Better known as D-Day, took place 75 years ago today.
I have talked to veterans who made that landing, and I cannot imagine, even after talking to them, how they managed to steel themselves to take those first steps off the landing craft, much less charge across that beach.
Originally scheduled for 5 June, Mother Nature reared her head, and it had to be postponed a day.
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 their targets.
It was not just Americans that put their lives on the line that day.
- Utah Beach
- VII Corps, 4th Infantry Division, 82nd Airborne Division, 90th Infantry Division, 101st Airborne Division.
- Omaha Beach
British and Canadian zones
- Gold Beach
- Juno Beach
- Sword Beach
79th Armoured Division provided specialised armoured vehicles which supported the landings on all beaches in Second Army’s sector.
156,000+ men hit those beaches, supported by the invasion fleet, which was drawn from eight different navies, comprised 6,939 vessels: 1,213 warships, 4,126 landing craft of various types, 736 ancillary craft, and 864 merchant vessels.
The butcher’s bill was high. The First U.S. Army, accounting for the first twenty-four hours in Normandy, tabulated 1,465 killed, 1,928 missing, and 6,603 wounded. The after-action report of U.S. VII Corps (ending 1 July) showed 22,119 casualties including 2,811 killed, 5,665 missing, 79 prisoners, and 13,564 wounded, including paratroopers.
- Canadian forces at Juno Beach sustained 946 casualties, of whom 335 were listed as killed.
- Surprisingly, no British figures were published, but Cornelius Ryan cites estimates of 2,500 to 3,000 killed, wounded, and missing, including 650 from the Sixth Airborne Division.
- German sources vary between four thousand and nine thousand D-Day casualties on 6 June—a range of 125 percent. Field Marshal Erwin Rommel’s report for all of June cited killed, wounded, and missing of some 250,000 men, including twenty-eight generals.
- French civilian casualties were around 15,000 for the month of June.
(Courtesy of Historyonline.net, HERE)
75 years on, few of the survivors are left, and even fewer will make that trip across the pond again. They truly were the greatest generation of American service men and women for what they did over the 4 years of the war, and especially on 6 June, 1944.