Sixty-Seventh Anniversary of D-Day, World War Two Invasion of France

As more and more of our World War Two vets pass away, join me, on this 67th anniversary of D-Day, in expressing our gratitude for the sacrifices they made to bring freedom to oppressed people all over the world.

The Normandy Landings were the first operations of the Allied Powers’ invasion of Normandy, also known as Operation Neptune and Operation Overlord, during World War II. D-Day for the operation, postponed 24 hours, became June 6, 1944, H-Hour was 6:30 am. The assault was conducted in two phases: an air assault landing of American and British airborne divisions shortly after midnight, and an amphibious landing of Allied infantry and armoured divisions on the coast of France commencing at 06:30 British Double Summer Time. It required the transport of soldiers and materiel from England and Wales by troop carrying aeroplanes and ships, the assault landings, air support, naval interdiction of the English Channel and naval fire-support. There were also subsidiary operations to distract the Kriegsmarine and prevent its interference in the landing areas.

D-Day

D-Day

D-Day

The operation was the largest single-day invasion of all time, with over 130,000 troops landed on June 6th 1944. 195,700 Allied naval and merchant navy personnel were involved.[2] The landings took place along a stretch of the Normandy coast divided into five sections: Gold, Juno, Omaha, Sword and Utah.

The order of battle for the landings was approximately as follows, east to west:

British sector (Second Army)

  • 6th Airborne Division was delivered by parachute and glider to the east of the River Orne to protect the left flank. The division contained 7,900 men.
  • 1st Special Service Brigade comprising No.3, No.4, No.6 and No.45 (RM) Commandos landed at Ouistreham in Queen Red sector (leftmost). No.4 Commando were augmented by 1 and 8 Troop (both French) of No.10 (Inter Allied) Commando.
  • I Corps, 3rd Infantry Division and the 27th Armoured Brigade on Sword Beach, from Ouistreham to Lion-sur-Mer.
  • No.41(RM) Commando (part of 4th Special Service Brigade) landed on the far right of Sword Beach, where 29,000 men would land.
  • Canadian 3rd Infantry Division, Canadian 2nd Armoured Brigade and No.48 (RM) Commando on Juno Beach, from Saint-Aubin-sur-Mer to Courseulles-sur-Mer, where 21,400 troops would land.
  • No.46(RM) Commando (part of 4th Special Service Brigade) at Juno to scale the cliffs on the left side of the Orne River estuary and destroy a battery. (Battery fire proved negligible so No.46 were kept off-shore as a floating reserve and landed on D+1).
  • XXX Corps, 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division and 8th Armoured Brigade, consisting of 25,000 men landing on Gold Beach,[6] from Courseulles to Arromanches.
  • No.47(RM) Commando (part of 4th Special Service Brigade) on the West flank of Gold beach.
  • 79th Armoured Division operated specialist armour (“Hobart’s Funnies”) for mine-clearing, recovery and assault tasks. These were distributed around the Anglo-Canadian beaches.
  • Overall, the British contingent would consist of 83,115 troops (61,715 of them British).

    25 Australian Infantry landed, none died. Over 3,000 Australians helped in the bombing and airborn invasion.

    U.S. Sector (First Army)

  • V Corps, 1st Infantry Division and 29th Infantry Division making up 34,250 troops for Omaha Beach, from Sainte-Honorine-des-Pertes to Vierville-sur-Mer.
  • 2nd and 5th Ranger Battalions at Pointe du Hoc (The 5th diverted to Omaha).
  • VII Corps, 4th Infantry Division and the 359th RCT of the 90th Infantry Division comprising of 23,250 men landing on Utah Beach, around Pouppeville and La Madeleine.
  • 101st Airborne Division by parachute around Vierville to support Utah Beach landings.
  • 82nd Airborne Division by parachute around Sainte-Mère-Église, protecting the right flank. They had originally been tasked with dropping further west, in the middle part of the Cotentin, allowing the sea-landing forces to their east easier access across the peninsula, and preventing the Germans from reinforcing the north part of the peninsula. The plans were later changed to move them much closer to the beachhead, as at the last minute the German 91st Air Landing Division was determined to be in the area.
  • In total, the Americans contributed 73,000 men (15,500 were airborne).

    D-Day

    D-Day

    D-Day

    Omaha Beach

    Elements of the 1st Infantry Division and 29th Infantry Division faced the veteran German 352nd Infantry Division, one of the best trained on the beaches. Allied intelligence failed to realize that the relatively low-quality 716th Infantry Division (static) had been replaced by the 352nd the previous March. Omaha was also the most heavily fortified beach, with high bluffs defended by funneled mortars, machine guns, and artillery, and the pre-landing aerial and naval bombardment of the bunkers proved to be ineffective. Difficulties in navigation caused the majority of landings to drift eastwards, missing their assigned sectors, and the initial assault waves of tanks, infantry and engineers took heavy casualties. The official record stated that “within 10 minutes of the ramps being lowered, [the leading] company had become inert, leaderless and almost incapable of action. Every officer and sergeant had been killed or wounded […] It had become a struggle for survival and rescue”. Only a few gaps were blown in the beach obstacles, resulting in problems for subsequent landings. The heavily defended draws, the only vehicular routes off the beach, could not be taken and two hours after the first assault the beach was closed for all but infantry landings. Commanders (including General Omar Bradley) considered abandoning the beachhead, but small units of infantry, often forming ad hoc groups, supported by naval artillery and the surviving tanks, eventually infiltrated the coastal defenses by scaling the bluffs between strongpoints. Further infantry landings were able to exploit the initial penetrations and by the end of the day two isolated footholds had been established. American casualties at Omaha on D-Day numbered around 3,000 out of 34,000 men, most in the first few hours, while the defending forces suffered 1,200 killed, wounded or missing. The tenuous beachhead was expanded over the following days, and the original D-Day objectives were accomplished by D+3.

    D-Day

    D-Day

    The beaches at Normandy are still referred to on maps and signposts by their invasion codenames. There are several vast cemeteries in the area. The American cemetery, in Colleville-sur-Mer, contains row upon row of identical white crosses and Stars of David, immaculately kept, commemorating the American dead. Commonwealth graves, in many locations, use white headstones engraved with the person’s religious symbol and their unit insignia. The largest cemetery in Normandy is the La Cambe German war cemetery, which features granite stones almost flush with the ground and groups of low-set crosses. There is also a Polish cemetery.

    D-Day

    Normandy Landings – From Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.

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