_Omaha Beach_: V Corps
_Utah Beach_: VII Corps
82nd Airborne Division
101st Airborne Division
101st Airborne Division
_Gold Beach_ XXX Corps
_Juno Beach_ I Corps
* 3rd Canadian
_Sword Beach_ I Corps
* 6th Airborne Division
5th Panzer Army
_South of Caen_
* 709th Static Division
_Gold, Juno, and Sword_
* 716th Static Division
170 coastal artillery guns. Includes guns from 100mm to 210mm, as
well as 320mm rocket launchers.
CASUALTIES AND LOSSES
10,000+ casualties; 4,414 confirmed dead
Invasion of Normandy
* _Taxable_, _Glimmer_ ">Initial airborne assault
* British sector
* Merville Battery
* American sector
* American sector
Pointe du Hoc
* Anglo-Canadian sector
* Initial ground campaign
* American sector
* Brécourt Manor
* Hill 30
* Anglo-Canadian sector
* Le Mesnil-Patry
* 2nd Odon
* Verrières Ridge
* Air and sea operations
* La Caine
* Pierres Noires
* Audierne Bay
* Supporting operations
The NORMANDY LANDINGS (codenamed OPERATION NEPTUNE) were the landing
operations on Tuesday, 6 June 1944 (termed D-DAY ) of the Allied
Operation Overlord during
World War II
World War II . The
largest seaborne invasion in history, the operation began the
liberation of German-occupied northwestern Europe from Nazi control,
and contributed to the Allied victory on the Western Front .
Planning for the operation began in 1943. In the months leading up to
the invasion, the Allies conducted a substantial military deception ,
Operation Bodyguard , to mislead the Germans as to the date
and location of the main Allied landings. The weather on
D-Day was far
from ideal, but postponing would have meant a delay of at least two
weeks, as the invasion planners had requirements for the phase of the
moon, the tides, and the time of day that meant only a few days in
each month were deemed suitable.
Adolf Hitler placed German Field
Erwin Rommel in command of German forces and of developing
fortifications along the
Atlantic Wall in anticipation of an Allied
The amphibious landings were preceded by extensive aerial and naval
bombardment and an airborne assault —the landing of 24,000 American
, British, and Canadian airborne troops shortly after midnight .
Allied infantry and armoured divisions began landing on the coast of
France at 06:30. The target 50-mile (80 km) stretch of the Normandy
coast was divided into five sectors: Utah , Omaha , Gold , Juno , and
Sword . Strong winds blew the landing craft east of their intended
positions, particularly at Utah and Omaha. The men landed under heavy
fire from gun emplacements overlooking the beaches, and the shore was
mined and covered with obstacles such as wooden stakes, metal tripods,
and barbed wire, making the work of the beach-clearing teams difficult
and dangerous. Casualties were heaviest at Omaha, with its high
cliffs. At Gold, Juno, and Sword, several fortified towns were cleared
in house-to-house fighting, and two major gun emplacements at Gold
were disabled, using specialised tanks.
The Allies failed to achieve any of their goals on the first day.
St. Lô , and
Bayeux remained in German hands, and
Caen , a
major objective, was not captured until 21 July. Only two of the
beaches (Juno and Gold) were linked on the first day, and all five
beachheads were not connected until 12 June; however, the operation
gained a foothold which the Allies gradually expanded over the coming
months. German casualties on
D-Day have been estimated at 4,000 to
9,000 men. Allied casualties were at least 10,000, with 4,414
Museums, memorials, and war cemeteries in the area now host many
visitors each year.
* 1 Background
* 2 Operations
* 3 Deception plans
* 4 Weather
* 5 German order of battle
* 5.2 Grandcamps Sector
* 5.3 Forces around
* 7 Armoured reserves
* 8 Allied order of battle
* 8.1 American zones
* 8.2 British and Canadian zones
* 9 Coordination with the
* 10 Naval activity
* 10.1 Naval losses
* 11 Bombardment
* 12 Landings
* 12.1 Airborne operations
* 12.1.1 American airborne landings
* 12.1.2 British and Canadian airborne landings
Pointe du Hoc
* 13 Aftermath
* 14 War memorials and tourism
* 15 Depiction in media
* 15.1 Books
* 15.2 Film and television
* 15.3 Video games
* 16 See also
* 17 References
* 17.1 Notes
* 17.2 Citations
* 17.3 Bibliography
* 18 Further reading
* 19 External links
Between 27 May and 4 June 1940, over 338,000 troops of the British
Expeditionary Force (BEF) and the
French Army , trapped along the
northern coast of France, were rescued in the
Dunkirk evacuation .
After the German Army invaded the
Soviet Union in June 1941, the
Joseph Stalin began pressing his allies for the creation
of a second front in western Europe. In late May 1942 the Soviet
Union and the
United States made a joint announcement that a "... full
understanding was reached with regard to the urgent tasks of creating
a second front in Europe in 1942." However, British Prime Minister
Winston Churchill persuaded American President Franklin D. Roosevelt
to postpone the promised invasion as, even with American help, the
Allies did not have adequate forces for such an activity.
Instead of an immediate return to France, the Western Allies staged
offensives in the
Mediterranean Theatre of Operations , where British
troops were already stationed. By mid-1943 the campaign in North
Africa had been won. The Allies then launched the invasion of Sicily
in July 1943, and subsequently invaded Italy in September the same
year. By then, Soviet forces were on the offensive and had won a major
victory at the
Battle of Stalingrad . The decision to undertake a
cross-channel invasion within the next year was taken at the Trident
Conference in Washington in May 1943. Initial planning was
constrained by the number of available landing craft , most of which
were already committed in the Mediterranean and Pacific . At the
Tehran Conference in November 1943, Roosevelt and Churchill promised
Stalin that they would open the long-delayed second front in May 1944.
Meeting of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force
(SHAEF), 1 February 1944. Front row: Air Chief Marshal
Arthur Tedder ;
Dwight D. Eisenhower ; General
Bernard Montgomery . Back row:
Omar Bradley ; Admiral
Bertram Ramsay ; Air Chief
Trafford Leigh-Mallory ; Lieutenant General Walter Bedell
Four sites were considered for the landings:
Brittany , the Cotentin
Normandy , and the
Pas de Calais . As
Cotentin are peninsulas, it would have been possible for the Germans
to cut off the Allied advance at a relatively narrow isthmus, so these
sites were rejected. With the
Pas de Calais being the closest point
in continental Europe to Britain, the Germans considered it to be the
most likely initial landing zone, so it was the most heavily fortified
region. But it offered few opportunities for expansion, as the area
is bounded by numerous rivers and canals, whereas landings on a broad
Normandy would permit simultaneous threats against the port
Cherbourg , coastal ports further west in Brittany, and an overland
attack towards Paris and eventually into Germany.
Normandy was hence
chosen as the landing site. The most serious drawback of the Normandy
coast—the lack of port facilities—would be overcome through the
development of artificial Mulberry harbours . A series of specialised
tanks, nicknamed Hobart\'s Funnies , were created to deal with
conditions expected during the
Normandy Campaign, such as scaling sea
walls and providing close support on the beach.
The Allies planned to launch the invasion on 1 May 1944. The initial
draft of the plan was accepted at the Quebec Conference in August
Dwight D. Eisenhower was appointed commander of Supreme
Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF). General Bernard
Montgomery was named as 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 plan, which
proposed amphibious landings by three divisions with two more
divisions in support. The two generals immediately insisted that the
scale of the initial invasion be expanded to five divisions, with
airborne descents by three additional divisions, to allow operations
on a wider front and speed up the capture of Cherbourg. The need to
acquire or produce extra landing craft for the expanded operation
meant that the invasion had to be delayed to June. Eventually,
thirty-nine Allied divisions would be committed to the Battle of
Normandy: twenty-two American, twelve British, three Canadian, one
Polish, and one French, totalling over a million troops all under
overall British command.
Operation Overlord was the name assigned to the establishment of a
large-scale lodgement on the Continent. The first phase, the
amphibious invasion and establishment of a secure foothold, was
codenamed Operation Neptune. To gain the air superiority needed to
ensure a successful invasion, the Allies undertook a bombing campaign
Operation Pointblank ) that targeted German aircraft
production, fuel supplies, and airfields. Elaborate deceptions,
Operation Bodyguard , were undertaken in the months leading
up to the invasion to prevent the Germans from learning the timing and
location of the invasion.
The landings were to be preceded by airborne operations near
the eastern flank to secure the Orne River bridges and north of
Carentan on the western flank. The Americans, assigned to land at Utah
Omaha Beach , were to attempt to capture
Carentan and St.
Lô the first day, then cut off the
Cotentin Peninsula and eventually
capture the port facilities at
Cherbourg . The British at Sword and
Gold Beaches and Canadians at
Juno Beach would protect the American
flank and attempt to establish airfields near Caen. A secure lodgement
would be established and an attempt made to hold all territory north
Avranches -Falaise line within the first three weeks.
Montgomery envisaged a ninety-day battle, lasting until all Allied
forces reached the River
Shoulder patches were designed for units of the fictitious First
United States Army Group under George Patton
Under the overall umbrella of Operation Bodyguard, the Allies
conducted several subsidiary operations designed to mislead the
Germans as to the date and location of the Allied landings. 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 involving the creation
of a fictitious First
United States Army Group under Lieutenant
George S. Patton , supposedly located in
Fortitude South was intended to deceive the Germans into believing
that the main attack would take place at Calais. Genuine radio
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 was stationed in
England until 6 July, thus continuing to deceive the Germans into
believing a second attack would take place at Calais.
Many of the German radar stations on the French coast were destroyed
in preparation for the landings. In addition, on the night before the
invasion, a small group of
Special Air Service
Special Air Service (SAS) operators
deployed dummy paratroopers over
Le Havre and Isigny . These dummies
led the Germans to believe that an additional airborne landing had
occurred. On that same night, in
Operation Taxable , No. 617 Squadron
RAF dropped strips of "window", metal foil that caused a radar return
which was mistakenly interpreted by German radar operators as a naval
convoy near Le Havre. The illusion was bolstered by a group of small
vessels towing barrage balloons . A similar deception was undertaken
Boulogne-sur-Mer in the
Pas de Calais area by No. 218 Squadron
Operation Glimmer .
The invasion planners determined a set of conditions involving the
phase of the moon, the tides, and the time of day that would be
satisfactory on only a few days in each month. A full moon was
desirable, as it would provide illumination for aircraft pilots and
have the highest tides . The Allies wanted to schedule the landings
for shortly before dawn, midway between low and high tide, with the
tide coming in. This would improve the visibility of obstacles on the
beach, while minimising the amount of time the men would be exposed in
the open. Eisenhower had tentatively selected 5 June as the date for
the assault. However, on 4 June, conditions were unsuitable for a
landing: high winds and heavy seas made it impossible to launch
landing craft, and low clouds would prevent aircraft from finding
Surface weather analysis map showing weather
fronts on 5 June
James Stagg of the
Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force (RAF) met Eisenhower
on the evening of 4 June. He and his meteorological team predicted
that the weather would improve enough for the invasion to proceed on 6
June. The next available dates with the required tidal conditions
(but without the desirable full moon) would be two weeks later, from
18 to 20 June. Postponement of the invasion would have required
recalling men and ships already in position to cross the Channel, and
would have increased the chance that the invasion plans would be
detected. After much discussion with the other senior commanders,
Eisenhower decided that the invasion should go ahead on the 6th. A
major storm battered the
Normandy coast from 19 to 22 June, which
would have made the beach landings impossible.
Allied control of the Atlantic meant German meteorologists had less
information than the Allies on incoming weather patterns. As the
Luftwaffe _ meteorological centre in Paris was predicting two weeks
of stormy weather, many Wehrmacht commanders left their posts to
attend war games in
Rennes , and men in many units were given leave.
Erwin Rommel returned to Germany for his wife's birthday
and to meet with Hitler to try to obtain more Panzers .
GERMAN ORDER OF BATTLE
Nazi Germany had at its disposal fifty divisions in France and the
Low Countries, with another eighteen stationed in
Denmark and Norway.
Fifteen divisions were in the process of formation in Germany. Combat
losses throughout the war, particularly on the Eastern Front , meant
that the Germans no longer had a pool of able young men from which to
draw. German soldiers were now on average six years older than their
Allied counterparts. Many in the
Normandy area were _
(eastern legions) – conscripts and volunteers from Russia, Mongolia,
and elsewhere. They were provided mainly with unreliable captured
equipment and lacked motorised transport. Many German units were
German Supreme commander:
* _Oberbefehlshaber_ West (Supreme Commander West;
OB West ): Field
Gerd von Rundstedt
Panzer Group West : General
Leo Geyr von Schweppenburg )
Army Group B : Field Marshal
* 7th Army : _Generaloberst _
* LXXXIV Corps under _General der Artillerie _
Allied forces attacking
Utah Beach faced the following German units
stationed on the Cotentin Peninsula:
* _ 709th Static
Infantry Division under Generalleutnant_
Karl-Wilhelm von Schlieben numbered 12,320 men, many of them
Ostlegionen _ (non-German conscripts recruited from Soviet prisoners
of war, Georgians and Poles).
* 729th Grenadier Regiment
* 739th Grenadier Regiment
* 919th Grenadier Regiment
_ German troops using captured French tanks (Beutepanzer_) in
Omaha Beach faced the following troops:
* _ 352nd
Infantry Division under Generalleutnant_
Dietrich Kraiss ,
a full-strength unit of around 12,000 brought in by Rommel on 15 March
and reinforced by two additional regiments.
914th Grenadier Regiment
* 915th Grenadier Regiment (as reserves)
* 916th Grenadier Regiment
Infantry Regiment (from 716th
* 352nd Artillery Regiment
Allied forces at Gold and Juno faced the following elements of the
914th Grenadier Regiment
* 915th Grenadier Regiment
* 916th Grenadier Regiment
* 352nd Artillery Regiment
FORCES AROUND CAEN
Allied forces attacking Gold, Juno, and Sword Beaches faced the
following German units:
* _ 716th Static
Infantry Division under Generalleutnant_ Wilhelm
Richter. At 7,000 troops, the division was significantly
* 1716th Artillery Regiment
* _ 21st
Panzer Division , (south of Caen) under Generalmajor_ Edgar
Feuchtinger included 146 tanks and 50 assault guns , plus supporting
infantry and artillery.
* 125th Panzergrenadier Regiment
* 192nd Panzergrenadier Regiment
Panzer Artillery Regiment
Atlantic Wall and
English Channel Map of the
Atlantic Wall , shown in yellow Axis and occupied countries Allies
and occupied countries Neutral countries
Alarmed by the raids on St Nazaire and Dieppe in 1942, Hitler had
ordered the construction of fortifications all along the Atlantic
coast, from Spain to Norway, to protect against an expected Allied
invasion. He envisioned 15,000 emplacements manned by 300,000 troops,
but shortages, particularly of concrete and manpower, meant that most
of the strongpoints were never built. As it was expected to be the
site of the invasion, the
Pas de Calais was heavily defended. In the
Normandy area, the best fortifications were concentrated at the port
Saint-Malo . Rommel was assigned to
oversee the construction of further fortifications along the expected
invasion front, which stretched from the
Netherlands to Cherbourg,
and was given command of the newly re-formed Army Group B, which
included the 7th Army, the 15th Army , and the forces guarding the
Netherlands. Reserves for this group included the 2nd , 21st, and
Rommel believed that the
Normandy coast could be a possible landing
point for the invasion, so he ordered the construction of extensive
defensive works along that shore. In addition to concrete gun
emplacements at strategic points along the coast, he ordered wooden
stakes, metal tripods, mines, and large anti-tank obstacles to be
placed on the beaches to delay the approach of landing craft and
impede the movement of tanks. Expecting the Allies to land at high
tide so that the infantry would spend less time exposed on the beach,
he ordered many of these obstacles to be placed at the high water mark
. 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. The Allied air
offensive over Germany had crippled the _Luftwaffe_ and established
air supremacy over western Europe, so Rommel knew he could not expect
effective air support. The _Luftwaffe_ could muster only 815 aircraft
Normandy in comparison to the Allies' 9,543. Rommel arranged
for booby-trapped stakes known as _
Rommelspargel _ (Rommel's
asparagus) to be installed in meadows and fields to deter airborne
Rommel believed that Germany's best chance was to stop the invasion
at the shore. He requested that the mobile reserves, especially tanks,
be stationed as close to the coast as possible. Rundstedt, Geyr, and
other senior commanders objected. They believed that the invasion
could not be stopped on the beaches. Geyr argued for a conventional
doctrine: keeping the
Panzer formations concentrated in a central
position around Paris and Rouen and deploying them only when the main
Allied beachhead had been identified. He also noted that, in the
Italian Campaign , the armoured units stationed near the coast had
been damaged by naval bombardment. Rommel's opinion was that, because
of Allied air supremacy, the large-scale movement of tanks would not
be possible once the invasion was under way. Hitler made the final
decision, which was to leave three
Panzer divisions under Geyr's
command and give Rommel operational control of three more as reserves.
Hitler took personal control of four divisions as strategic reserves,
not to be used without his direct orders.
ALLIED ORDER OF BATTLE
D-day assault routes into
Commander, SHAEF: General Dwight D. Eisenhower
Commander, 21st Army Group: General
Commander, First Army (United States): Lieutenant General Omar
The First Army contingent totalled approximately 73,000 men,
including 15,600 from the airborne divisions.
* VII Corps , commanded by Major General
J. Lawton Collins
Infantry Division : Major General
Raymond O. Barton
82nd Airborne Division : Major General
Infantry Division : Brigadier General
Jay W. MacKelvie
101st Airborne Division
101st Airborne Division : Major General
Maxwell D. Taylor
* V Corps , commanded by Major General
Leonard T. Gerow , making up
Infantry Division : Major General
Clarence R. Huebner
Infantry Division : Major General
Charles H. Gerhardt
BRITISH AND CANADIAN ZONES
Royal Marine Commandos attached to 3rd
Infantry Division move
Sword Beach , 6 June 1944
Commander, Second Army (Britain and Canada): Lieutenant General Sir
Overall, the Second Army contingent consisted of 83,115 men, 61,715
of them British. The nominally British air and naval support units
included a large number of personnel from Allied nations, including
several RAF squadrons manned almost exclusively by overseas air crew.
For example, the Australian contribution to the operation included a
Royal Australian Air Force
Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) squadron, nine Article XV
squadrons , and hundreds of personnel posted to RAF units and RN
warships. The RAF supplied two-thirds of the aircraft involved in the
* XXX Corps , commanded by Lieutenant General
50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division : Major General D.A.H.
Juno Beach Main article:
Juno Beach order of battle
* British I Corps , commanded by Lieutenant General
3rd Canadian Division : Major General
* British I Corps, commanded by Lieutenant General
Infantry Division : Major General
* 6th Airborne Division : Major General R.N. Gale
79th Armoured Division : Major General
Percy Hobart provided
specialised armoured vehicles which supported the landings on all
beaches in Second Army's sector.
COORDINATION WITH THE FRENCH RESISTANCE
Members of the
French Resistance and the U.S. 82nd Airborne
division discuss the situation during the Battle of
Normandy in 1944
Through the London-based _État-major des Forces Françaises de
French Forces of the Interior ), the British Special
Operations Executive orchestrated a massive campaign of sabotage to be
implemented by the
French Resistance . The Allies developed four plans
for the Resistance to execute on
D-Day and the following days:
* Plan _Vert_ was a 15-day operation to sabotage the rail system.
* Plan _Bleu_ dealt with destroying electrical facilities.
* Plan _Tortue_ was a delaying operation aimed at the enemy forces
that would potentially reinforce Axis forces at Normandy.
* Plan _Violet_ dealt with cutting underground telephone and
The resistance was alerted to carry out these tasks by _messages
personnels_ transmitted by the BBC\'s French service from London.
Several hundred of these messages, which might be snatches of poetry,
quotations from literature, or random sentences, were regularly
transmitted, masking the few that were actually significant. In the
weeks preceding the landings, lists of messages and their meanings
were distributed to resistance groups. An increase in radio activity
on 5 June was correctly interpreted by German intelligence to mean
that an invasion was imminent or underway. However, because of the
barrage of previous false warnings and misinformation, most units
ignored the warning.
A 1965 report from the Counter-insurgency Information Analysis Center
details the results of the French Resistance's sabotage efforts: "In
the southeast, 52 locomotives were destroyed on 6 June and the railway
line cut in more than 500 places.
Normandy was isolated as of 7 June."
D-Day planning map, used at
Southwick House Large
landing craft convoy crosses the
English Channel on 6 June 1944
Naval operations for the invasion were described by historian
Correlli Barnett as a "never surpassed masterpiece of planning". In
overall command was British Admiral Sir
Bertram Ramsay , who had
Flag officer at
Dover during the
Dunkirk evacuation four
years earlier. He had also been responsible for the naval planning of
the invasion of North Africa in 1942, and one of the two fleets
carrying troops for the invasion of Sicily the following year.
The invasion fleet was drawn from eight different navies, comprising
6,939 vessels: 1,213 warships, 4,126 landing craft of various types,
736 ancillary craft, and 864 merchant vessels. The majority of the
fleet was supplied by the UK, which provided 892 warships and 3,261
landing craft. There were 195,700 naval personnel involved. The
invasion fleet was split into the
Western Naval Task Force (under
Alan G Kirk
Alan G Kirk ) supporting the American sectors and the Eastern
Naval Task Force (under Admiral Sir
Philip Vian ) in the British and
Canadian sectors. Available to the fleet were five battleships, 20
cruisers, 65 destroyers, and two monitors. German ships in the area
D-Day included three torpedo boats, 29 fast attack craft , 36 R
boats , and 36 minesweepers and patrol boats. The Germans also had
several U-boats available, and all the approaches had been heavily
At 05:10, four German torpedo boats reached the Eastern Task Force
and launched fifteen torpedoes, sinking the Norwegian destroyer HNoMS
_Svenner_ off Sword beach but missing the battleships HMS _Warspite_
and _Ramillies_ . After attacking, the German vessels turned away and
fled east into a smoke screen that had been laid by the RAF to shield
the fleet from the long-range battery at Le Havre. Allied losses to
mines included USS _Corry_ off Utah and USS _PC-1261_ , a 173-foot
patrol craft. In addition, many landing craft were lost.
Main article: Bombing of
Normandy Map of the invasion area
showing channels cleared of mines, location of vessels engaged in
bombardment, and targets on shore
Normandy began around midnight with more than 2,200
British, Canadian, and American bombers attacking targets along the
coast and further inland. The coastal bombing attack was largely
ineffective at Omaha, because low cloud cover made the assigned
targets difficult to see. Concerned about inflicting casualties on
their own troops, many bombers delayed their attacks too long and
failed to hit the beach defences. The Germans had 570 aircraft
Normandy and the Low Countries on D-Day, and another 964
Minesweepers began clearing channels for the invasion fleet shortly
after midnight and finished just after dawn without encountering the
enemy. The Western Task Force included the battleships _Arkansas_ ,
_Nevada_ , and _Texas_ , plus eight cruisers, 28 destroyers, and one
monitor. The Eastern Task Force included the battleships _Ramillies_
and _Warspite_ and the monitor _Roberts_ , twelve cruisers, and
thirty-seven destroyers. Naval bombardment of areas behind the beach
commenced at 05:45, while it was still dark, with the gunners
switching to pre-assigned targets on the beach as soon as it was light
enough to see, at 05:50. Since troops were scheduled to land at Utah
and Omaha starting at 06:30 (an hour earlier than the British
beaches), these areas received only about 40 minutes of naval
bombardment before the assault troops began to land on the shore.
Some of the landing craft had been modified to provide close support
fire, and self-propelled amphibious Duplex-Drive tanks (DD tanks ),
specially designed for the
Normandy landings, were to land shortly
before the infantry to provide covering fire. However, few arrived in
advance of the infantry, and many sank before reaching the shore,
especially at Omaha.
The success of the amphibious landings depended on the establishment
of a secure lodgement from which to expand the beachhead to allow the
buildup of a well-supplied force capable of breaking out. The
amphibious forces were especially vulnerable to strong enemy
counter-attacks before the arrival of sufficient forces in the
beachhead could be accomplished. To slow or eliminate the enemy's
ability to organise and launch counter-attacks during this critical
period, airborne operations were used to seize key objectives such as
bridges, road crossings, and terrain features, particularly on the
eastern and western flanks of the landing areas. The airborne landings
some distance behind the beaches were also intended to ease the egress
of the amphibious forces off the beaches, and in some cases to
neutralise German coastal defence batteries and more quickly expand
the area of the beachhead.
The US 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions were assigned to objectives
west of Utah Beach, where they hoped to capture and control the few
narrow causeways through terrain that had been intentionally flooded
by the Germans. Reports from Allied intelligence in mid-May of the
arrival of the German 91st
Infantry Division meant the intended drop
zones had to be shifted eastward and to the south. The British 6th
Airborne Division, on the eastern flank, was assigned to capture
intact the bridges over the
Caen Canal and River Orne, destroy five
bridges over the Dives 6 miles (9.7 km) to the east, and destroy the
Merville Gun Battery overlooking Sword Beach. Free French
paratroopers from the British SAS Brigade were assigned to objectives
Brittany from 5 June until August in Operations Dingson , Samwest ,
and Cooney .
BBC war correspondent Robert Barr described the scene as paratroopers
prepared to board their aircraft:
Their faces were darkened with cocoa; sheathed knives were strapped
to their ankles; tommy guns strapped to their waists; bandoliers and
hand grenades, coils of rope, pick handles, spades, rubber dinghies
hung around them, and a few personal oddments, like the lad who was
taking a newspaper to read on the plane ... There was an easy familiar
touch about the way they were getting ready, as though they had done
it often before. Well, yes, they had kitted up and climbed aboard
often just like this – twenty, thirty, forty times some of them, but
it had never been quite like this before. This was the first combat
jump for every one of them.
American Airborne Landings
Main article: American airborne landings in
are delivered to the
Cotentin Peninsula by Douglas C-47 Skytrains . 6
The American airborne landings began with the arrival of pathfinders
at 00:15. Navigation was difficult because of a bank of thick cloud,
and as a result only one of the five paratrooper drop zones was
accurately marked with radar signals and Aldis lamps . Paratroopers
of the US 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions, numbering over 13,000
men, were delivered by Douglas C-47 Skytrains of the IX Troop Carrier
Command . To avoid flying over the invasion fleet, the planes arrived
from the west over the
Cotentin Peninsula and exited over Utah Beach.
Paratroops from 101st Airborne were dropped beginning around 01:30,
tasked with controlling the causeways behind
Utah Beach and destroying
road and rail bridges over the
Douve River. The C-47s could not fly
in a tight formation because of thick cloud cover, and many
paratroopers were dropped far from their intended landing zones. Many
planes came in so low that they were under fire from both flak and
machine gun fire. Some paratroopers were killed on impact when their
parachutes did not have time to open, and others drowned in the
flooded fields. Gathering together into fighting units was made
difficult by a shortage of radios and by the bocage terrain, with its
hedgerows , stone walls, and marshes. Some units did not arrive at
their targets until afternoon, by which time several of the causeways
had already been cleared by members of the 4th
moving up from the beach.
Troops of the 82nd Airborne began arriving around 02:30, with the
primary objective of capturing two bridges over the River
destroying two bridges over the Douve. On the east side of the river,
75 per cent of the paratroopers landed in or near their drop zone, and
within two hours they captured the important crossroads at
Sainte-Mère-Église (the first town liberated in the invasion ) and
began working to protect the western flank. Because of the failure of
the pathfinders to accurately mark their drop zone, the two regiments
dropped on the west side of the
Merderet were extremely scattered,
with only four per cent landing in the target area. Many landed in
nearby swamps, with much loss of life. Paratroopers consolidated into
small groups, usually a combination of men of various ranks from
different units, and attempted to concentrate on nearby objectives.
They captured but failed to hold the
Merderet River bridge at La
Fière, and fighting for the crossing continued for several days.
Reinforcements arrived by glider around 04:00 (
Mission Chicago and
Mission Detroit ), and 21:00 (Mission Keokuk and
Mission Elmira ),
bringing additional troops and heavy equipment. Like the paratroopers,
many landed far from their drop zones. Even those that landed on
target experienced difficulty, with heavy cargo such as Jeeps shifting
during landing, crashing through the wooden fuselage, and in some
cases crushing personnel on board.
After 24 hours, only 2,500 men of the 101st and 2,000 of the 82nd
Airborne were under the control of their divisions, approximately a
third of the force dropped. This wide dispersal had the effect of
confusing the Germans and fragmenting their response. The 7th Army
received notification of the parachute drops at 01:20, but Rundstedt
did not initially believe that a major invasion was underway. The
destruction of radar stations along the
Normandy coast in the week
before the invasion meant that the Germans did not detect the
approaching fleet until 02:00.
British And Canadian Airborne Landings
Operation Tonga An abandoned
Waco CG-4 glider is
examined by German troops
The first Allied action of
Operation Deadstick , a glider
assault at 00:16 at
Pegasus Bridge over the
Caen Canal and the bridge
Horsa Bridge ) over the Orne, half a mile (800 metres)
to the east. Both bridges were quickly captured intact, with light
casualties, by members of the 5th Parachute Brigade and the 7th (Light
Infantry) Parachute Battalion . The five bridges over the Dives were
destroyed with minimal difficulty by the 3rd Parachute Brigade .
Meanwhile, the pathfinders tasked with setting up radar beacons and
lights for further paratroopers (scheduled to begin arriving at 00:50
to clear the landing zone north of
Ranville ) were blown off course,
and had to set up the navigation aids too far east. Many paratroopers,
also blown too far east, landed far from their intended drop zones;
some took hours or even days to be reunited with their units. Major
General Richard Gale arrived in the third wave of gliders at 03:30,
along with equipment, such as antitank guns and jeeps, and more troops
to help secure the area from counter-attacks, which were initially
staged only by troops in the immediate vicinity of the landings. At
02:00, the commander of the German 716th
Infantry Division ordered
Feuchtinger to move his 21st
Panzer Division into position to
counter-attack. However, as the division was part of the armoured
reserve, Feuchtinger was obliged to seek clearance from
OKW before he
could commit his formation. Feuchtinger did not receive orders until
nearly 09:00, but in the meantime on his own initiative he put
together a battle group (including tanks) to fight the British forces
east of the Orne.
Only 160 men out of the 600 members of the 9th Battalion tasked with
eliminating the enemy battery at Merville arrived at the rendezvous
point. Lieutenant Colonel
Terence Otway , in charge of the operation,
decided to proceed regardless, as the emplacement had to be destroyed
by 06:00 to prevent it firing on the invasion fleet and the troops
arriving on Sword Beach. In the
Battle of Merville Gun Battery ,
Allied forces disabled the guns with plastic explosives at a cost of
75 casualties. The emplacement was found to contain 75 mm guns rather
than the expected 150 mm heavy coastal artillery. Otway's remaining
force withdrew with the assistance of a few members of the 1st
Canadian Parachute Battalion .
With this action, the last of the
D-Day goals of the British 6th
Airborne Division was achieved. They were reinforced at 12:00 by
commandos of the
1st Special Service Brigade , who landed on Sword
Beach, and by the 6th Airlanding Brigade , who arrived in gliders at
Operation Mallard .
Utah Beach Carrying their equipment, U.S. assault
troops move onto Utah Beach.
Landing craft can be seen in the
Utah Beach was in the area defended by two battalions of the 919th
Grenadier Regiment. Members of the 8th
Infantry Regiment of the 4th
Infantry Division were the first to land, arriving at 06:30. Their
landing craft were pushed to the south by strong currents, and they
found themselves about 2,000 yards (1.8 km) from their intended
landing zone. This site turned out to be better, as there was only one
strongpoint nearby rather than two, and bombers of IX Bomber Command
had bombed the defences from lower than their prescribed altitude,
inflicting considerable damage. In addition, the strong currents had
washed ashore many of the underwater obstacles. The assistant
commander of the 4th
Infantry Division, Brigadier General Theodore
Roosevelt, Jr. , the first senior officer ashore, made the decision to
"start the war from right here", and ordered further landings to be
The initial assault battalions were quickly followed by 28 DD tanks
and several waves of engineer and demolition teams to remove beach
obstacles and clear the area directly behind the beach of obstacles
and mines. Gaps were blown in the sea wall to allow quicker access for
troops and tanks. Combat teams began to exit the beach at around
09:00, with some infantry wading through the flooded fields rather
than travelling on the single road. They skirmished throughout the day
with elements of the 919th Grenadier Regiment, who were armed with
antitank guns and rifles. The main strongpoint in the area and another
1,300 yards (1.2 km) to the south were disabled by noon. The 4th
Infantry Division did not meet all of their
D-Day objectives at Utah
Beach, partly because they had arrived too far to the south, but they
landed 21,000 troops at the cost of only 197 casualties.
POINTE DU HOC
Pointe du Hoc U.S. Rangers scaling the wall at
Pointe du Hoc
Pointe du Hoc , a prominent headland situated between Utah and Omaha,
was assigned to two hundred men of 2nd Ranger Battalion , commanded by
James Rudder . Their task was to scale the 30m
(100ft) cliffs with grappling hooks, ropes, and ladders to destroy the
coastal gun battery located at the top. The cliffs were defended by
the German 352nd
Infantry Division and French collaborators firing
from above. Allied destroyers _Satterlee_ and _Talybont_ provided
fire support. After scaling the cliffs, the Rangers discovered that
the guns had already been withdrawn. They located the weapons,
unguarded but ready to use, in an orchard some 550 metres (600 yd)
south of the point, and disabled them with explosives.
The now-isolated Rangers fended off numerous counter-attacks from the
914th Grenadier Regiment . 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 arrive until D+2, when members of the 743rd Tank
Battalion and others arrived. By then, Rudder's men had run out of
ammunition and were using captured German weapons. Several men were
killed as a result, because the German weapons made a distinctive
noise, and the men were mistaken for the enemy. By the end of the
battle, the Rangers casualties were 135 dead and wounded, while German
casualties were 50 killed and 40 captured. An unknown number of French
collaborators were executed.
Omaha Beach U.S. assault troops in an LCVP
landing craft approach
Omaha Beach , 6 June 1944.
Omaha, the most heavily defended beach, was assigned to the 1st
Infantry Division and 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
caused them to be delayed. For fear of hitting the landing craft,
American bombers delayed releasing their loads and, as a result, most
of the beach obstacles at Omaha remained undamaged when the men came
ashore. Many of the landing craft ran aground on sandbars and the men
had to wade 50-100m in water up to their necks while under fire to get
to the beach. In spite of the rough seas, DD tanks of two companies
of the 741st Tank Battalion were dropped 5,000 yards (4,600 m) from
shore; however, 27 of the 32 flooded and sank, with the loss of 33
crew. Some tanks, disabled on the beach, continued to provide
covering fire until their ammunition ran out or they were swamped by
the rising tide.
Casualties were around 2,000, 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 provide fire
support so landings could resume. Exit from the beach was possible
only via five heavily defended gullies, and by late morning barely 600
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 gullies 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 for Omaha were accomplished
Gold Beach British troops come ashore at Jig
The first landings on Gold beach were set for 07:25 due to the
differences in the tide between there and the American beaches. High
winds made conditions difficult for the landing craft, and the
amphibious DD tanks were released close to shore or directly on the
beach instead of further out as planned. Three of the four guns in a
large emplacement at the
Longues-sur-Mer battery were disabled by
direct hits from the cruisers _Ajax_ and _Argonaut_ at 06:20. The
fourth gun resumed firing intermittently in the afternoon, and its
garrison surrendered on 7 June. Aerial attacks had failed to hit the
Le Hamel strongpoint, which had its embrasure facing east to provide
enfilade fire along the beach and had a thick concrete wall on the
seaward side. Its 75 mm gun continued to do damage until 16:00, when
Armoured Vehicle Royal Engineers (AVRE) tank fired a large
petard charge into its rear entrance. A second casemated emplacement
at La Rivière containing an 88 mm gun was neutralised by a tank at
Meanwhile, infantry began clearing the heavily fortified houses along
the shore and advanced on targets further inland. The No. 47 (Royal
Marine) Commando moved toward the small port at
captured it the following day in the
Battle of Port-en-Bessin .
Company Sergeant Major
Stanley Hollis received the only Victoria Cross
D-Day for his actions while attacking two pillboxes at the
Mont Fleury high point. 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
Bayeux was not captured the first day due to stiff resistance
from the 352nd
Infantry Division. Allied casualties at
Gold Beach are
estimated at 1,000.
Juno Beach Personnel of Royal Canadian Navy Beach
Commando "W" land on Mike Beach sector of
Juno Beach , 6 June 1944
The landing at Juno was delayed because of choppy seas, and the men
arrived ahead of their supporting armour, suffering many casualties
while disembarking. Most of the offshore bombardment had missed the
German defences. Several exits from the beach were created, but not
without difficulty. At Mike Beach on the western flank, a large crater
was filled using an abandoned AVRE tank and several rolls of fascine ,
which were then covered by a temporary bridge. The tank remained in
place until 1972, when it was removed and restored by members of the
Royal Engineers . The beach and nearby streets were clogged with
traffic for most of the day, making it difficult to move inland.
Major German strongpoints with 75 mm guns, machine-gun nests,
concrete fortifications, barbed wire, and mines were located at
Courseulles-sur-Mer , St Aubin-sur-Mer , and
Bernières-sur-Mer . The
towns themselves also had to be cleared in house-to-house fighting.
Soldiers on their way to
Bény-sur-Mer , 3 miles (5 km) inland,
discovered that the road was well covered by machine gun emplacements
that had to be outflanked before the advance could proceed. Elements
of the 9th Canadian
Infantry Brigade advanced to within sight of the
Carpiquet airfield late in the afternoon, but by this time their
supporting armour was low on ammunition so the Canadians dug in for
the night. The airfield was not captured until a month later as the
area became the scene of fierce fighting. 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.
Sword Beach British troops take cover after
Sword Beach .
On Sword, 21 of 25 DD tanks of the first wave were successful in
getting safely ashore to provide cover for the infantry, who began
disembarking at 07:30. The beach was heavily mined and peppered with
obstacles, making the work of the beach clearing teams difficult and
dangerous. In the windy conditions, the tide came in more quickly
than expected, so manoeuvring the armour was difficult. The beach
quickly became congested. Brigadier
Simon Fraser, 15th Lord Lovat and
1st Special Service Brigade arrived in the second wave, piped
ashore by Private
Bill Millin , Lovat's personal piper. Members of
No. 4 Commando moved through
Ouistreham to attack from the rear a
German gun battery on the shore. A concrete observation and control
tower at this emplacement had to be bypassed and was not captured
until several days later. French forces under Commander Philippe
Kieffer (the first French soldiers to arrive in Normandy) attacked and
cleared the heavily fortified strongpoint at the casino at Riva Bella,
with the aid of one of the DD tanks.
The 'Morris' strongpoint near
Colleville-sur-Mer was captured after
about an hour of fighting. The nearby 'Hillman' strongpoint,
headquarters of the 736th
Infantry Regiment, was a large complex
defensive work that had come through the morning's bombardment
essentially undamaged. It was not captured until 20:15. The 2nd
Battalion, King\'s Shropshire Light
Infantry began advancing to Caen
on foot, coming within a few kilometres of the town, but had to
withdraw due to lack of armour support. At 16:00, the 21st Panzer
Division mounted a counter-attack between Sword and Juno and nearly
succeeded in reaching the Channel. It met stiff resistance from the
British 3rd Division and was soon recalled to assist in the area
Caen and Bayeux. Estimates of Allied casualties on Sword
Beach are as high as 1,000.
Supply landings at Omaha Beach, mid-June 1944 Situation
map for 24:00, 6 June 1944
Normandy landings were the largest seaborne invasion in history,
with nearly 5,000 landing and assault craft, 289 escort vessels, and
277 minesweepers participating. Nearly 160,000 troops crossed the
English Channel on D-Day, with 875,000 men disembarking by the end of
June. 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,
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
D-Day and would not be completely captured until 21 July. The
Germans had ordered French civilians, other than those deemed
essential to the war effort, to leave potential combat zones in
Normandy. Civilian casualties on
D-Day and D+1 are estimated at 3,000
Normandy stemmed from several factors. German preparations
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
Operation Fortitude were successful, leaving the Germans
obliged to defend a huge stretch of coastline. The Allies achieved
and maintained air supremacy , which meant that the Germans were
unable to make observations of the preparations underway in Britain
and were unable to interfere via bomber attacks. Infrastructure for
transport in France was severely disrupted by Allied bombers and the
French Resistance, making it difficult for the Germans to bring up
reinforcements and supplies. Some of the opening bombardment 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.
Indecisiveness and an overly complicated command structure on the
part of the German high command were also factors in the Allied
WAR MEMORIALS AND TOURISM
Bény-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery The La Cambe
German war cemetery , near
At Omaha Beach, parts of the
Mulberry harbour are still visible, and
a few of the beach obstacles remain. A memorial to the American
National Guard sits at the location of a former German strongpoint.
Pointe du Hoc is little changed from 1944, with the terrain covered
with bomb craters and most of the concrete bunkers still in place. The
Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial is nearby, in
Colleville-sur-Mer. A museum about the Utah landings is located at
Sainte-Marie-du-Mont , and there is one dedicated to the activities of
the American airmen at Sainte-Mère-Église. Two German military
cemeteries are located nearby.
Pegasus Bridge , a target of the British 6th Airborne, was the site
of some of the earliest action of the
Normandy landings. The bridge
was replaced in 1994 by one similar in appearance, and the original is
now housed on the grounds of a nearby museum complex. Sections of
Mulberry Harbour B still sit in the sea at Arromanches, and the
Longues-sur-Mer battery is nearby. The Juno Beach
Centre , opened in 2003, was funded by the Canadian federal and
provincial governments, France, and Canadian veterans.
DEPICTION IN MEDIA
* _The Longest Day _ (1959 book)
FILM AND TELEVISION
* _The Longest Day _ (1962 film)
Saving Private Ryan _ (1998 film)
* _Band of Brothers _ (2001 miniseries)
* _Medal of Honor: Allied Assault _ (2002)
* _Medal of Honor: Frontline _ (2002)
World War II
World War II portal
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
D-Day Daily Telegraph_ crossword security alarm
Martha Gellhorn , the only woman to land at
Normandy on D-Day
* List of Allied warships in the
Wireless Set No. 46
* ^ The official British history gives an estimated figure of
156,115 men landed on D-Day. This comprised 57,500 Americans and
75,215 British and Canadians from the sea and 15,500 Americans and
7,900 British from the air. Ellis, Allen -webkit-column-width: 20em;
column-width: 20em; list-style-type: decimal;">
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* ^ Horn 2010 , p. 13.
* ^ Wilmot 1997 , p. 360.
* ^ Flint 2009 , p. 102.
* ^ Flint 2009 , p. 336.
* ^ Wilmot 1997 , p. 290.
* ^ Ford & Zaloga 2009 , p. 343.
* ^ Wilmot 1997 , p. 289.
* ^ Ford & Zaloga 2009 , p. 36.
* ^ Wilmot 1997 , p. 291.
* ^ Wilmot 1997 , p. 292.
* ^ Ford & Zaloga 2009 , p. 346.
* ^ Ford & Zaloga 2009 , pp. 346–348.
* ^ Mémorial Pegasus .
* ^ Ford & Zaloga 2009 , p. 352.
* ^ Zuehlke 2004 , pp. 349–350.
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Wikivoyage has a travel guide for D-DAY BEACHES _.
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* Boire, Michael