initial landing zone, so it was the most heavily fortified region. [20] But it offered few opportunities for expansion, as the area is bounded by numerous rivers and canals, [21] whereas 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. Normandy was hence chosen as the landing site. [22] The most serious drawback of the Normandy coast—the lack of port facilities—would be overcome through the development of artificial Mulberry harbours. [23] A series of modified tanks, nicknamed Hobart's Funnies, dealt with specific requirements expected for the Normandy Campaign such as mine clearing, demolishing bunkers, and mobile bridging. [24]

The Allies planned to launch the invasion on 1 May 1944. [21] 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. [25] General Bernard Montgomery was named commander of the 21st Army Group, which comprised all land forces involved in the invasion. [26] On 31 December 1943, Eisenhower and Montgomery first saw the plan, which proposed amphibious landings by three divisions with two more divisions in support. The two generals insisted that the scale of the initial invasion be expanded to five divisions, with airborne descents by three additional divisions, to allow operations on a wider front and to hasten the capture of Cherbourg. [27] The need to acquire or produce extra landing craft for the expanded operation meant that the invasion had to be delayed to June. [27] Eventually, thirty-nine Allied divisions would be committed to the Battle of Normandy: twenty-two U.S., twelve British, three Canadian, one Polish, and one French, totalling over a million troops [28] all under overall British command. [29]

Operation Overlord was the name assigned to the establishment of a large-scale lodgement on the continent. The first phase, the amphibious invasion and establishment of a secure foothold, was codenamed Operation Neptune. [23] To gain the air superiority needed to ensure a successful invasion, the Allies undertook a bombing campaign (codenamed Operation Pointblank) that targeted German aircraft production, fuel supplies, and airfields. [23] Elaborate deceptions, codenamed Operation Bodyguard, were undertaken in the months leading up to the invasion to prevent the Germans from learning the timing and location of the invasion. [30]

The landings were to be preceded by airborne operations near Caen on the eastern flank to secure the Orne River bridges and north of Carentan on the western flank. The Americans, assigned to land at Utah Beach and Omaha Beach, were to attempt to capture Carentan and Saint-Lô the first day, then cut off the Cotentin Peninsula and eventually capture the port facilities at Cherbourg. The British at Sword and Gold Beaches and Canadians at Juno Beach would protect the U.S. flank and attempt to establish airfields near Caen on the first day. [31] [32] (A sixth beach, code-named "Band", was considered to the east of the Orne. [33] ) A secure lodgement would be established with all invading forces linked together, with an attempt to hold all territory north of the Avranches-Falaise line within the first three weeks. [31] [32] Montgomery envisaged a ninety-day battle, lasting until all Allied forces reached the River Seine. [34]

Under the overall umbrella of Operation Bodyguard, the Allies conducted several subsidiary operations designed to mislead the Germans as to the date and location of the Allied landings. [35] Operation Fortitude included Fortitude North, a misinformation campaign using fake radio traffic to lead the Germans into expecting an attack on Norway, [36] and Fortitude South, a major deception involving the creation of a fictitious First United States Army Group under Lieutenant General George S. Patton, supposedly located in Kent and Sussex. Fortitude South was intended to deceive the Germans into believing that the main attack would take place at Calais. [30] [37] 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. [38] Patton was stationed in England until 6 July, thus continuing to deceive the Germans into believing a second attack would take place at Calais. [39]

Many of the German radar stations on the French coast were destroyed in preparation for the landings. [40] In addition, on the night before the invasion, a small group of Special Air Service operators deployed dummy paratroopers over Le Havre and Isigny. These dummies led the Germans to believe that an additional airborne landing had occurred. On that same night, in Operation Taxable, No. 617 Squadron RAF dropped strips of "window", metal foil that caused a radar return which was mistakenly interpreted by German radar operators as a naval convoy near Le Havre. The illusion was bolstered by a group of small vessels towing barrage balloons. A similar deception was undertaken near Boulogne-sur-Mer in the Pas de Calais area by No. 218 Squadron RAF in Operation Glimmer. [41] [3]

The invasion planners determined a set of conditions involving the phase of the moon, the tides, and the time of day that would be satisfactory on only a few days in each month. 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 on the beach while minimising the amount of time the men would be exposed in the open. [42] Eisenhower had tentatively selected 5 June as the date for the assault. However, on 4 June, conditions were 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. [43]

Group Captain James Stagg of the Royal Air Force (RAF) met Eisenhower on the evening of 4 June. He and his meteorological team predicted that the weather would improve enough for the invasion to proceed on 6 June. [44] The next available dates with the required tidal conditions (but without the desirable full moon) would be two weeks later, from 18 to 20 June. Postponement of the invasion would have required recalling men and ships already in position to cross the English Channel and would have increased the chance that the invasion plans would be detected. [45] After much discussion with the other senior commanders, Eisenhower decided that the invasion should go ahead on 6 June. [46] A major storm battered the Normandy coast from 19 to 22 June, which would have made the beach landings impossible. [43]

Allied control of the Atlantic meant German meteorologists had less information than the Allies on incoming weather patterns. [40] As the Luftwaffe meteorological centre in Paris was predicting 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. [47] Field Marshal Erwin Rommel returned to Germany for his wife's birthday and to meet with Hitler to try to obtain more Panzers. [48]

Nazi Germany had at its disposal fifty divisions in France and the Low Countries, with another eighteen stationed in Denmark and Norway. Fifteen divisions were in the process of formation in Germany. [49] Combat losses throughout the war, particularly on the Eastern Front, meant that 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 Russia, Mongolia, and other areas of the Soviet Union. They were provided mainly with unreliable captured equipment and lacked motorised transport. [50] [51] Many German units were under strength. [52]

In early 1944, the German Western Front (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. [53] It was the first major transfer of forces from France to the east since the creation of Führer Directive 51, which eased restrictions on troop transfers to the eastern front. [54]

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 the Dnieper-Carpathian operation. Seven of the eleven panzer or panzergrenadier divisions stationed in France were not fully operational or only partially mobile in early June 1944. [55]

  • Oberbefehlshaber West (Supreme Commander West OB West): Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt
  • (Panzer Group West: General Leo Geyr von Schweppenburg)
    : Field Marshal Erwin Rommel
      : GeneraloberstFriedrich Dollmann
      • LXXXIV Corps under General der ArtillerieErich Marcks

      Cotentin Peninsula

      Allied forces attacking Utah Beach faced the following German units stationed on the Cotentin Peninsula:

        709th Static Infantry Division under GeneralleutnantKarl-Wilhelm von Schlieben numbered 12,320 men, many of them Ostlegionen (non-German conscripts recruited from Soviet prisoners of war, Georgians and Poles). [56]
        • 729th Grenadier Regiment [57]
        • 739th Grenadier Regiment [57]
        • 919th Grenadier Regiment [57]

        Grandcamps Sector

        Americans assaulting Omaha Beach faced the following troops:

          352nd Infantry Division under GeneralleutnantDietrich Kraiss, a full-strength unit of around 12,000 brought in by Rommel on 15 March and reinforced by two additional regiments. [58]
          • 914th Grenadier Regiment [59]
          • 915th Grenadier Regiment (as reserves) [59]
          • 916th Grenadier Regiment [59]
          • 726th Infantry Regiment (from 716th Infantry Division) [59]
          • 352nd Artillery Regiment [59]

          Allied forces at Gold and Juno faced the following elements of the 352nd Infantry Division:

          • 914th Grenadier Regiment [60]
          • 915th Grenadier Regiment [60]
          • 916th Grenadier Regiment [60]
          • 352nd Artillery Regiment [60]

          Forces around Caen

          Allied forces attacking Gold, Juno, and Sword Beaches faced the following German units:

            716th Static Infantry Division under GeneralleutnantWilhelm Richter. At 7,000 troops, the division was significantly understrength. [61]
            • 736th Infantry Regiment [62]
            • 1716th Artillery Regiment [62]
            • 100th Panzer Regiment [60] (at Falaise under Hermann von Oppeln-Bronikowski renamed 22nd Panzer Regiment in May 1944 to avoid confusion with 100th Panzer Battalion) [64]
            • 125th Panzergrenadier Regiment [60] (under Hans von Luck from April 1944) [65]
            • 192nd Panzergrenadier Regiment [60]
            • 155th Panzer Artillery Regiment [60]

            Alarmed by the raids on St Nazaire and Dieppe in 1942, Hitler had 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 shortages, particularly of concrete and manpower, meant that most of the strongpoints were never built. [66] As it was expected to be the site of the invasion, the Pas de Calais was heavily defended. [66] In the Normandy area, the best fortifications were concentrated at the port facilities at Cherbourg and Saint-Malo. [27] Rommel was assigned to oversee the construction of further fortifications along the expected invasion front, which stretched from the Netherlands to Cherbourg, [66] [67] and 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. Reserves for this group included the 2nd, 21st, and 116th Panzer divisions. [68] [69]

            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 beaches to delay the approach of landing craft and impede the movement of tanks. [70] 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 water mark. [42] Tangles of barbed wire, booby traps, and the removal of ground cover made the approach hazardous for infantry. [70] On Rommel's order, the number of mines along the coast was tripled. [27] The Allied air offensive over Germany had crippled the Luftwaffe and established air supremacy over western Europe, so Rommel knew he could not expect effective air support. [71] The Luftwaffe could muster only 815 aircraft [72] over Normandy in comparison to the Allies' 9,543. [73] Rommel arranged for booby-trapped stakes known as Rommelspargel (Rommel's asparagus) to be installed in meadows and fields to deter airborne landings. [27]

            German armaments minister Albert Speer notes in his 1969 autobiography that the German high command, concerned about the susceptibility of the airports and port facilities along the North Sea coast, held a conference on 6–8 June 1944 to discuss reinforcing defenses in that area. [74] Speer wrote:

            In Germany itself we scarcely had any troop units at our disposal. If the airports at Hamburg and Bremen could be taken by parachute units and the ports of these cities seized by small forces, invasion armies debarking from ships would, I feared, meet no resistance and would be occupying Berlin and all of Germany within a few days. [75]

            Rommel believed that Germany's best chance was to stop the invasion at the shore. He requested that the mobile reserves, especially tanks, be stationed as close to the coast as possible. Rundstedt, Geyr, and other senior commanders objected. They 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. He also noted that in the Italian Campaign, the armoured units stationed near the coast had been damaged by naval bombardment. Rommel's opinion was that because of Allied air supremacy, the large-scale movement of tanks would not be possible once the invasion was under way. Hitler made the final decision, which was to leave threePanzer divisions under Geyr's command and give Rommel operational control of three more as reserves. Hitler took personal control of four divisions as strategic reserves, not to be used without his direct orders. [76] [77] [78]

            Commander, SHAEF: General Dwight D. Eisenhower
            Commander, 21st Army Group: General Bernard Montgomery [79]

            U.S. zones

            The First Army contingent totalled approximately 73,000 men, including 15,600 from the airborne divisions. [80]

              VII Corps, commanded by Major General J. Lawton Collins[81]
                4th Infantry Division: Major General Raymond O. Barton[81]82nd Airborne Division: Major General Matthew Ridgway[81]90th Infantry Division: Brigadier General Jay W. MacKelvie[81]101st Airborne Division: Major General Maxwell D. Taylor[81]
                V Corps, commanded by Major General Leonard T. Gerow, making up 34,250 men [82]
                  1st Infantry Division: Major General Clarence R. Huebner[83]29th Infantry Division: Major General Charles H. Gerhardt[83]

                British and Canadian zones

                Commander, Second Army: Lieutenant General Sir Miles Dempsey [79]

                Overall, the Second Army contingent consisted of 83,115 men, 61,715 of them British. [80] The nominally British air and naval support units included a large number of personnel from Allied nations, including several RAF squadrons manned almost exclusively by overseas air crew. For example, the Australian contribution to the operation included a regular Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) squadron, nine Article XV squadrons, and hundreds of personnel posted to RAF units and RN warships. [84] The RAF supplied two-thirds of the aircraft involved in the invasion. [85]

                  British I Corps, commanded by Lieutenant General John Crocker[87]
                    3rd Canadian Division: Major General Rod Keller[87]
                    British I Corps, commanded by Lieutenant General John Crocker [88]
                      3rd Infantry Division: Major General Tom Rennie[88]6th Airborne Division: Major General R.N. Gale[88]

                    79th Armoured Division: Major General Percy Hobart [89] provided specialised armoured vehicles which supported the landings on all beaches in Second Army's sector.

                    Through the London-based État-major des Forces Françaises de l'Intérieur (French Forces of the Interior), the British Special Operations Executive orchestrated a campaign of sabotage to be implemented by the French Resistance. The Allies developed four plans for the Resistance to execute on D-Day and the following days:

                    • Plan Vert was a 15-day operation to sabotage the rail system.
                    • Plan Bleu dealt with destroying electrical facilities.
                    • Plan Tortue was a delaying operation aimed at the enemy forces that would potentially reinforce Axis forces at Normandy.
                    • Plan Violet dealt with cutting underground telephone and teleprinter cables. [90]

                    The resistance was alerted to carry out these tasks by messages personnels transmitted by the BBC's French service from London. Several hundred of these messages, which might be snippets of poetry, quotations from literature, or random sentences, were regularly transmitted, masking the few that were actually significant. In the weeks preceding the landings, lists of messages and their meanings were distributed to resistance groups. [91] An increase in radio activity on 5 June was correctly interpreted by German intelligence to mean that an invasion was imminent or underway. However, because of the barrage of previous false warnings and misinformation, most units ignored the warning. [92] [93]

                    A 1965 report from the Counter-insurgency Information Analysis Center details the results of the French Resistance's sabotage efforts: "In the southeast, 52 locomotives were destroyed on 6 June and the railway line cut in more than 500 places. Normandy was isolated as of 7 June." [94]

                    Naval operations for the invasion were described by historian Correlli Barnett as a "never surpassed masterpiece of planning". [95] In overall command was British Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay, who had served as Flag officer at Dover during the Dunkirk evacuation four years earlier. He had also been responsible for the naval planning of the invasion of North Africa in 1942, and one of the two fleets carrying troops for the invasion of Sicily the following year. [96]

                    The invasion fleet, which was drawn from eight different navies, comprised 6,939 vessels: 1,213 warships, 4,126 landing craft of various types, 736 ancillary craft, and 864 merchant vessels. [80] The majority of the fleet was supplied by the UK, which provided 892 warships and 3,261 landing craft. [85] In total there were 195,700 naval personnel involved of these 112,824 were from the Royal Navy with another 25,000 from the Merchant Navy 52,889 were American and 4,998 sailors from other allied countries. [80] [8] The invasion fleet was split into the Western Naval Task Force (under Admiral Alan G. Kirk) supporting the U.S. sectors and the Eastern Naval Task Force (under Admiral Sir Philip Vian) in the British and Canadian sectors. [97] [96] Available to the fleet were five battleships, 20 cruisers, 65 destroyers, and two monitors. [98] German ships in the area on D-Day included three torpedo boats, 29 fast attack craft, 36 R boats, and 36 minesweepers and patrol boats. [99] The Germans also had several U-boats available, and all the approaches had been heavily mined. [42]

                    Naval losses

                    At 05:10, four German torpedo boats reached the Eastern Task Force and launched fifteen torpedoes, sinking the Norwegian destroyer HNoMS Svenner off Sword Beach but missing the British battleships HMS Warspite and Ramillies. After attacking, the German vessels turned away and fled east into a smoke screen that had been laid by the RAF to shield the fleet from the long-range battery at Le Havre. [100] Allied losses to mines included the American destroyer USS Corry off Utah and submarine chaser USS PC-1261, a 173-foot patrol craft. [101] In addition, many landing craft were lost. [102]

                    Bombing of Normandy began around midnight with more than 2,200 British, Canadian, and U.S. bombers attacking targets along the coast and further inland. [42] The coastal bombing attack was largely ineffective at Omaha, because low cloud cover made the assigned targets difficult to see. Concerned about inflicting casualties on their own troops, many bombers delayed their attacks too long and failed to hit the beach defences. [103] The Germans had 570 aircraft stationed in Normandy and the Low Countries on D-Day, and another 964 in Germany. [42]

                    Minesweepers began clearing channels for the invasion fleet shortly after midnight and finished just after dawn without encountering the enemy. [104] The Western Task Force included the battleships Arkansas, Nevada, and Texas, plus eight cruisers, 28 destroyers, and one monitor. [105] The Eastern Task Force included the battleships Ramillies and Warspite and the monitor Roberts, twelve cruisers, and thirty-seven destroyers. [2] Naval bombardment of areas behind the beach commenced at 05:45, while it was still dark, with the gunners switching to pre-assigned targets on the beach as soon as it was light enough to see, at 05:50. [106] Since troops were scheduled to land at Utah and Omaha starting at 06:30 (an hour earlier than the British beaches), these areas received only about 40 minutes of naval bombardment before the assault troops began to land on the shore. [107]

                    The success of the amphibious landings depended on the establishment of a secure lodgement from which to expand the beachhead to allow the buildup of a well-supplied force capable of breaking out. The amphibious forces were especially vulnerable to strong enemy counter-attacks before the arrival of sufficient forces in the beachhead could be accomplished. To slow or eliminate the enemy's ability to organise and launch counter-attacks during this critical period, airborne operations were used to seize key objectives such as bridges, road crossings, and terrain features, particularly on the eastern and western flanks of the landing areas. The airborne landings some distance behind the beaches were also intended to ease the egress of the amphibious forces off the beaches, and in some cases to neutralise German coastal defence batteries and more quickly expand the area of the beachhead. [108] [109]

                    The U.S. 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions were assigned to objectives west of Utah Beach, where they hoped to capture and control the few narrow causeways through terrain that had been intentionally flooded by the Germans. Reports from Allied intelligence in mid-May of the arrival of the German 91st Infantry Division meant the intended drop zones had to be shifted eastward and to the south. [110] The British 6th Airborne Division, on the eastern flank, was assigned to capture intact the bridges over the Caen Canal and River Orne, destroy five bridges over the Dives 6 miles (9.7 km) to the east, and destroy the Merville Gun Battery overlooking Sword Beach. [111] Free French paratroopers from the British SAS Brigade were assigned to objectives in Brittany from 5 June until August in Operations Dingson, Samwest, and Cooney. [112] [113]

                    BBC war correspondent Robert Barr described the scene as paratroopers prepared to board their aircraft:

                    Their faces were darkened with cocoa sheathed knives were strapped to their ankles tommy guns strapped to their waists bandoliers and hand grenades, coils of rope, pick handles, spades, rubber dinghies hung around them, and a few personal oddments, like the lad who was taking a newspaper to read on the plane . There was an easy familiar touch about the way they were getting ready, as though they had done it often before. Well, yes, they had kitted up and climbed aboard often just like this—twenty, thirty, forty times some of them, but it had never been quite like this before. This was the first combat jump for every one of them. [114]

                    United States

                    The U.S. airborne landings began with the arrival of pathfinders at 00:15. Navigation was difficult because of a bank of thick cloud, and as a result, only one of the five paratrooper drop zones was accurately marked with radar signals and Aldis lamps. [115] Paratroopers of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions, numbering over 13,000 men, were delivered by Douglas C-47 Skytrains of the IX Troop Carrier Command. [116] To avoid flying over the invasion fleet, the planes arrived from the west over the Cotentin Peninsula and exited over Utah Beach. [117] [115]

                    Paratroops from 101st Airborne were dropped beginning around 01:30, tasked with controlling the causeways behind Utah Beach and destroying road and rail bridges over the Douve River. [118] The C-47s could not fly in a tight formation because of thick cloud cover, and many paratroopers were dropped far from their intended landing zones. Many planes came in so low that they were under fire from both flak and machine-gun fire. Some paratroopers were killed on impact when their parachutes did not have time to open, and others drowned in the flooded fields. [119] Gathering together into fighting units was made difficult by a shortage of radios and by the bocage terrain, with its hedgerows, stone walls, and marshes. [120] [121] Some units did not arrive at their targets until afternoon, by which time several of the causeways had already been cleared by members of the 4th Infantry Division moving up from the beach. [122]

                    Troops of the 82nd Airborne began arriving around 02:30, with the primary objective of capturing two bridges over the River Merderet and destroying two bridges over the Douve. [118] On the east side of the river, 75 per cent of the paratroopers landed in or near their drop zone, and within two hours they captured the important crossroads at Sainte-Mère-Église (the first town liberated in the invasion [123] ) and began working to protect the western flank. [124] Because of the failure of the pathfinders to accurately mark their drop zone, the two regiments dropped on the west side of the Merderet were extremely scattered, with only four per cent landing in the target area. [124] Many landed in nearby swamps, with much loss of life. [125] Paratroopers consolidated into small groups, usually a combination of men of various ranks from different units, and attempted to concentrate on nearby objectives. [126] They captured but failed to hold the Merderet River bridge at La Fière, and fighting for the crossing continued for several days. [127]

                    Reinforcements arrived by glider around 04:00 (Mission Chicago and Mission Detroit), and 21:00 (Mission Keokuk and Mission Elmira), bringing additional troops and heavy equipment. Like the paratroopers, many landed far from their drop zones. [128] Even those that landed on target experienced difficulty, with heavy cargo such as Jeeps shifting during landing, crashing through the wooden fuselage, and in some cases crushing personnel on board. [129]

                    After 24 hours, only 2,500 men of the 101st and 2,000 of the 82nd Airborne were under the control of their divisions, approximately a third of the force dropped. This wide dispersal had the effect of confusing the Germans and fragmenting their response. [130] The 7th Army received notification of the parachute drops at 01:20, but Rundstedt did not initially believe that a major invasion was underway. The destruction of radar stations along the Normandy coast in the week before the invasion meant that the Germans did not detect the approaching fleet until 02:00. [131]

                    British and Canadian

                    The first Allied action of D-Day was the capture of the Caen canal and Orne river bridges via a glider assault at 00:16 (since renamed Pegasus Bridge and Horsa Bridge). Both bridges were quickly captured intact, with light casualties by the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Regiment. They were then reinforced by members of the 5th Parachute Brigade and the 7th (Light Infantry) Parachute Battalion. [132] [133] The five bridges over the Dives were destroyed with minimal difficulty by the 3rd Parachute Brigade. [134] [135] Meanwhile, the pathfinders tasked with setting up radar beacons and lights for further paratroopers (scheduled to begin arriving at 00:50 to clear the landing zone north of Ranville) were blown off course and had to set up the navigation aids too far east. Many paratroopers, also blown too far east, landed far from their intended drop zones some took hours or even days to be reunited with their units. [136] [137] Major General Richard Gale arrived in the third wave of gliders at 03:30, along with equipment, such as antitank guns and jeeps, and more troops to help secure the area from counter-attacks, which were initially staged only by troops in the immediate vicinity of the landings. [138] At 02:00, the commander of the German 716th Infantry Division ordered Feuchtinger to move his 21st Panzer Division into position to counter-attack. However, as the division was part of the armoured reserve, Feuchtinger was obliged to seek clearance from OKW before he could commit his formation. [139] Feuchtinger did not receive orders until nearly 09:00, but in the meantime on his own initiative he put together a battle group (including tanks) to fight the British forces east of the Orne. [140]

                    Only 160 men out of the 600 members of the 9th Battalion tasked with eliminating the enemy battery at Merville arrived at the rendezvous point. Lieutenant Colonel Terence Otway, in charge of the operation, decided to proceed regardless, as the emplacement had to be destroyed by 06:00 to prevent it firing on the invasion fleet and the troops arriving on Sword Beach. In the Battle of Merville Gun Battery, Allied forces disabled the guns with plastic explosives at a cost of 75 casualties. The emplacement was found to contain 75 mm guns rather than the expected 150 mm heavy coastal artillery. Otway's remaining force withdrew with the assistance of a few members of the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion. [141]

                    With this action, the last of the D-Day goals of the British 6th Airborne Division was achieved. [142] They were reinforced at 12:00 by commandos of the 1st Special Service Brigade, who landed on Sword Beach, and by the 6th Airlanding Brigade, who arrived in gliders at 21:00 in Operation Mallard. [143]

                    Tanks

                    Some of the landing craft had been modified to provide close support fire, and self-propelled amphibious Duplex-Drive tanks (DD tanks), specially designed for the Normandy landings, were to land shortly before the infantry to provide covering fire. However, few arrived in advance of the infantry, and many sank before reaching the shore, especially at Omaha. [144] [145]

                    Utah Beach

                    Utah Beach was in the area defended by two battalions of the 919th Grenadier Regiment. [146] Members of the 8th Infantry Regiment of the 4th Infantry Division were the first to land, arriving at 06:30. Their landing craft were pushed to the south by strong currents, and they found themselves about 2,000 yards (1.8 km) from their intended landing zone. This site turned out to be better, as there was only one strongpoint nearby rather than two, and bombers of IX Bomber Command had bombed the defences from lower than their prescribed altitude, inflicting considerable damage. In addition, the strong currents had washed ashore many of the underwater obstacles. The assistant commander of the 4th Infantry Division, Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt Jr., the first senior officer ashore, made the decision to "start the war from right here," and ordered further landings to be re-routed. [147] [148]

                    The initial assault battalions were quickly followed by 28 DD tanks and several waves of engineer and demolition teams to remove beach obstacles and clear the area directly behind the beach of obstacles and mines. Gaps were blown in the sea wall to allow quicker access for troops and tanks. Combat teams began to exit the beach at around 09:00, with some infantry wading through the flooded fields rather than travelling on the single road. They skirmished throughout the day with elements of the 919th Grenadier Regiment, who were armed with antitank guns and rifles. The main strongpoint in the area and another 1,300 yards (1.2 km) to the south were disabled by noon. [149] The 4th Infantry Division did not meet all of their D-Day objectives at Utah Beach, partly because they had arrived too far to the south, but they landed 21,000 troops at the cost of only 197 casualties. [150] [151]

                    Pointe du Hoc

                    Pointe du Hoc, a prominent headland situated between Utah and Omaha, was assigned to two hundred men of the 2nd Ranger Battalion, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel James Rudder. Their task was to scale the 30 m (98 ft) cliffs with grappling hooks, ropes, and ladders to destroy the coastal gun battery located at the top. The cliffs were defended by the German 352nd Infantry Division and French collaborators firing from above. [152] Allied destroyers Satterlee and Talybont provided fire support. After scaling the cliffs, the Rangers discovered that the guns had already been withdrawn. They located the weapons, unguarded but ready to use, in an orchard some 550 metres (600 yd) south of the point, and disabled them with explosives. [152]

                    The Rangers fended off numerous counter-attacks from the German 914th Grenadier Regiment. The men were isolated, and some were captured. By dawn on 7 June, Rudder had only 90 men able to fight. Relief did not arrive until 8 June, when members of the 743rd Tank Battalion and others arrived. [153] [154] By then, Rudder's men had run out of ammunition and were using captured German weapons. Several men were killed as a result, because the German weapons made a distinctive noise, and the men were mistaken for the enemy. [155] By the end of the battle, the Rangers casualties were 135 dead and wounded, while German casualties were 50 killed and 40 captured. An unknown number of French collaborators were executed. [156] [157]

                    Omaha Beach

                    Omaha, the most heavily defended beach, was assigned to the 1st Infantry Division and 29th Infantry Division. [158] They faced the 352nd Infantry Division rather than the expected single regiment. [159] Strong currents forced many landing craft east of their intended position or caused them to be delayed. [160] For fear of hitting the landing craft, U.S. bombers delayed releasing their loads and, as a result most of the beach obstacles at Omaha remained undamaged when the men came ashore. [161] Many of the landing craft ran aground on sandbars, and the men had to wade 50–100m in water up to their necks while under fire to get to the beach. [145] In spite of the rough seas, DD tanks of two companies of the 741st Tank Battalion were dropped 5,000 yards (4,600 m) from shore however, 27 of the 32 flooded and sank, with the loss of 33 crew. [162] Some tanks, disabled on the beach, continued to provide covering fire until their ammunition ran out or they were swamped by the rising tide. [163]

                    Casualties were around 2,000, as the men were subjected to fire from the cliffs above. [164] 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 provide fire support so landings could resume. [165] Exit from the beach was possible only via five heavily defended gullies, and by late morning barely 600 men had reached the higher ground. [166] 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 gullies of enemy defences so that vehicles could move off the beach. [166] The tenuous beachhead was expanded over the following days, and the D-Day objectives for Omaha were accomplished by 9 June. [167]

                    Gold Beach

                    The first landings on Gold Beach were set for 07:25 because of the differences in the tide between there and the U.S. beaches. [168] High winds made conditions difficult for the landing craft, and the amphibious DD tanks were released close to shore or directly on the beach instead of further out as planned. [169] Three of the four guns in a large emplacement at the Longues-sur-Mer battery were disabled by direct hits from the cruisers HMS Ajax and Argonaut at 06:20. The fourth gun resumed firing intermittently in the afternoon, and its garrison surrendered on 7 June. [170] Aerial attacks had failed to hit the Le Hamel strongpoint, which had its embrasure facing east to provide enfilade fire along the beach and had a thick concrete wall on the seaward side. [171] Its 75 mm gun continued to do damage until 16:00, when an Armoured Vehicle Royal Engineers (AVRE) tank fired a large petard charge into its rear entrance. [172] [173] A second casemated emplacement at La Rivière containing an 88 mm gun was neutralised by a tank at 07:30. [174]

                    Meanwhile, infantry began clearing the heavily fortified houses along the shore and advanced on targets further inland. [175] The No. 47 (Royal Marine) Commando moved toward the small port at Port-en-Bessin and captured it the following day in the Battle of Port-en-Bessin. [176] Company Sergeant Major Stanley Hollis received the only Victoria Cross awarded on D-Day for his actions while attacking two pillboxes at the Mont Fleury high point. [177] On the western flank, the 1st Battalion, Royal Hampshire Regiment captured Arromanches (future site of Mulberry "B"), and contact was made on the eastern flank with the Canadian forces at Juno. [178] Bayeux was not captured the first day because of stiff resistance from the 352nd Infantry Division. [175] Allied casualties at Gold Beach are estimated at 1,000. [80]

                    Juno Beach

                    The landing at Juno Beach was delayed because of choppy 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. [179] Several exits from the beach were created, but not without difficulty. At Mike Beach on the western flank, a large crater was filled using an abandoned AVRE tank and several rolls of fascine, which were then covered by a temporary bridge. The tank remained in place until 1972 when it was removed and restored by members of the Royal Engineers. [180] The beach and nearby streets were clogged with traffic for most of the day, making it difficult to move inland. [102]

                    Major German strongpoints with 75 mm guns, machine-gun nests, concrete fortifications, barbed wire, and mines were located at Courseulles-sur-Mer, St Aubin-sur-Mer, and Bernières-sur-Mer. [181] The towns had to be cleared in house-to-house fighting. [182] Soldiers on their way to Bény-sur-Mer, 3 miles (5 km) inland, discovered that the road was well covered by machine gun emplacements that had to be outflanked before the advance could proceed. [183] Elements of the 9th Canadian Infantry Brigade advanced to within sight of the Carpiquet airfield late in the afternoon, but by this time their supporting armour was low on ammunition so the Canadians dug in for the night. The airfield was not captured until a month later as the area became the scene of fierce fighting. [184] By nightfall, the contiguous Juno and Gold beachheads covered an area 12 miles (19 km) wide and 7 miles (10 km) deep. [185] Casualties at Juno were 961 men. [186]

                    Sword Beach

                    On Sword Beach, 21 of 25 DD tanks of the first wave were successful in getting safely ashore to provide cover for the infantry, who began disembarking at 07:30. [187] The beach was heavily mined and peppered with obstacles, making the work of the beach clearing teams difficult and dangerous. [188] In the windy conditions, the tide came in more quickly than expected, so manoeuvring the armour was difficult. The beach quickly became congested. [189] Brigadier Simon Fraser, 15th Lord Lovat and his 1st Special Service Brigade arrived in the second wave, piped ashore by Private Bill Millin, Lovat's personal piper. [190] Members of No. 4 Commando moved through Ouistreham to attack from the rear a German gun battery on the shore. A concrete observation and control tower at this emplacement had to be bypassed and was not captured until several days later. [191] French forces under Commander Philippe Kieffer (the first French soldiers to arrive in Normandy) attacked and cleared the heavily fortified strongpoint at the casino at Riva Bella, with the aid of one of the DD tanks. [191]

                    The 'Morris' strongpoint near Colleville-sur-Orne was captured after about an hour of fighting. [189] The nearby 'Hillman' strongpoint, headquarters of the 736th Infantry Regiment, was a large complex defensive work that had come through the morning's bombardment essentially undamaged. It was not captured until 20:15. [192] The 2nd Battalion, King's Shropshire Light Infantry began advancing to Caen on foot, coming within a few kilometres of the town, but had to withdraw due to lack of armour support. [193] At 16:00, the 21st Panzer Division mounted a counter-attack between Sword and Juno and nearly succeeded in reaching the Channel. It met stiff resistance from the British 3rd Division and was soon recalled to assist in the area between Caen and Bayeux. [194] [195] Estimates of Allied casualties on Sword Beach are as high as 1,000. [80]

                    The Normandy landings were the largest seaborne invasion in history, with nearly 5,000 landing and assault craft, 289 escort vessels, and 277 minesweepers participating. [196] Nearly 160,000 troops crossed the English Channel on D-Day, [29] with 875,000 men disembarking by the end of June. [197] Allied casualties on the first day were at least 10,000, with 4,414 confirmed dead. [198] The Germans lost 1,000 men. [12] The Allied invasion plans had called for the capture of Carentan, Saint-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. [32] The five beachheads 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. [199] Caen, a major objective, was still in German hands at the end of D-Day and would not be completely captured until 21 July. [200] The Germans had ordered French civilians other than those deemed essential to the war effort to leave potential combat zones in Normandy. [201] Civilian casualties on D-Day and D+1 are estimated at 3,000. [202]

                    The Allied 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. [203] The deceptions undertaken in Operation Fortitude were successful, leaving the Germans obliged to defend a huge stretch of coastline. [204] The Allies achieved and maintained air supremacy, which meant that the Germans were unable to make observations of the preparations underway in Britain and were unable to interfere via bomber attacks. [205] Infrastructure for transport in France was severely disrupted by Allied bombers and the French Resistance, making it difficult for the Germans to bring up reinforcements and supplies. [206] Some of the opening bombardment was off-target or not concentrated enough to have any impact, [161] but the specialised armour worked well except on Omaha, providing close artillery support for the troops as they disembarked onto the beaches. [207] Indecisiveness and an overly complicated command structure on the part of the German high command were also factors in the Allied success. [208]

                    At Omaha Beach, parts of the Mulberry harbour are still visible, and a few of the beach obstacles remain. A memorial to the U.S. National Guard sits at the location of a former German strongpoint. Pointe du Hoc is little changed from 1944, with the terrain covered with bomb craters and most of the concrete bunkers still in place. The Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial is nearby, in Colleville-sur-Mer. [209] A museum about the Utah landings is located at Sainte-Marie-du-Mont, and there is one dedicated to the activities of the U.S. airmen at Sainte-Mère-Église. Two German military cemeteries are located nearby. [210]

                    Pegasus Bridge, a target of the British 6th Airborne, was the site of some of the earliest action of the Normandy landings. The bridge was replaced in 1994 by one similar in appearance, and the original is housed on the grounds of a nearby museum complex. [211] Sections of Mulberry Harbour B still sit in the sea at Arromanches, and the well-preserved Longues-sur-Mer battery is nearby. [212] The Juno Beach Centre, opened in 2003, was funded by the Canadian federal and provincial governments, France, and Canadian veterans. [213] The British Normandy Memorial above Gold Beach was designed by the architect Liam O'Connor and opened in 2021. [214]


                    Machine Guns

                    Arising from a 1932 design requirement, the Maschinen Gewehr 34 became the first truly general-purpose machine gun. The Mauser firm’s improvement on the Swiss Solothurn design resulted in a wholly new and innovative weapon. Relatively light at twenty-six pounds including the bipod, it was highly portable and could be employed tactically as a heavy machine gun when mounted on its extremely well-designed tripod. The MG.34 was chambered in Germany’s standard infantry cartridge, the 7.92 x 57 mm rifle round, and fed from a ‘‘snail’’ drum or a box-mounted, 250-round belt. Among its excellent features were a quick-change barrel and semi- or fullautomatic fire, depending on whether the upper or lower half of the trigger was depressed. The standard cyclic rate was nine hundred rounds per minute. However, the 34 was designed for peacetime production, and its beautifully machined mechanism was too complex for wartime volume. Additionally, its close tolerances resulted in functioning problems in dirt or sand.

                    Designed for mass production, the MG.42 made extensive use of stampings and had an even faster rate of fire than the MG.34. Depending on variant and unit modifications, the 42’s cyclic rate was 1,200 rounds per minute or higher. Though some ordnance engineers felt it was far too high and would waste ammunition, the design philosophy was based on practical experience. Frequently in combat only fleeting targets are available, and a trained gunner could quickly fill a small area with several rounds, increasing hit probability. On D-Day at least one MG.42 gunner fired twelve thousand rounds without a major malfunction.

                    The MG.42 heavy machine gun fired 1,200 rounds per minute, an exceptional rate at the time. It was the ideal weapon to use against an invasion force. This gun was so effective that the German army still uses a modified version of it today.

                    The MG.42 weighed about 25.5 pounds with bipod, and its barrel could be changed even faster than that of the 34. When mounted on a tripod with an optical sight, the 42 was considered a heavy machine gun. Its high cyclic rate has been compared to the sound of ripping canvas one D-Day veteran recalled, ‘‘I got worried when I realized our machine guns went rat-a-tat and theirs went brrrrrrrt.’’

                    The U.S. Army was so impressed with the MG.42 that a program was implemented to duplicate the design in .30-06 caliber. Nothing came of the project, but the 42’s influence on the M60 machine gun is obvious, and the German Bundeswehr still uses the type, designated M3 in caliber 7.62


                    THE BATTLE OF NORMANDY

                    During the following morning, 7 June, British troops captured Bayeux with relative ease the first French city to be liberated.

                    British soldier inspecting identity cards of French civilians, Normandy.

                    In the days following D-Day, both the Allies and the Germans fought for control of Normandy and the Cotentin Peninsula. The Allies&rsquo first objective was to connect the gains they had made on 6 June on and around the five beaches. On 12 June, this was achieved when, after an intense house-to-house battle, the 101st Airborne Division captured the village of Carentan. The Allies now controlled an area, a bridgehead, forty-two miles wide and, at its deepest, fifteen miles deep. From this base, the US troops laid siege to Cherbourg and the British and Canadians to Caen.

                    As planned, the defunct merchant ships were tugged or, in some instances, sailed across the Channel and then sunk in rows, forming the sheltered conditions for the two Mulberry Harbours. The harbours, which themselves were towed across by 150 tugs, were pieced together and ready for use within two days &ndash the British one at Arromanches, off Gold beach, and the US harbour off Omaha beach. Within the first two weeks, almost 500,000 men had poured in via the harbours or the beaches, together with almost 100,000 vehicles. But on 19 June, severe gales destroyed the American harbour and rendered the British one almost unserviceable for several days. Later, on 12 August, the first PLUTO pipeline, running from the Isle of Wight to Cherbourg, became operational. Over the coming weeks, another seventeen lines were laid. By March 1945, the PLUTO lines were pumping up to a million gallons of fuel each day into France.

                    Meanwhile, in June, having secured their bridgehead, the Allies now had to break out of the Cotentin Peninsula but in this they were, for the time being, frustrated. The Germans rushed in reinforcements &ndash although Allied bombing and resistance sabotage delayed them &ndash and encircled the Allies within their bridgehead. The battle now became a war of attrition as opposing forces fought field for field, town for town. The terrain of Normandy, dense hedgerows and sunken lanes, known by the locals as bocage, favoured the defence and proved difficult for the Allied tanks. In mid-July, the Americans nullified the German advantage, to an extent, by inventing what they called a &lsquohedgebuster&rsquo, akin to a large garden fork, which they attached to the front of their tanks, making them capable of quickly cutting through the hedges.

                    US troops during the Battle of Cherbourg.

                    The Battle for Cherbourg raged on. Although well entrenched, the German defenders soon began to run out of food and supplies and after three weeks of constant battle and aerial bombardment were on the point of exhaustion. Closing in, US troops took the town on 27 June. The German general commanding Cherbourg, Friedrich Dollmann, having been informed that he was to be court-martialled for losing the town, died of a supposed heart attack the following day. The town&rsquos harbour facilities had been so severely damaged that it took until mid-August for the port to be rendered even partially accessible.

                    Flats in London&rsquos East End damaged by a V-2 rocket attack.

                    While his armies tried to contain the enemy within the Cotentin Peninsula, and in retaliation for the bombing of German cities, on 13 June Hitler unleashed on London the first of his long-awaited new, super weapons &ndash the flying bomb, the V-1 (or &lsquoDoodlebug&rsquo). Three months later came the even more frightening V-2, first used against London on 8 September. The V-2, flying faster than the speed of sound, caused much devastation and fear in south-east England. In response, Allied bombers, in an operation codenamed Crossbow, targeted manufacturing sites. Nonetheless, at the peak of the bombing up to eight V-2s were landing on British soil per day. Nothing in Britain&rsquos armoury could cope: radar, anti-aircraft guns, fighter planes were all rendered obsolete against these new weapons of terror but, despite the damage they inflicted, they arrived too late in the war to make an impact on its outcome.

                    On 2 July, Hitler replaced Rundstedt, who, lacking the necessary gumption, had become too pessimistic for the Führer&rsquos liking. In his place, full of optimism, arrived Field Marshal Günther von Kluge. Within days, Kluge, realizing the precariousness of the situation and that Rundstedt&rsquos pessimism was perhaps well founded, also succumbed to melancholy. Kluge&rsquos responsibilities were enhanced to that of the Supreme Field Commander West when, on 17 July, Rommel was wounded while travelling in his car by a British fighter plane and had to be invalided back to Germany.

                    Even six weeks on, Hitler was still under the illusion that a second, much bigger invasion would come at any time and hence remained determined not to commit the full force of his resources into Normandy. Continued reports from top (double) agent Arabel helped sustain the illusion. The fictional First US Army Group, commanded by George Patton, was still perceived as a threat, ready to spring into action at any moment.

                    The Germans had several other disadvantages to contend with &ndash having to fight the Allies on one side and deal with the resistance on the other their supplies of war material were running low and, unbeknownst to the German command, much of their communication was still being intercepted by Bletchley Park&rsquos codebreakers, giving the Allies crucial information as to German plans and manoeuvres. Further afield, on the Eastern Front, on 22 June, Stalin had launched Operation Bagration, the Soviet Union&rsquos great counteroffensive against the Nazis.

                    On 20 July, Hitler survived an assassination attempt in his Wolf&rsquos Lair in East Prussia, the &lsquoJuly Bomb Plot&rsquo, perpetuated by Nazi officers who hoped to shorten the war with his removal. Hitler, although shaken, suffered only superficial injury and those responsible were soon rounded up and executed. The finger of suspicion fell on Kluge. It was known that the field marshal had previously met with anti-Hitler conspirators. On 17 August, while in France, news came through that he was to be replaced by Walter Model. On being ordered back to Berlin, Kluge, fearing what lay in store, committed suicide by swallowing a cyanide pill.

                    Rommel was to become another victim. Although not directly involved, Rommel had previously voiced sympathy for the plan. Once his endorsement had come to light, he was given the option of honourable suicide or subjecting himself to humiliation and the kangaroo court of Nazi justice, and his family deported to a concentration camp. He chose the former and, on 14 October, accompanied by two generals sent by Hitler, Rommel poisoned himself. He was, as promised, buried with full military honours, his family pensioned off.


                    Watch the video: D-Day: Η απόβαση της Νορμανδίας (August 2022).

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