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Invasion of Normandy--D-Day, 6 June 1944--Operation Overlord

73 Years Ago today, June 6, 1944 the liberation of Europe from Nazi Occupation began
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By Mike Watson
Adair County Historian

France fell to Nazi German invasion in 1940. By 1944 the Germans expected an invasion along the northern coast of France, but did not know where. Troop and artillery build-up near Calais, where the English Channel was most narrow, was a major priority. The "D" in D-Day stands for Day.

From April 1st-June 5th, 1944, the Allies flew 14,000 missions, lost 12,000 airmen and 2,000 aircraft, in preparation for the invasion. This was to be the largest amphibious invasion in all history, codenamed Operation Overlord. Operation Neptune was the codename for the beach landings. U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower was in command of the Operation.

The place of invasion--Normandy--was the most closely guarded secret on Earth. Normandy was selected as the landing site because it provided the best access to the French interior. Even the initial assault units were unaware of when and where they would land. The Allies would only be able to transport 8 divisions on the morning of D-Day; Germany had 55 divisions in France.

"You are about to embark upon a great crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you."--Gen. Eisenhower, on the eve of the invasion.

Though in preparation for more than a year, a push was made in mid-May to launch the invasion in early June, a full moon was essential for night flying aircraft, and high tide was necessary. Foul weather delayed the operation for a time, but June 6th was finally chosen as the date; the first force was sent out at 11 p.m. on June 5th by air, with the landing party following early on the 6th.

11:00 p.m., June 5, 1944 Allied paratroopers and gliders carrying heavy equipment leave England to begin the invasion by air. Weather problems caused many paratroopers to be dropped in the wrong places, some were captured. Just after midnight, an air bombardment, consisting of more than 2,200 allied bombers, began attacking targets along the coast and inland. Clouds obscured many targets.

At 1:30 a.m. the 101st Airborne Division began landing behind Utah Beach to secure the exits from the beach; the 82nd Airborne began landing an hour later to secure bridges on the right flank of the beachhead. At 3:00 a.m. Allied bombers attacked German lines; 7 million pounds of bombs were dropped the first day.

At 5:00 a.m. a Naval bombardment began and continued until 6:25; 7 battleships, 18 cruisers, and 43 destroyers were involved, also x-boats and midget subs were used to guide the invading craft. At 5:50 a.m. the 2nd phase began; six Allied divisions and many smaller units began landing on the five beaches--more than 160,000 troops were landed at Normandy, 73,000 were Americans.

At 6:31 a.m. U.S. troops went ashore; followed an hour later by British and Canadians on their beaches.

Americans landed at Utah and Omaha; British at Gold and Sword; Canadians at Juno. The heaviest losses were on Omaha beach, where U.S. forces suffered 2,000 casualties. High cliffs lined the beach on which Germans had strategic positions. Winds had blown ships off their initial target; weather also led to the sinking of some tanks which were to provided support for troops landing on Omaha. Heavy losses were also sustained by Canadians at Juno. Odds in the first hour of the landing of being hit by enemy fire were one in two.

Field Marshal Erwin Rommel was in charge of Northern France's German defenses, but on D-Day he was in Germany, believing the seas were too rough for action--it was his wife's 50th birthday. When word of the invasion arrived, Hitler was asleep and no one dare wake him--reinforcements were therefore delayed. Because of Allied air power, networks of Allied spies, and the French Resistance, Germany's 2nd Waffen SS Division took 2 weeks to reach the front, instead of the predicted 2 days.

By the end of June 6, 150,000 men had been landed and 20,000 vehicles were ready for use; another 150,000 men were landed within seven days; and more than 850,000 by the end of June. The invasion ground on, lasting through August. Slowly pushing the Germans back and capturing many. Paris was liberated on August 25th.

Allied casualties on D-Day have been estimated at 10,000 killed, wounded and missing in action--6,603 Americans, 2,700 British, and 946 Canadians.

From June 6th through August 21st, the Allies landed more than 2 million men in northern France; suffered more than 226,386 casualties; 72,911 killed and missing and 153,475 wounded. German losses included over 240,000 casualties and 200,000 captured. Between 13,000 and 15,000 French civilians died.

Nearly 2 million soldiers, sailors and airmen were involved in Operation Overlord--U.S., British & Canadian. The US shipped 7 million tons of supplies to support the operation--448,000 tons were ammunition.

Operation Neptune involved 6,939 vessels, including 4,126 landing craft--they assembled on June 5th at a point off the Isle of Wight. 127 planes were lost on D-Day. 28,000 airmen were lost during the Normandy campaign.

This story was posted on 2017-06-06 07:35:25
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