The Normandy landings took place on Tuesday, 6 June 1944 as Operation Overlord by Allied forces during World War II.
In picture: U.S. assault troops in an LCVP landing craft approach Omaha Beach, 6 June 1944.
D-DAY: BEGINNING OF THE END OF THE WAR
The Northern part of Europe was occupied by Nazi-Germany. The allies planned, what is known to be the largest seaborne invasion in history, Operation Overlord during World War II to liberate the area.
The planning for landing at the beaches of Normandy (codenamed Operation Neptune) begun in 1943.
On the morning of 6th June 1944, approximately 156,000 American, British and Canadian forces landed on five beaches, namely Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword, along with a 50-mile stretch of the heavily fortified coast of France?s Normandy region.
The date these soldiers landed on the beaches of Normandy is remembered as D-Day in the World War II conflict.
By late August 1944, all of northern France had been liberated, and by the following spring, the Allies had defeated the Germans.
(Image: By Knight (Capt), No 5 Army Film & Photographic Unit via Wikimedia Commons)
PREPARING FOR D-DAY
Germany had invaded and taken control of northwestern France in 1940, during World War II. The Americans intervened in the war scene in the December of 1941 and eventually formed allies with the British, building plans of cross-channel invasion. In 1943, Adolf Hitlet appointed Erwin Rommel as the incharge of heading defense operation in the region as was skeptical of the invasion. They, however, did not have the exact idea of where the Allies would strike.
Rommel was given the task to build the Atlantic wall - a 2400 mile fortification of landmines, bunkers and water obstacles.
On the other side, General Dwight Eisenhower was appointed commander of Operation Overlord. The allies conducted a military deception, codenamed Operation Bodyguard, Pas-de-Calais in (the narrowest point between Britain and France) to mislead the Germans of the date and location of the main operation, just a few months before the actual invasion. Many tactics was used to carry out the deception, including fake equipment, a phantom army and fraudulent radio transmissions.
Eisenhower chose June 5, 1944 as the date of the operation. However, poor weather conditions caused the operation to be delayed for 24 hours. On June 5th, the meteorologist predicted improved conditions for the following day and Eisenhower gave the go-ahead for Operation Overlord.
Later that day, more than 5,000 ships and landing craft carrying troops and supplies left England for the trip across the Channel to France, while more than 11,000 aircraft were mobilized to provide air cover and support for the invasion.
The weather was far from ideal even on the 6th, but the next available dates with the required tidal conditions would have been two weeks later (from 18 to 20 June). A delay would have meant recalling men and ships already in position to cross the channel, and would have increased the chance that the invasion plans would be detected. Eisenhower made the call to go ahead on the 6th itself. A major storm took over the coast from 19 to 22 June, which would have made the operation impossible.
(Image: By No 5 Army Film & Photographic Unit, Midgley (Sgt) via Wikimedia Commons)
On the morning of June 6th, thousands of troops has secured the bridges and exit roads. The sea invasions began at 6:30 a.m. British and Canadian forces overcame weak opposition to capture beaches codenamed Gold, Juno and Sword, and the Americans took care of the Utah Beach.
U.S. forces had to face heavy resistance at Omaha Beach, where there were over 2,000 American casualties. However, by the end of the day, 156,000 troops of the allies successfully took over Normandy?s beaches.
More than 4,000 Allied troops lost their lives in the D-Day invasion, with thousands more wounded or missing.
Less than a week later, on June 11, the beaches were fully secured and over 326,000 troops, more than 50,000 vehicles and some 100,000 tons of equipment had landed at Normandy.
The Germans were unprepared as there was confusion in the ranks and commander Rommel was away on leave. At first, Hitler was under the impression that the invasion was a deception to distract the Germans from a coming attack at the north of the Seine River. He refused to release nearby divisions to join the counterattack. Reinforcements had to be called from further afield, causing delays. He also hesitated in calling for armored divisions to help in the defense. Moreover, 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.
In the ensuing weeks, the Allies fought their way across the Normandy countryside in the face of determined German resistance, as well as a dense landscape of marshes and hedgerows. By the end of June, the Allies had seized the vital port of Cherbourg, landed approximately 850,000 men and 150,000 vehicles in Normandy, and were poised to continue their march across France.
(Image: By No 5 Army Film & Photographic Unit, Mapham J (Sgt) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)
VICTORY IN NORMANDY
By August 1944, the Allies had reached the Seine River and were able to free Paris from Nazis as well as from northwestern France, therefore successfully concluding the Battle of Normandy. The forces then prepared to enter Germany, where they would meet up with Soviet troops moving in from the east.
The Normandy invasion began to turn the tide against the Nazis. On May 8, 1945, the Allies formally accepted the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany. Hitler had committed suicide a week earlier, on April 30.
In picture: The Final Embarkation: Three British soldiers of 51st Highland Division, aboard a landing craft, pass the time by reading the booklet on France which they were issued before embarkation.
(Image: By No 5 Army Film & Photographic Unit, Waterhouse (Sgt) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)
- The allied troops required the light of a full moon to see to attack. For this very reason, only a few days were chosen by the Allies for the attack. This led Eisenhower to go ahead with the invasion despite the bad weather.
- The Allies wanted to attack during high tide as this helped the ships to avoid obstacles put in the water by the Germans.
- Although June 6 is often called D-Day, D-Day is also a generic military term that stands for the day, D, of any major attack.
In picture: The 15-inch guns of HMS WARSPITE bombarding German positions around Caen during the invasion of Normandy.
By McNeill, M H A (Lt), Royal Navy official photographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
STRENGTH, CASUALITIES AND LOSSES
10,000 casualities, 4414 confirmed dead
In picture: Men of 4 Commando being briefed by Lt Col R Dawson in preparation for D-Day. (Image: By Laws G (Sgt), No 5 Army Film & Photographic Unit, via Wikimedia Commons)
Hitler ordered to build the Atlantic Wall in the March of 1942. The plan called for the construction of 15,000 separate concrete emplacements which was to be manned by 300,000 soldiers. Since no one on the Nazi side knew where the invasion would occur, the whole of occupied Europe?s Atlantic coastline was to be fortified.
About 1.2 million tons of steel went into the Atlantic Wall. The Nazis also poured 17 million cubic metres of concrete into the defences.
It costed 3.7 billion Reichsmarks. More than 260,000 workers were employed to build the Atlantic Wall. Only 10 percent of these men were German and were poorly paid.
The wall was famously breached along the Normandy coastline in mere hours on June 6, 1944.
(Image: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-719-0243-33 / Jesse / CC-BY-SA 3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0 de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons)