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D-Day Training: Preparing for the Normandy Invasion
Allied D-Day training and preparing was a vast endeavor, stretching from North America to southern England. Firing ranges were at a premium, as space was needed for practice-firing weapons from rifles to naval gunnery and antiaircraft guns. However, the emphasis was upon amphibious operations and landing, and some facilities had been in use long before June 1944.
Perhaps the most notable facility used by the British armed forces was the Combined Operations Training Center at Inverary, on the west coast of Scotland. It was established in 1940, originally to prepare for commando operations, but expanded when British amphibious doctrine shifted from large-scale raids to actual invasion. Later bases in southern England included Culbin Sands and Burghead Bay, in the area where the invasion fleet would assemble.
Here is how Eric Broadhead describes a typical training day in mid-April 1944, when Durham Light Infantry moved to a tented camp about file miles from Southampton:
Life on the whole was pleasant. It was summertime at its best. Our evenings found us in Southampton, where the servicemen outnumbered the civilians by seven to one. The walk from Southampton back to camp was a pleasant one, and often I and my mates would stroll back talking of home, parents, wives and sweethearts and of the day that must surely dawn soon, the day when we sailed for a destination that only a few men knew. We discussed our ideas of where it would be, but the question was when? Sometimes the question got on our nerves. We all had our own theories as to when it would be. Around May 10th, a drastic move took place. The camps were sealed, our training was over. The days that followed were strange to be sure. Barbed wire skirted the camp area, armed guards too. We received no mail, but were still allowed to write home, subject to strict censorship.
The U.S. Army set up at least eight training centers prior to D-Day, most notably at Woolacombe Beach, Devonshire (See Assault Training Center). Because of its topographical similarity to Normandy, the Slapton Sands region of the south coast was selected for amphibious rehearsals, leading to the disastrous Operation Tiger in April.
This article is part of our larger selection of posts about the Normandy Invasion. To learn more, click here for our comprehensive guide to D-Day.
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D-Day Invasion - HISTORY
By Rob Morris
Nineteen-year-old Jay Rencher, member of the First Engineer Special Brigade, 531st Amphibious Regiment, cleared obstacles from Utah Beach on D-Day.
Nineteen-year-old army combat engineer Jay Rencher blinked the salt spray from his eyes, filled his lungs, and again plunged beneath the cold, roiling waves. Minutes earlier, his three-man team had slipped stealthily from a pitching landing craft into the frigid waters of the English Channel, each man burdened with a full pack, rifle, extra clips of ammunition, blasting caps, and 60 pounds of explosives.
Struggling through neck-high water, swallowed by five-foot swells every few moments, Rencher prayed he would not step in a hole and disappear forever, weighed down by his clothing and equipment. He glanced at his watch. It was a little after 5 am, eerily quiet as the darkness began to yield to the pale dawn. In the distance, he listened to the waves breaking against the rocky shore.
The date was June 6, 1944, and Rencher and his fellow demolitions experts with the U.S. First Army’s First Engineer Special Brigade, 531st Amphibious Regiment were in the vanguard of the greatest amphibious invasion in the history of the world. They had been told that the success of the invasion hinged in large part on their carefully timed work over the next few hours. They had also been told that within two hours most of them would be dead, mowed down clearing the sea approaches, the beaches, and the minefields beyond, which had been strewn with millions of mines. The squads’ failure to clear the area could quickly turn the D-Day landings into a bloody and tragic debacle. Rencher’s team was in the Tare Green Beach sector of Utah Beach, near the Normandy town of St. Mere Eglise.
Groping semi-blind in the murky waves, Rencher located the heavy two-inch-thick steel underwater cable strung to prevent amphibious landings. He surfaced, flicked the flint on his Bic lighter, and dove under again. He had already wrapped plastic explosives around the cable, attaching a cap and a five-foot fuse. Touching the flame to the fuse, gratified to see it sparking, he swam away as fast as he could. He had gone 20 feet when the cable blew, the water muting the blast. He glanced at the German sentries on the beach, but they remained impassive and unaware. But it was getting light, and it was only a matter of time before the men would be detected.
“A Wonderful Way to Fight a War” for an Army Combat Engineer
Born in 1924 into a farm family in Snowflake, Arizona, Rencher grew up with a rifle in his hand. At 14, his father charged him with killing the jackrabbits that raided the family alfalfa crop. Bullets were 50 cents a box, almost a full day’s wage, and he learned never to waste one. It paid off. Later, when he arrived at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, he impressed his trainers by getting the highest marksman score of any soldier up to that time, 248 out of 250.
Due to his experience in high school on a survey crew, he was assigned to the army combat engineers and shipped to England in 1943. “I figured I’d be sitting in England surveying airports and roads,” he remembers. “I was happy. I thought it would be a wonderful way to fight a war.”
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Upon arrival in England, he found the Army had different plans. Rencher was assigned to the 531st Amphibious Engineer Battalion, part of the First Engineer Special Brigade, a unit that had led every major water invasion in the European Theater in World War II. The product of the Army’s need for a quick-strike amphibious force to spearhead landings in Europe and the Pacific, the unit had formed in May 1942 and shipped to England in August. Soon it distinguished itself in the landings at Arzew, Algeria, Gela, Sicily, and Salerno, Italy.
Based on its success, the 531st was assigned the task of being among the first to hit the beaches on D-Day, clearing a path for the invasion. Command pulled no punches it was to be a suicide mission. “You are going to be cannon fodder,” Rencher remembers being told, “and most of you will be killed. We anticipate that three out of every four men will be dead within the first hour. For that reason, we are making the unit triple-strength. Each man will train with two partners, so that there will be one man to get the job done after the other two are killed.”
“We all felt like fugitives from the law of averages,” remembered one officer who had participated in all three.
Rehearsing a Rough Landing
Now 87 and retired in Idaho Falls, Idaho, Rencher admits that he should have been scared to death, but he had the blessing of youth and was unfazed. “I was 19 years old,” he chuckled, “and I thought I was indestructible. I had no wife, no children. I was happy. As far as I was concerned, it was ‘Hip-hip-hooray, here we go!’”
German antitank Teller mines, attached to posts buried in the sand at an angle, were planted liberally across the beaches of Normandy.
Beginning December 13, 1943, the 531st trained nonstop for the invasion. “We worked hard every day,” remembered Rencher. “We made a hundred mock invasions, just our battalion, maybe 500 men. We’d use an English beach. We’d come ashore with the battalion and practice on simulated mines laid out on the beaches.” On many of those days, as Rencher and his mates rehearsed, they noticed top brass standing on the bluffs above, watching them with binoculars, a reminder of how much was riding on their ability to disarm the terrifying array of explosives the Germans had laid in the waters and on the beaches of Normandy.
“By the time of the invasion, we knew exactly where we were supposed to go and what we had to do,” said Rencher. “Our job was to detect and disarm all the different types of mines that the Germans had in the water and on the landing beaches. They had around 20 different types. There were half a dozen mines just for personnel, as well as tank mines and water mines. Some were concrete with dynamite inside. Some came up out of the ground six feet when you set them off and exploded right in your face.”
Rencher’s three-man squad consisted of himself, Otis Hamm of Biloxi, Mississippi, and Dan Shellenberg of Youngstown, Ohio. “Hamm was the veteran,” said Rencher. “He’d made all three previous invasions. He knew how to detect and disarm everything. Shellenberg and I were only 18 when we began training, and he made us as professional as he was.”
Hamm was a tough and demanding taskmaster. He knew that his survival depended on training the two younger men to do their jobs to perfection. He hounded them, pushed them, and beat them into becoming a well-honed team. As a veteran of the three previous beach assaults, Hamm had no delusions about the deadliness of their mission. There was little room for error. “He figured, based on his experience, that he would be the one of the three of us who would not be killed and that Shellenberg and I would be killed,” remembered Rencher.
Their task required good ears, steady hands, and more than a little luck. “For each mine, we had to find the teeny-tiny detonator,” recalled Rencher. “We worked as a team. One of us had the mine detector, a disc about one foot across with a handle and a meter with a dial on it. There were earphones that would hum and the dial would tell you when it had detected metal. We had to detect each mine, we had to disarm them, and often the mines themselves were booby trapped. General [Field Marshal Erwin] Rommel had ordered 50 million mines for the beaches. At the time of the invasion, he had over 20 million of them installed.
This photo taken by photographer Robert Capa, one of the few frames he captured on D-Day that survive, depicts American infantrymen struggling through the surf on Omaha Beach amid hedgehog and ramp obstacles placed by the Germans to disable landing craft.
Eliminating the Beach Obstacles
“The best day for attack would have been June 5, but the weather was too rough. June 5 and 6 had the lowest tide for the next six months. The 5th was ideal and the 6th was not quite as good, but General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander, decided to go for it on the 6th. We were loaded onto 10 LCT (Landing Craft, Tank) ships the night of June 5, and then we waited for the sea to calm. We left about 6 pm. H-Hour was at 0600, and the 531st had to land at 0500 to clear the beaches. The waves were about five feet high, and we got very seasick! In a way being seasick helped us because we couldn’t stand to stay on the landing craft any longer. About a half-mile off the beach, they loaded us into 30-man landing craft for the final approach.”
Utah Beach was eerily quiet. “I had 60 pounds of explosives in my pack, both TNT and composition explosives,” said Rencher. “The good thing about the TNT was that a bullet could pass right through it and it wouldn’t blow up. You had to have a blasting cap to detonate it. But I also had to carry those. If a bullet hit one of the blasting caps it would have detonated that 60 pounds of TNT, and I would have been completely vaporized.”
Once the two-inch cable was blown, the three-man team moved on to blow the teller mines that the Germans had put on the top of wooden posts driven into the sand. Their purpose was to blow up approaching landing craft.
“Most were below the waterline,” said Rencher. “We had to wrap plastic explosives around each post and blow it up. The Germans also had obstacles that we called ‘spiders’ [the Germans called them hedgehogs]. Each one was basically a big angle-iron sticking up that would cut up the boats as they tried to land. We blew these as well.
“During the time the 200 of us engineers were in the water, we had no fire at all from the Germans on the beach. We had no fire at all for the first hour. They didn’t see us, and they didn’t know we were there. In that first hour we knocked out everything in our assigned area, making and marking a 50-yard-wide lane for the landing craft. Each group of three men was doing the same up and down the beach.
“Once we were on the beach, on dry ground, we took two great big rolls of wire, with oak woven into it, each weighing around 300 pounds. These were carried in on Jeeps that by now had landed. We laid the contraption down and across the beach so that vehicles wouldn’t get stuck in the sand.”
In this famous photo of the D-Day landings on Omaha Beach, American infantrymen of the 16th Regiment, 1st Division seek shelter from German mortar and small-arms fire behind a hedgehog beach obstacle. The helmet with the white arc worn by the man at far left indicates he is an army combat engineer.
Their next objective was a minefield, conveniently marked by the occupying Germans to keep the French and their animals away. Before Rencher’s team could reach it, a German 88mm cannon and two 40mm cannons opened up on them and on the approaching landing craft, each packed with soldiers.
“These guns were terribly effective,” recalled Rencher. “I knew we had to do something about this in a hurry. Hamm and Shellenberg had about 30 pounds of TNT between them, and I had about 25 pounds left. I decided to use it all to take out the pillbox [which was delivering heavy fire]. The pillbox had 13 feet of concrete on the front side facing the sea, but only nine inches in the back. So I took the 55 pounds of TNT to the back of the pillbox, lit the fuse, ran under the nearest sand dune, opened my mouth wide, and screamed to protect myself from the concussion. There was a horrible explosion. Sand rained down on me, but luckily no concrete. I was deaf for the next 30 minutes. That was the end of that pillbox. No one survived.
“We moved across another 50 yards of sand to a plain wire fence [where a sign was posted] that read ‘Achtung: Minen!’ and began slowly clearing a 10-foot-wide section through the minefield. One man ran the mine detector and deactivated the mines. We marked the cleared area with ribbon. The other two would follow him and set each mine about two feet outside the ribbon. It was about 0600. We were being shot at now. We looked ahead, and the minefield was about 200 yards deep.
The Toll of War
“About 100 yards into the minefield, Hamm was running the detector and we’d cleared almost 100 mines. They were laid out in a pattern, about every four or five feet. Hamm motioned for me to move up and take over for him. This whole time, we had been standing up! It never occurred to us, even with all our training, that standing up made us a good target! I went up and got the detector. About five minutes later, the Germans cranked down an 88mm artillery piece so that it was aiming right at me. The first shell whistled over us and missed. The second shell landed behind me, between Otis and Dave, who were about 50 feet back.”
Rencher heard Hamm groaning and crawled back to check on his fallen comrades. Hamm had been hit badly in the legs and needed immediate medical attention. Rencher told Shellenberg to help him drag Hamm back to the aid station, which medics had set up on the beach. Shellenberg did not respond, so Rencher shook his friend. He was limp, and his helmet fell off revealing a shrapnel hole in the side of his skull. He had been killed instantly.
“Two infantrymen helped me drag Hamm back to the aid station. After we got there, I told them that they were now engineers. I showed them how to move the mines after I detected them. That’s all the training they got. But I told them to lie down if one of us stood up we would all be killed. By this time, there were lots of men on the beach, getting killed.” Rencher and his two inductees completed their mission under heavy fire. With the minefield cleared, Rencher’s job as an amphibious army combat engineer was completed. He trudged back to Utah Beach to find out about his buddy Hamm, who had been so certain that he would be the one to survive.
“The medic told me that they had taken him to the hospital ship and amputated both of his legs,” said Rencher. “They amputated them just below the knee. Hamm was a professional baseball player. When he came to, he saw what had happened and asked what had happened to his legs. When they told him, he said, ‘What the heck does a baseball player do without any legs?’ and he turned to the wall, and he died. After the invasion, they named all the roads used by the troops and vehicles in Normandy. One of them is named Hamm and another is named Shellenberg. They were among the very first men killed on D-Day.
“The commander had been right. Before 7 in the morning on June 6, 1944, two of the three of us were dead. But we had met our objectives, which were to cut the cables, destroy the water obstacles, build a road across the sand, and clear the minefield.”
Many years after his D-Day exploits, Jay Rencher is pictured with his wife, Louise, at their home in Idaho Falls, Idaho, in 2010.
Because of his special training as an army combat engineer, Rencher was snatched up from a replacement depot by an armored engineer battalion, ending up with the 14th Armored Division. “I fought my way across Europe, through France, Luxembourg, Belgium, and Germany,” he remembered.
Rencher fought in the Battle of the Bulge and was the American GI who formally accepted the surrender of the Moosburg prison camp, at the time 90 miles behind the most forward enemy positions. Rencher took the commander’s Luger and Beretta pistols and his fancy sword, later giving them away because his wife did not want Nazi memorabilia in their house. A devout member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Rencher attended Brigham Young University, where he received a degree in chemistry, and then Rutgers University, where he earned a doctorate in chemistry. After teaching a short while at Ricks College in Rexburg, Idaho, he was hired by the U.S. government to supervise the training of sailors in the new nuclear Navy. He trained more than 25,000 sailors during his career at the government facility in the Arco desert.
Married for 62 years to his wife, Louise, Rencher had, in his words, “a wonderful life,” blessed with eight children, 32 grandchildren, and 38 great grandchildren.
Rob Morris is a military historian who lives in Ammon, Idaho. He is the author of Untold Valor: Forgotten Stories of American Bomber Crewmen over Europe in World War II (Potomac Books, 2006) and several other books on World War II topics.
My Dad was a combat engineer-I believe he came in at Omaha Beach with the 20th CIE-he was in 9 major campaigns
Wish someone would call me-I am locating my Dads medal and ribbons and he got the CIB badge and they are refusing to send it to me out at Fort Knox-these people dont know what they are doing-call me 757-328-8949
What Were the Causes of D-Day?
The June 6, 1944 landing operations in Normandy, codenamed "Operation Neptune" and known as "D-Day," were undertaken by the Western Allies in an effort to liberate mainland Europe from Nazi occupation during World War II. The Normandy landings were the largest seaborne invasion in history at the time.
The Normandy landings commenced the invasion of German-occupied western Europe, led to the restoration of the French Republic and contributed to the Allied victory in the war. Planning for the operation began in 1943. In the months leading up to the invasion, the Allies orchestrated an elaborate military deception, codenamed "Operation Bodyguard," to mislead the Germans as to the date and the location of the main Allied landings. Adolf Hitler, the leader of Nazi Germany, placed German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel in command of the German forces and of developing fortifications along the Atlantic Wall in anticipation of an Allied invasion.
The Normandy landings were originally set for June 5, 1944. However, bad weather and heavy seas caused General Dwight D. Eisenhower to delay until June 6. In the military, D-Day is the day on which a combat attack or operation is to be initiated. Several other invasions and operations had a designated D-Day, both before and after the landing operations in Normandy.
D-Day: The Beginning of the End for Nazi Germany
The road to the invasion of Nazi-controlled France began more than two years prior to its actual execution. In its early stages, the invasion plan was a British operation called Roundup, which would move troops onto the mainland in the event of a German collapse. When the United States entered the war, the idea was resurrected as a combined British-American operation to cross the English Channel and pierce Adolf Hitler’s Atlantic Wall defenses.
Roundup had to wait, however, in favor of Operation Torch, the British-American invasion of North Africa. After Torch, the Allies began planning Operation Overlord, as Roundup came to be known, and fixed the target date for May 1, 1944.
The Germans also had been preparing. They knew that the Allies must invade France in order to carry the ground war into Germany. The Germans’ major unanswered questions were when and where the Allies would storm ashore. Most German strategists felt that the target would be the Pas-de-Calais area, where the English Channel was narrowest. Therefore, the strongest defenses were constructed there.
The German forces in Western Europe, commanded by Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt, consisted of Army Groups B and G. Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, commanding Army Group B, was given the responsibility of throwing the Allied invasion force back into the sea.
Opinions on the best method of defeating the Allies differed greatly. Rundstedt and others advocated a central reserve that would be used to repel the invaders after their intentions were known. Rommel challenged that plan because he believed that Allied air superiority would prevent the central reserve from conducting an effective counterattack. The time to defeat the invasion force, Rommel believed, was when it first hit the beaches. To that end, he worked to have the strongest units stationed along the coastline and built coastal batteries and strongpoints, augmented by thousands of anti-invasion obstacles and millions of mines.
The result was a compromise between these two conflicting philosophies on defense, causing neither to be effective. Another factor that hampered the German defensive posture was that they, unlike the Allies, had no supreme military commander, so rivalries occurred between the individual departments, and there were numerous overlapping responsibilities.
D-Day was originally scheduled for June 5, 1944. SHAEF arrived at this date by considering two factors–moonlight and tide. H-hour would be near sunrise, when the amphibious troops would have a rising tide, which would enable them to land close to obstacles without coming ashore on top of them. The paratroopers needed a full moon for visibility. The days with the proper tide-moonlight formula closest to the target date were June 5, 6 and 7. The 5th was chosen for D-Day to allow a buffer in case the attack needed to be postponed.
An unprecedented level of security was imposed on the Allied army to prevent information leaks. Despite those efforts, some breaches of security still occurred. Those incidents were minor in the grand scheme of things, but they raised anew the myriad questions in the Allied planners’ minds. Had every detail been covered and sufficiently deliberated? General Dwight D. Eisenhower, describing the situation, said, The mighty host was tense as a coiled spring. When the fateful month of June finally arrived, that human spring was ready to release its energy against the Germans defending the coast of Normandy.
With June, however, arrived the discouraging prospect of terrible weather. In fact, the weather was so bad that General Eisenhower was forced to postpone the invasion by one day. When the SHAEF staff members met to review their options, they were faced with the grim reality that June 6 did not look much better than the original D-Day. The meteorological report gave a thin ray of hope that a lull in the storm would allow enough time to launch the invasion, but no one could say whether the follow-up of the operation would be possible. The decision was a tough one, but the invasion would go ahead.
Meanwhile, almost providentially, critical errors in the German defensive structures allowed them to be taken completely by surprise. Due to the bad weather, the German navy canceled its usual patrol of the English Channel. Also, a practice drill scheduled for June 6 was called off. The German meteorological services were unaware of the break in the weather. On the eve of the attack, many of the top German leaders were absent from their commands. Rommel was in Germany visiting his wife on her birthday, and several officers were some distance away in Rennes or on their way there for a war-game exercise.
The assault on Normandy began at 12:15 a.m., when the pathfinders for the American airborne units left their planes and parachuted to earth. Five minutes later, on the other side of the invasion area, the British pathfinders made their jump. The pathfinders were specially trained to find and mark the drop zones. The main airborne assault was to commence within the hour.
The airborne attack became confused because of stiff winds and the evasive flying of the transport planes when they encountered anti-aircraft fire. As a result, the paratroopers were scattered over a wide area and most missed their drop zones, some by as much as 20 miles. Other complications were caused by the terrain, and the worst terrain was on the Cotentin Peninsula. The Germans, expecting diversionary attacks in Normandy and Brittany, had laced the open fields with anti-personnel and glider stakes and flooded the low areas. The flooding caused the most trouble for the Americans of the 101st and 82nd Airborne divisions.
The airborne units were to secure the flanks of the amphibious assault. That meant capturing bridges, crossroads and coastal batteries. After accomplishing those tasks, the paratroopers had to withstand any German counterattacks.
Widely scattered, the paratroopers fought little battles in the dark that were fierce and quick–preludes of what was to come. The troopers began to coalesce and organize their efforts. In addition to the many small victories, three significant successes were achieved. The first occurred within 15 minutes of the initial assault, when a group of British glider infantry captured key bridges over the Orne River and the Caen Canal. Later, members of the U.S. 82nd captured the valuable crossroads at the town of Ste. Mère Eglise. Just before the amphibious assault, paratroopers of the British 6th Battalion captured the coastal battery at Merville.
As the airborne units struggled to achieve their goals, the great fleet made its way across the channel to its appointment with destiny. The Allied fleet assembled first in Area Z, nicknamed Piccadilly Circus, approximately 10 miles southeast of the Isle of Wight. From there the individual invasion forces sailed in a southwesterly arc toward their prospective beaches. Leading that grand armada were the minesweepers. Behind them followed a vast array of naval vessels of every conceivable type. Never before had such a fleet been assembled. Including the landing craft carried on board, the combined Allied invasion armada numbered up to 5,000 ships. Approximately 160,000 men were to cross the English Channel and land at assault beaches code-named Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword. Each landing area was divided into sections designated by letters, which were further subdivided into areas designated by colors. Each unit, therefore, had a specific place to land and a corresponding mission for its assigned area.
The first areas of French soil wrested from German control were the Isles-St.-Marcouf, located three miles off Utah Beach. SHAEF became concerned that these islands could be used as sites for heavy guns. The men of the U.S. 4th and 24th Cavalry squadrons were designated to take the islands prior to the main invasion. The assault teams found only land mines. The Germans had left the Iles-St.-Marcouf unoccupied.
Around 5 a.m., the German shore batteries opened a sporadic fire on the approaching fleet. At the same time, the German navy made its sole contribution, firing torpedoes from T-28, Möwe, Falcke, and Jaguar of the 5th Torpedo Boat Flotilla from Le Havre and sinking the Norwegian destroyer Svenner.
For the majority of the assault troops, however, the war had not begun yet. After spending as long as 48 hours aboard the various transport ships, many of the men were miserably seasick. Some could not imagine anything worse than they were already experiencing. On the other hand, there were some who were itching to go, particularly the veterans of the 1940 debacle at Dunkirk, who were about to make a comeback.
The naval bombardment began around 5:45 a.m. The air attack followed. The naval and air bombardments were designed to destroy the beach guns and obstacles, pin down the enemy and provide shelter for the ground troops on the open beaches by making craters. Both, however, largely failed in their objectives. Because of poor visibility caused by low cloud cover and smoke, it was decided that the bombers would delay the release of bombs 30 seconds to avoid hitting the assaulting troops. As a result, the bombs fell inland and missed their targets. Although the naval bombardment was more accurate, it was not much more effective against the hardened German gun emplacements.
The weather also was partially responsible for causing some of the assault craft to miss their assigned landing areas. Additionally, many of the landing craft and amphibious tanks foundered in the rough sea. In the Omaha area, most of the craft carrying artillery and tanks intended to support the incoming troops sank in the high waves.
At Utah Beach, a strange stroke of good fortune occurred when the assault craft encountered a southerly current that caused them to land in the wrong sector. The shore batteries that would have contested a landing in the original area would undoubtedly have taken a heavy toll. The landing at the new sector was virtually unopposed.
Despite that good fortune, Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., of the 4th Infantry Division had a tough decision to make. The planned landing area fronted two exits from the beach the Americans now faced only one. Should they push north and divert the support waves to the correct area, or should they remain on this relatively quiet beach and use the single exit? Roosevelt, the eldest son of former President Theodore Roosevelt and a cousin of the current president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, was the only general officer to land in the first wave. After conferring with his battalion commanders he decided to start the war from here and gamble on the one exit he had rather than trying for the proverbial two in the bush.
Twelve miles east of Utah, the men landing at Omaha Beach encountered the fiercest resistance anywhere on June 6. The Overlord planners expected Omaha Beach to be lightly defended. Allied intelligence had reported that a low-quality static division was defending that area. Somehow the presence of the crack 352nd Infantry had gone undetected. The high bluffs at Omaha also gave the defenders an excellent vantage point with crisscrossed fields of fire.
The approach to the beach was a race against death. Many of the landing craft never made it to shore they either were hit by artillery or struck mines. Those that survived long enough to discharge their troops often did so in water over the heads of the soldiers who raced toward the open ramps. German strong points zeroed in on the men who made it to the beach and took cover behind beach obstacles and disabled landing craft. Although casualty rates varied, most were high. Within 10 minutes of hitting the beach, Company A, 116th Regiment, 29th Infantry Division, suffered 96 percent killed or wounded.
Compounding the situation were the problems the demolition teams encountered while clearing paths through the beach obstacles. The Germans soon became aware of the activities of the engineers and made special targets of them. Worse, the engineers’ own comrades often took cover behind the very obstacles about to be blown. The demolition teams had only been able to clear 5 1/2 lanes across the entire Omaha Beach area before the second wave arrived. As the tide came in, covering the obstacles, only one of those lanes could be marked. That meant that the next wave of fresh troops to come ashore would have to endure the same hazards as the first. Because of the high rate of casualties under withering German fire, many of the units on the beach found themselves leaderless. Incoming troops only added to the confusion.
One eyewitness to this seemingly complete disaster was war correspondent Ernest Hemingway. He described the dismal scene of burning tanks and landing craft and of the shocked, dead and dying troops that had stopped at the waterline. The…[assault] waves lay where they had fallen, he said, looking like so many heavily laden bundles…between sea and first cover.
As the debris of war piled up with the arrival of each succeeding assault wave, for many it seemed that their worst fears–complete failure of the landing–had been realized. By morning some considered evacuating the survivors and diverting the reinforcements to either the Utah or British sectors.
West of Omaha Beach was Pointe du Hoc, a rocky outcropping with almost vertical cliffs where a large coastal battery was believed to be situated. The U.S. 2nd Ranger Battalion was charged with destroying the battery. What many thought impossible the Rangers achieved–they scaled the 100-foot cliffs under heavy fire. Once on top, though, they found that the guns were not there after all.
If the American experience at Utah was the best and at Omaha the worst, the experiences at the three British beaches were somewhere in between. The British came ashore after a longer bombardment and at a later H-hour. Because of the later H-hour, the troops landed on a higher tide and closer to the beaches, giving them a shorter assault run, possibly saving the British from high losses similar to those at Omaha. Commando units were used to cover the flanks of the British beaches. Also, two midget submarines, X-20 and X-23, were used to mark flanks and guide landings in Operation Gambit.
Like the engineers at Omaha, the British frogmen encountered numerous difficulties clearing the beach obstacles. As the first and later waves made their runs, it appeared that the invasion was going to be a rough show. It turned out, however, that the offshore obstacles were the toughest resistance some of the British troops encountered. Resistance from the German defenders was sporadic across all three of the British landing areas. In some places opposition was light in others, it was murderously heavy. The 1st Hampshire Regiment landed in the teeth of the right flank of the German 352nd Infantry Division on the west side of Gold Beach. The Hampshire were nearly wiped out as they left their landing craft and struggled ashore. In most places, however, units were able to strike inland shortly after H-hour.
Of the three British beaches, the Canadians at Juno had the greatest difficulty. They had a delay of 25 minutes due to rough seas before their landing ordeal began. Upon hitting the beach, they found that many of the strongpoints had not been knocked out, and the fighting was intense. But as difficult as the fighting was, it was also brief. Within half an hour the Canadians were off the beach. Within a short time the sector could even be described as quiet, and the support waves had little trouble getting to shore. Before long, Gold and Juno beaches were linked by a single continuous front.
The smallest of the five Allied assaults was at Sword Beach, the easternmost landing area. The invasion there started without serious opposition, but each succeeding wave came under heavier mortar fire. Despite the growing resistance, the British moved steadily inland.
At 9:30 a.m., Sword Beach was the scene of the only German daylight air attack of the entire invasion. Prior to the Allied assault, the Germans had strengthened their home air defenses by withdrawing most of the aircraft in France. As a result, the only planes left within range of Normandy when the invasion began were two Focke-Wulf Fw-190As of Fighter Wing 26, flown by Lt. Col. Josef Pips Priller and Sergeant Heinz Wodarczyk, who strafed the beach at an altitude of 50 feet before escaping through a gauntlet of anti-aircraft fire.
All in all, the initial phase of the British landing was extremely successful. By the end of the morning, elements of all three of the British divisions had advanced several miles inland. As the pockets of German resistance were isolated or melted away, it looked as if the British would have no trouble reaching their D-Day objectives. Yet already some units had run into trouble. The commandos were unable to connect all of the beaches together, and the Germans were beginning to regroup.
The German reaction to the Allied invasion was slow and confused. The airborne assault was believed to be only a diversionary action. When the Seventh Army, positioned in Normandy, was put on alert, few of its commanders knew what they should do. Rundstedt ordered the activation of the 12th SS Panzer Division Hitler Youth and Panzer Division Lehr and simultaneously sent word of his actions to Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW, German supreme headquarters), asking for permission to use the two divisions. The 21st Panzer Division was in the immediate vicinity of the landings at Juno and Sword. The 21st had been on alert and ready to move throughout the early morning hours but had received no orders. Around 5:30 a.m., the 21st’s commander could wait no longer and ordered his unit into action against the British 6th Airborne on the Orne River. The orders finally came four hours later. The 21st was instructed to counterattack Sword Beach. That meant that the Germans must extract themselves from the fight with the paratroopers and move around the strategically vital town of Caen to get into position for the counterattack. Completing that maneuver took the rest of the morning and into the afternoon. Confusion seemed to reign in other parts of the front as well. The commander of the 352nd Infantry Division believed that the situation at Omaha was completely under control and that the Americans would soon be defeated. He decided then to commit his reserves to other areas.
On Omaha Beach, soldiers who had previously been paralyzed with fear came out of their shock and began to move inland. Instrumental in shaking the paralysis were a few brave soldiers who defied enemy fire and inspired the others to advance.
The U.S. Navy supplied critical fire support for the soldiers attempting to move off the beaches and take the commanding positions along the bluffs from their German defenders. Some destroyers came in so close to shore with their supporting fire that they risked running aground. Slowly, painfully, the men at Omaha began to overcome the German strongpoints that had previously pinned them down.
The officers at OKW were not convinced that the Normandy landing was the primary Allied thrust. They still feared a landing at Calais to the north, and the Allied advances in Italy seemed more distressing. Rundstedt was not permitted to commit the armored reserve. To the officers at OKW, the news did not warrant disturbing Hitler from his sleep. As was his habit, the Führer had gone to bed at 4 a.m., and no one dared wake him until more was known. Around 10 a.m. the officers found the courage to disturb him, and a conference was called. As the leader of Nazi Germany heard the sketchy news of the invasion, he remained convinced that the Normandy attack was only a diversion. Rundstedt’s request to use the armored divisions was never mentioned. The panzer units were finally released around 3 p.m.–much too late to do any good.
In the meantime, the only serious German counterattack on D-Day was preparing to get underway. The 21st Panzer had become splintered while moving into position and was unable to attack the British in full force. At the same time, the British had logistical problems of their own to deal with and were unable to take advantage of the Germans’ delayed reaction.
The clash finally occurred north of Caen at Périers and Biéville, hamlets that commanded the local high ground. The attack was over in a few minutes. The British had been able to establish defensive positions prior to the arrival of the German tanks, and they stopped the tanks’ advance with the help of naval gunfire. The Germans then withdrew and dug their tanks into positions outside Caen. That defensive move effectively stopped the British southward drive.
The infantry support element of the 21st had moved west of Caen and missed the battles at Périers and Biéville. Instead, the infantry drove north through the gap between Juno and Sword beaches. The tank commander of the 21st was unaware of the gap and never acted to exploit it. A follow-up attack was ordered in the evening with the combined panzer force, only to be foiled by a scheduled glider reinforcement drop. Through the course of the day, the 21st lost almost half its tanks.
By evening, despite earlier optimism, the 352nd was hard pressed to hold back the flood of invaders. All day it had been fighting the Americans at Omaha and the British at Gold. Now, with its reserves committed and its casualties high, the effectiveness of the once crack unit had ebbed.
The end of June 6 saw the Allies firmly established in Hitler’s Europe. At Utah, the VII Corps had penetrated a good five miles with only light casualties. The V Corps at Omaha, suffering 2,500 casualties, held a precarious one-mile-deep strip of coastline–yet the Americans were in control of their turf. The 2nd Rangers also held a small piece of territory at Pointe du Hoc. Even though this was a pointless attack, it had drawn some of the reserves of the 352nd away from where they might have been employed more effectively. The entire British Second Army had lost less than 3,000 men and had penetrated as much as ten miles in some places.
The Allies, however, had failed to achieve many of their goals. The British had not taken Caen and would not do so for another month. The city of Bayeux also was not taken. None of the invasion forces had reached their day-one objective lines, and there remained dangerous gaps between the OmahaGold and JunoSword areas. At Utah, the 4th Division still had not linked up with all of the 82nd Airborne, and the 1st and 29th divisions at Omaha were in danger of being thrown back into the sea if a concerted attack could be mounted against them.
The Germans, however, remained in the dark as to the Allies’ true intentions. Still believing that another invasion was to come at Pas-de-Calais, the commanders held the Fifteenth Army in reserve. It was not used until too late to make any difference at Normandy. Even though the 12th SS Panzer and Panzer Lehr divisions had been initially dispatched, they were held during the critical moment when their presence could have made a difference for Germany. The two quality units the Germans had at Normandy, the 352nd Infantry and the 21st Panzer, had suffered heavy casualties in the course of the day’s fighting. The Germans were able to contain the invasion of the first day but were never able to regain any ground. Air superiority and logistical capability were the telling factors in the Allied success.
Hitler’s Atlantic Wall had failed to hold back the Allied invasion. The invaders were not destroyed on the beaches as Rommel had hoped, nor were they thrown back into the sea as Rundstedt had planned. The Germans kept the Allied army contained for two months. When the breakout occurred in August, there was no holding the Allies back. From that point, Nazi Germany had only nine months more to live.
This article was written by David R. Jennys and originally appeared in the May issue of World War II. For more great articles be sure to pick up your copy of World War II.
D-Day: Their Average Age Was 20
Today (June 6) is the anniversary of the Operation Overlord landing operations during World War II, more commonly known as D-Day. The Allied invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944 was the largest seaborne operation in history. It was the beginning of the end for Nazi Germany, as D-Day began the liberation of German-occupied France, and established Allied successes along the Western Front.
Over 175,000 Americans, Brits, and Canadians landed that day from ships, and 20,000 as paratroopers. The planning for the D-Day operation took months.
Why are we covering this history? Of course, it’s important, but there’s a very specific reason. As a college admissions planning site, we’re offering this history as perspective.
The average age of the men who landed on the five beaches in Operation Overlord was 20.
So next time you wonder if you can make it to classes in the middle of winter, or find your classes, or talk to a professor, remember this fact. The average D-Day age was 20.
Next time you’re wondering if your student is ready to leave the nest, apply for jobs, open a bank account, or manage their finances, remember this fact. The average D-Day age was 20.
Finally, yes, we’re aware times are different and situations change. But young people rise to the challenges presented to them. Be confident in your independence and abilities. You’ve got this, young adults.
‘Let’s get it over and knock their teeth out’: D-Day in 1944 during World War II
On June 6, 1944, Howard Whitman, New York Daily News Correspondent representing the combined American press, described the soldiers boarding ships headed to the beaches of Normandy.
Whitman said American soldiers were eager “to get on with the Big Show.”
The Big Show was D-Day during World War II when more than 160,000 Allied troops landed on 50 miles of beaches in Normandy, France, to fight Nazi Germany and liberate western Europe.
D-Day is described as one of the largest amphibious military assaults in history.
Whitman said the soldiers “boarded the invasion ships as if they were headed for a Sunday School picnic. It didn’t matter that death might be there, too.”
The soldiers had shaved their heads to protection from infection in the event they suffer a head wound. They all wore gas masks. Each was given $4 in “invasion money.”
While waiting, they played cards.
“These boys seemed unaware that they were standing at the crossroads of history,” Whitman wrote.
The soldiers had practiced this scenario over and over. They were anxious to get on with it.
One soldier said, “after you practice for a thing so long you get sick of practicing We know what we got to do and we want to get the thing done. Maybe if we get the thing done, we’ll get home someday.”
Another said, “I wish this tub would get going. Let’s get it over and knock their teeth out. That’s the way we feel, and you can tell them back home that our morale was never better – I mean that.”
Whitman described how each soldier was weighed down by equipment.
“Some of the things they carried were field packs, sidearms, rifles, machine guns, field glasses, walkie talkies, jackets stuffed with hand grenades, smoke bombs, heavy loads of ammunition, prepared dynamite charges, flame throwers, grenade launchers, bazookas, TNT charges on the ends of poles and full anti-gas equipment.
One of them also carried a guitar. Another had a red and white sign painted on his back: Danger – Minefield.”
As each boarded the ship, he was given a life preserver for himself and one for every piece of equipment he carried.
He also was given seven sticks of chewing gum, four boxes of matches, a box of body insecticide, three boxes of D rations, pipe, cigarette and chewing tobacco, water purification tablets, a carton of cigarettes or cigarette makings, one razor blade, a tin of canned heat, 12 seasickness pills and two vomit bags.”
According to history.com, the D-Day invasion “was one of the largest amphibious military assaults in history and required extensive planning. Prior to D-Day, the Allies conducted a large-scale deception campaign designed to mislead the Germans about the intended invasion target. By late August 1944, all of northern France had been liberated, and by the following spring, the Allies had defeated the Germans. The Normandy landings have been called the beginning of the end of war in Europe.”
FILE - In this June 6, 1944, file photo, members of an American landing unit help their comrades ashore during the Normandy invasion. The men reached the zone code-named Utah Beach, near Sainte- Mere-Eglise, on a life raft after their landing craft was hit and sunk by German coastal defenses. (Louis Weintraub/Pool Photo via AP, File) AP
The death toll was tremendous - more than 9,000 soldiers were killed or wounded, “but their sacrifice allowed more than 100,000 soldiers to begin the slow, hard slog across Europe, to defeat Adolf Hitler’s crack troops,” according to www.army.mil/d-day/.
The United Press reported, “American, British and Canadian invasion forces landed in Northwestern France today, established beachheads in Normandy, and by evening had ‘gotten over the first five or six hurdles’ in the greatest amphibious assault of all time.”
Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s order of the day:
“Soldiers, sailors and airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force. You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hope and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave allies and brothers-in-arms on other fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe and security for ourselves in a free world.
Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely.
But this is the year 1944! Much has happened since the Nazi triumph of 1940-41. The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats, in open battle, man-to-man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our home fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men. The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to victory.
I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory.
Good luck. And let us beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.”
An American infantryman receives his rations of candy and cigarettes, somewhere in England on June 6, 1944, before embarking with other troops for the assault on the French coast, to open the long-awaited second front invasion. (AP Photo) ASSOCIATED PRESS
In June 1940, Germany's leader Adolf Hitler had triumphed in what he called "the most famous victory in history"—the fall of France.  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).  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.  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,  and he wished to avoid costly frontal assaults such as those that had occurred at the Somme and Passchendaele in World War I.  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.  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.  These campaigns provided the troops with valuable experience in amphibious warfare. 
Attendees at the Trident Conference in Washington in May 1943 took the decision to launch a cross-Channel invasion within the next year.  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.  British Lieutenant-General Frederick E. Morgan was appointed Chief of Staff, Supreme Allied Commander (COSSAC), to begin detailed planning.  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.  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.  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.  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.  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. 
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  however, it offered the Allies few opportunities for expansion as the area is bounded by numerous rivers and canals.  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.  The most serious drawback of the Normandy coast—the lack of port facilities—would be overcome through the development of artificial harbours. 
The COSSAC staff planned to begin the invasion on 1 May 1944.  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).  General Bernard Montgomery was named commander of the 21st Army Group, which comprised all of the land forces involved in the invasion.  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.  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.   [e]
Allied invasion plan Edit
"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 code-named Operation Neptune.  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.  Elaborate deceptions were planned to prevent the Germans from determining the timing and location of the invasion. 
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. 
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.   
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.   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.  Land forces were under the overall command of Montgomery, and air command was assigned to Air Chief Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory.  The First Canadian Army included personnel and units from Poland, Belgium, and the Netherlands.  Other Allied nations also participated. 
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.  Members of Combined Operations Pilotage Parties clandestinely prepared detailed harbour maps, including depth soundings. 
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. 
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. 
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.  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.  The Mulberry harbours were supplemented by blockship shelters (codenamed "Gooseberries").  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. 
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.  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.  The Armoured Vehicle Royal Engineers (AVREs) were modified for many tasks, including laying bridges and firing large charges into pillboxes.  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.  These tanks were easily swamped, and on D-Day, many sank before reaching the shore, especially at Omaha. 
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.  Operation Fortitude included Fortitude North, a misinformation campaign using fake radio-traffic to lead the Germans into expecting an attack on Norway,  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.   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.  Patton remained stationed in England until 6 July, thus continuing to deceive the Germans into believing a second attack would take place at Calais.  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. 
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.  
Many of the German radar stations on the French coast were destroyed by the RAF in preparation for the landings.  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. 
Rehearsals and security Edit
Training exercises for the Overlord landings took place as early as July 1943.  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.  A friendly fire incident there on 27 April 1944 resulted in as many as 450 deaths.  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.   Exercises with landing craft and live ammunition also took place at the Combined Training Centre in Inveraray in Scotland.  Naval exercises took place in Northern Ireland, and medical teams in London and elsewhere rehearsed how they would handle the expected waves of casualties.  Paratroopers conducted exercises, including a huge demonstration drop on 23 March 1944 observed by Churchill, Eisenhower, and other top officials. 
Allied planners considered tactical surprise to be a necessary element of the plan for the landings.  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.  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.  A news blackout in Britain increased the effectiveness of the deception operations.  Travel to and from the Republic of Ireland was banned, and movement within several kilometres of the coast of England restricted. 
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.  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. 
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.  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.  Allied control of the Atlantic meant that German meteorologists did not have access to as much information as the Allies on incoming weather patterns.  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.  Marshal Erwin Rommel returned to Germany for his wife's birthday and to meet Hitler to try to get more Panzers. 
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. 
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.  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.   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,  Russia, Mongolia, and elsewhere. The Wehrmacht had provided them mainly with unreliable captured equipment they lacked motorised transport.  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. 
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.  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.  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." 
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. 
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.  As the expected site of an Allied invasion, Pas de Calais was heavily defended.  In the Normandy area the best fortifications were concentrated at the port facilities at Cherbourg and Saint-Malo. 
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.   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.   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. 
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.  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.  Tangles of barbed wire, booby traps, and the removal of ground cover made the approach hazardous for infantry.  On Rommel's order, the number of mines along the coast was tripled.  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  ), booby-trapped stakes known as Rommelspargel (Rommel's asparagus) were set up in meadows and fields to deter airborne landings. 
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.   
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.  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.  Some men had to board their craft nearly a week before departure.  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.  Minesweepers began clearing lanes on the evening of 5 June,  and a thousand bombers left before dawn to attack the coastal defences.  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.  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.  The Free French 4th SAS battalion of 538 men was assigned objectives in Brittany (Operation Dingson, Operation Samwest).   Some 132,000 men were transported by sea on D-Day, and a further 24,000 came by air.  Preliminary naval bombardment commenced at 05:45 and continued until 06:25 from five battleships, twenty cruisers, sixty-five destroyers, and two monitors.   Infantry began arriving on the beaches at around 06:30. 
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.   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.   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.   The 82nd Airborne Division captured its primary objective at Sainte-Mère-Église and worked to protect the western flank.  Its failure to capture the river crossings at the River Merderet resulted in a delay in sealing off the Cotentin Peninsula.  The 101st Airborne Division helped protect the southern flank and captured the lock on the River Douve at La Barquette,  but did not capture the assigned nearby bridges on the first day. 
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. 
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.   They faced the 352nd Infantry Division, rather than the expected single regiment.  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.  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.  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.  The tenuous beachhead was expanded over the following days, and the D-Day objectives were accomplished by D+3. 
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.  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. 
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.  Casualties at Juno were 961 men. 
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.  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.  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.  
The first components of the Mulberry harbours were brought across on D+1 and the structures were in use for unloading by mid-June.  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.  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.  
Allied casualties on the first day were at least 10,000, with 4,414 confirmed dead.  The Germans lost 1,000 men.  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.  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.  Caen, a major objective, was still in German hands at the end of D-Day and would not be completely captured until 21 July.  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. 
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.  Many areas were additionally protected by rifle pits and machine-gun emplacements.  Most of the roads were too narrow for tanks.  The Germans had flooded the fields behind Utah with sea water for up to 2 miles (3.2 km) from the coast.  German forces on the peninsula included the 91st Infantry Division and the 243rd and 709th Static Infantry Divisions.  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.  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.  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. 
Fighting in the Caen area versus the 21st Panzer, the 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend and other units soon reached a stalemate.  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.   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.  Although the operation failed to take Caen, the Germans suffered many tank losses after committing every available Panzer unit to the operation.  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.  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.   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.  Hitler survived an assassination attempt on 20 July. 
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.  The British launched Operation Bluecoat on 30 July to secure Vire and the high ground of Mont Pinçon.  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.  Over Kluge's objections, on 4 August Hitler ordered a counter-offensive (Operation Lüttich) from Vire towards Avranches. 
While II Canadian Corps pushed south from Caen toward Falaise in Operation Totalize on 8 August,  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.  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.  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.   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.  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.  The issue has been the subject of much discussion among historians, criticism being levelled at American, British and Canadian forces.    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.   An invasion in southern France (Operation Dragoon) was launched on 15 August. 
The French Resistance in Paris rose against the Germans on 19 August.  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.  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. 
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.  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.  On the afternoon of 30 August, the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division crossed the Seine near Elbeuf and entered Rouen to a jubilant welcome. 
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.  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.  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.  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. 
The Normandy landings were the largest seaborne invasion in history, with nearly 5,000 landing and assault craft, 289 escort vessels, and 277 minesweepers.  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. 
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.  The deceptions undertaken in Operation Fortitude were successful, leaving the Germans obliged to defend a huge stretch of coastline.  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.  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.  Much of the opening artillery barrage was off-target or not concentrated enough to have any impact,  but the specialised armour worked well except on Omaha, providing close artillery support for the troops as they disembarked onto the beaches.  The indecisiveness and overly complicated command structure of the German high command was also a factor in the Allied success. 
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.  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.  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.  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).   The Free French SAS paratroopers suffered 77 killed, with 197 wounded and missing.  Allied tank losses have been estimated at around 4,000, with losses split evenly between the American and British/Canadian armies.  Historians slightly differ on overall casualties during the campaign, with the lowest losses totaling 225,606   and the highest at 226,386.  
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.  In action at the Falaise pocket, 50,000 men were lost, of whom 10,000 were killed and 40,000 captured.  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.  Other sources arrive at higher estimates: 400,000 (200,000 killed or wounded and a further 200,000 captured),  500,000 (290,000 killed or wounded, 210,000 captured),  to 530,000 in total. 
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.  While German forces reported only 481 tanks destroyed between D-day and 31 July,  research conducted by No. 2 Operational Research Section of 21st Army Group indicates that the Allies destroyed around 550 tanks in June and July  and another 500 in August,  for a total of 1,050 tanks destroyed, including 100 destroyed by aircraft.  Luftwaffe losses amounted to 2,127 aircraft.  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. 
Civilians and French heritage buildings Edit
During the liberation of Normandy, between 13,632 and 19,890 French civilians were killed,  and more were seriously wounded.  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.  A total of 70,000 French civilians were killed throughout the course of the war.  Land mines and unexploded ordnance continued to inflict casualties upon the Norman population following the end of the campaign. 
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.  Nevertheless, church spires and other stone buildings throughout the area were damaged or destroyed to prevent them being used by the Germans.  Efforts were made to prevent reconstruction workers from using rubble from important ruins to repair roads, and to search for artefacts.  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.  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. 
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.  Of the 18 listed churches in Caen, four were seriously damaged and five were destroyed, along with 66 other listed monuments.  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. 
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.  Looting was never condoned by Allied forces, and any perpetrators who were found to be looting were punished. 
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. 
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. 
Explanatory notes Edit
- ^ 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.
- ^ Around 812,000 were American and 640,000 were British and Canadian (Zetterling 2000, p. 408).
- ^ 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.
- ^ V-weapons were first launched against the UK on 12 June (Wilmot 1997, p. 316).
- ^ 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).
- ^ 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.
- ^ 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).
- ^ British casualties are sourced from "War Diary, 21st Army Group, 'A' Section, SITEP" dated 29 August 1944 (D'Este 2004, pp. 517–518).
- ^ 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.
- ^ abBeevor 2009, p. 82.
- ^Beevor 2009, p. 76.
- ^ abcWilliams 1988, p. x.
- ^Beevor 2009, p. 492.
- ^US Navy website.
- ^Luxembourg Army website.
- ^Badsey 1990, p. 85.
- ^Zetterling 2000, p. 32.
- ^Zetterling 2000, p. 34.
- ^Shulman 2007, p. 192.
- ^ abcdWilmot 1997, p. 434.
- ^Buckley 2006, pp. 117–120.
- ^ abcdeTamelander & Zetterling 2003, p. 341.
- ^ abcTamelander & Zetterling 2003, p. 342.
- ^ abZetterling 2000, p. 77.
- ^ abGiangreco, Moore & Polmar 2004, p. 252.
- ^ abTamelander & Zetterling 2003, pp. 342–343.
- ^Zetterling 2000, p. 83.
- ^ abcdBeevor 2009, p. 519.
- ^ abFlint 2009, pp. 336–337.
- ^Dear & Foot 2005, p. 322.
- ^Churchill 1949, p. 115.
- ^Zuehlke 2004, p. 20.
- ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, pp. 8–10.
- ^Churchill 1951, p. 582.
- ^Zuehlke 2004, pp. 21–22.
- ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, pp. 10–11.
- ^Beevor 2012, p. 319.
- ^ abFord & Zaloga 2009, p. 11.
- ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, p. 10.
- ^Wilmot 1997, pp. 177–178, chart p. 180.
- ^Whitmarsh 2009, p. 9.
- ^Zuehlke 2004, p. 23.
- ^Gilbert 1989, pp. 397, 478.
- ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, pp. 13–14.
- ^Beevor 2009, pp. 33–34.
- ^ abWilmot 1997, p. 170.
- ^Ambrose 1994, pp. 73–74.
- ^ abcFord & Zaloga 2009, p. 14.
- ^Gilbert 1989, p. 491.
- ^ abWhitmarsh 2009, pp. 12–13.
- ^Weinberg 1995, p. 684.
- ^Ellis, Allen & Warhurst 2004, pp. 521–533.
- ^Churchill 1951, p. 642.
- ^ abcdBeevor 2009, p. 3.
- ^Buckingham 2004, p. 88.
- ^Churchill 1951, pp. 592–593.
- ^ abcBeevor 2009, Map, inside front cover.
- ^Ellis, Allen & Warhurst 2004, pp. 78, 81.
- ^Churchill 1951, p. 594.
- ^Goldstein, Dillon & Wenger 1994, p. 6.
- ^Whitmarsh 2009, Map, p. 12.
- ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, p. 25.
- ^Evans 2008, p. 623.
- ^Zuehlke 2004, p. 81.
- ^Whitmarsh 2009, p. 21.
- ^ abWhitmarsh 2009, p. 11.
- ^Whitmarsh 2009, pp. 27–28.
- ^Wilmot 1997, p. 181.
- ^Wilmot 1997, p. 183.
- ^ abWilmot 1997, p. 321.
- ^Whitmarsh 2009, pp. 89–90.
- ^Wilmot 1997, p. 182.
- ^Wilmot 1997, p. 195.
- ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, p. 208.
- ^Zuehlke 2004, pp. 42–43.
- ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, p. 73.
- ^Weinberg 1995, p. 680.
- ^Brown 2007, p. 465.
- ^Zuehlke 2004, pp. 71–72.
- ^ abWhitmarsh 2009, p. 27.
- ^Beevor 2009, p. 282.
- ^Beevor 2009, p. 4.
- ^ abWhitmarsh 2009, p. 34.
- ^Bickers 1994, pp. 19–21.
- ^Zuehlke 2004, p. 35.
- ^Goldstein, Dillon & Wenger 1994, pp. 50–51, 54–57.
- ^Lewis 1990, p. 254.
- ^Fenton 2004.
- ^Lewis 1990, p. 227.
- ^Zuehlke 2004, p. 36.
- ^Goldstein, Dillon & Wenger 1994, pp. 59, 61.
- ^Goldstein, Dillon & Wenger 1994, pp. 61–62.
- ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, p. 46.
- ^ abcdWhitmarsh 2009, p. 30.
- ^Whitmarsh 2009, pp. 30, 36.
- ^Dear & Foot 2005, p. 667.
- ^ abcWhitmarsh 2009, p. 31.
- ^ abcWhitmarsh 2009, p. 33.
- ^Beevor 2009, p. 21.
- ^Wilmot 1997, pp. 224–226.
- ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, p. 131.
- ^Beevor 2009, pp. 42–43.
- ^Wilmot 1997, p. 144.
- ^Beevor 2009, p. 34.
- ^Goldstein, Dillon & Wenger 1994, p. 13.
- ^Zaloga 2013, pp. 58–59.
- ^Goldstein, Dillon & Wenger 1994, pp. 16–19.
- ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, p. 37.
- ^Liedtke 2015, pp. 227–228, 235.
- ^Liedtke 2015, p. 225.
- ^Williams 2013, p. 182.
- ^Liedtke 2015, pp. 224–225.
- ^ abcFord & Zaloga 2009, p. 30.
- ^ abcdWhitmarsh 2009, p. 13.
- ^Beevor 2009, p. 33.
- ^Goldstein, Dillon & Wenger 1994, p. 11.
- ^Whitmarsh 2009, p. 12.
- ^ abFord & Zaloga 2009, pp. 54–56.
- ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, p. 31.
- ^Whitmarsh 2009, p. 15.
- ^Wilmot 1997, p. 192.
- ^Whitmarsh 2009, p. 42.
- ^Beevor 2009, pp. 1–2.
- ^ abBeevor 2009, p. 74.
- ^Beevor 2009, p. 79.
- ^Beevor 2009, p. 51.
- ^Beevor 2009, p. 51–52.
- ^Corta 1952, pp. 157–161.
- ^Corta 1997, pp. 64–79.
- ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, p. 69.
- ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, p. 70.
- ^Beevor 2009, p. 118.
- ^ abHughes 2010, p. 5.
- ^Whitmarsh 2009, p. 51.
- ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, pp. 166–167.
- ^ abBeevor 2009, p. 116.
- ^Beevor 2009, p. 115.
- ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, p. 172.
- ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, Map, p. 170.
- ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, pp. 95–104.
- ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, pp. 64–65, 334.
- ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, p. 45.
- ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, pp. 76–77, 334.
- ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, pp. 90–91.
- ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, pp. 56, 83.
- ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, p. 337.
- ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, pp. 281–282.
- ^Wilmot 1997, pp. 270–273.
- ^Wilmot 1997, pp. 275–276.
- ^Beevor 2009, p. 131.
- ^Wilmot 1997, pp. 277–278.
- ^Beevor 2009, pp. 143, 148.
- ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, pp. 326–327.
- ^Wilmot 1997, p. 283.
- ^Beevor 2009, pp. 215–216.
- ^Wilmot 1997, p. 387.
- ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, p. 331.
- ^Whitmarsh 2009, p. 87.
- ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, p. 335.
- ^Horn 2010, p. 13.
- ^Wilmot 1997, p. 360.
- ^Dear & Foot 2005, pp. 627–630.
- ^ abWilmot 1997, p. 301.
- ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, p. 175.
- ^Whitmarsh 2009, p. 49.
- ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, pp. 118–120.
- ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, p. 179.
- ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, p. 182.
- ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, pp. 185–193.
- ^Beevor 2009, p. 186.
- ^Ellis, Allen & Warhurst 2004, pp. 247–254.
- ^Forty 2004, pp. 36, 97.
- ^Wilmot 1997, p. 342.
- ^Beevor 2009, pp. 232–237.
- ^Wilmot 1997, p. 347.
- ^Copp 2000, p. 73.
- ^Beevor 2009, p. 273.
- ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, pp. 340–341.
- ^Beevor 2009, pp. 332–333.
- ^Beevor 2009, Map, p. 344.
- ^Beevor 2009, pp. 366–367.
- ^Wilmot 1997, pp. 398–400.
- ^Wilmot 1997, pp. 399–400.
- ^Wilmot 1997, p. 410.
- ^Beevor 2009, pp. 434–435.
- ^Wilmot 1997, pp. 416–417.
- ^Beevor 2009, p. 440.
- ^Wilmot 1997, p. 418.
- ^Wilmot 1997, p. 420.
- ^Bradley 1951, p. 377.
- ^Beevor 2009, pp. 439–440.
- ^Wilmot 1997, p. 424.
- ^Hastings 2006, p. 369.
- ^Wilmot 1997, pp. 421, 444.
- ^Evans 2008, p. 642.
- ^Beevor 2009, pp. 445, 447.
- ^Wilmot 1997, p. 429.
- ^Beevor 2009, pp. 481, 483, 494.
- ^Wilmot 1997, p. 430.
- ^ abStacey 1960, p. 286.
- ^Stacey 1948, p. 219.
- ^ abFord & Zaloga 2009, pp. 341–342.
- ^Wilmot 1997, p. 485.
- ^ abWhitmarsh 2009, p. 109.
- ^Gaddis 1990, p. 149.
- ^Wilmot 1997, p. 290.
- ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, p. 343.
- ^Wilmot 1997, p. 289.
- ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, p. 36.
- ^Copp 2003, p. 259.
- ^Wilmot 1997, p. 291.
- ^Wilmot 1997, p. 292.
- ^Stacey 1960, p. 271.
- ^Ellis, Allen & Warhurst 2004, pp. 487–488.
- ^Corta 1997, pp. 288–289.
- ^Beevor 2009, p. 522.
- ^D'Este 2004, p. 517.
- ^Ellis, Allen & Warhurst 2004, pp. 488, 493.
- ^Tamelander & Zetterling 2003, pp. 341–342.
- ^ abTamelander & Zetterling 2003, p. 343.
- ^Shulman 2007, p. 166.
- ^Copp 2000, pp. 399–400.
- ^Zetterling 2000, p. 408.
- ^Zaloga 2015, p. 470.
- ^Flint 2009, p. 305.
- ^Flint 2009, p. 350.
- ^ abBeevor 2009, p. 520.
- ^ abcFlint 2009, p. 354.
- ^ abFlint 2009, p. 352.
- ^Flint 2009, p. 337.
- ^Flint 2009, p. 292.
- ^Ford & Zaloga 2009, pp. 345–354.
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D-Day Invasion - HISTORY
The Normandy Invasion (code-named Operation Neptune) was the largest amphibious invasion in the history of armed conflict. It combined efforts from nearly 290 escort vessels, 5,000 landing and assult craft, and 160,000 troops. Casualties in the first 24 hours of the invasion were at least 12,000 Allied soldiers and 1,000 Germans.
Still a gamble, it was not assured during the early hours of the landings that the invasion was going to be successful. According to the National Archives, General Eisenhower’s doubts about success in the face of a highly-defended and well-prepared enemy led him to consider what would happen if the invasion of Normandy failed. If the Allies did not secure a strong foothold on D-Day, they would be ordered into a full retreat, and he would be forced to make public the message he drafted for such an occasion. It reads:
“Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that Bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.”
Nothing. You should understand that 90% of German resources went to the Eastern Front. The Germans would have lost without D-Day. The only difference would have been that the French people would have experienced the mass rape and robbery that the Red Army invasion meant for the “liberated” territories.
The destruction of jews, on the other hand, would have been more complete, because in Hungary or Rumania, for example, a significant part of the Jews released from the concentration camps were destroyed by the Russians because they were part of the bourgeoisie (see “málenky robot”). A concrete example is the father of my grandfather’s neighbor, who was taken away by the Germans in the fall of 1944, came back in late 1945, then he was taken to gulag and he did not return from there. There was no difference between nkvd and gestapo.
Seventy-Seventh Anniversary Of D-Day Landings Remembered On Social Media
A picture of an unknown soldier is seen on the shore of Omaha Beach in Saint Laurent sur mer, . [+] Normandy, Sunday, June 6, 2021 on the eve of 77th anniversary of the assault that helped bring an end to World War II. While France is planning to open up to vaccinated visitors starting next week, that comes too late for the D-Day anniversary. So for the second year in a row, most public commemoration events have been cancelled. A few solemn ceremonies have been maintained, in the presence of dignitaries and a few guests only. (AP Photo/David Vincent)
The country remains largely divided politically, a fact clearly evident from commewnts posted on social media. Yet, on Sunday some took time not to debase those on the other side and instead honored the sacrifices made 77 years ago when some 156,000 American, British and Canadian forces landed on five beaches along a 50-mile stretch of the heavily fortified coast of France's Normandy region.
"D-Day" was the largest amphibious military assault in history, and it opened a second front that led to the eventual defeat and downfall of Nazi Germany. More than 5,000 ships and landing craft were employed to transport troops and supplies, while some 11,000 aircraft were mobilized to provide air cover and support for the invasion.
General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander, said famously to the troops about to take part, "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."
This weekend the eyes of the world were again upon those young men, and across the social media platforms the exploits of the "Greatest Generation" were praised and honored for their part in Operation Overlord.
The posts actually began on Saturday evening, with many highlighting the Allied airborne landings that came in the late hours of June 5, 1944.
Throughout Saturday evening and into Sunday morning Military History Now (@MilHistNow) was among the outlets that posted live #DDay tweets to mark the anniversary of the landings, and that included the now infamous quote from German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, "For the Allies as well as Germany, it will be the longest day."