The Normandy landings on June 6, 1944 (D-Day) were the largest maritime invasion in history.
The operation, dubbed Operation Neptune, began the liberation of German-occupied northwestern Europe from Nazi control and contributed to the Allied victory on the Western Front.
The amphibious landings were preceded by extensive air and naval bombardment and an airborne assault. The landing involved 24,000 American, British and Canadian airborne soldiers shortly after midnight. Infantry and Allied armored divisions began to land on the French coast at 6:30 a.m.
The target 80 kilometer stretch of the Normandy coast was divided into five sectors: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword Beach. Strong winds blew the landing craft east of their intended positions, particularly in Utah and Omaha. While the weather on D-Day was far from ideal, the postponement would have meant a delay of at least two weeks, as invasion planners had requirements for moon phase, tides and time. of the day which only meant a few days of each month were deemed suitable.
The men landed under heavy fire from the cannon sites overlooking the beaches, and the shore was mined and covered with obstacles such as wooden stakes, metal tripods and barbed wire, making the job of the beach clean-up crews difficult and difficult. dangerous.
Adolf Hitler placed German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel in charge of German forces and the development of fortifications along the Atlantic Wall in preparation for the invasion.
The Allies did not achieve any of their objectives on the first day. Carentan, Saint-LÃ´ and Bayeux remained in German hands and Caen, a major objective, was not captured until July 21. Only two of the beaches (Juno and Gold) were connected on day one, and all five beachheads were not connected until June 12. However, the operation gained a foothold as the Allies gradually expanded over the next few months.
The losses suffered by merchant ships during the invasion were much lower than expected. Many ships shuttled between English ports and Normandy beaches. Some ships made up to three voyages in June alone.
The US Naval History and Heritage Command describes how a modern man-made harbor was built on the beaches of Omaha and Utah. Armed guards on some 22 merchant ships that were scuttled to make a breakwater played a vital role in the operation. For days, they endured the early fury of the German counterattack and helped protect the forces against fire against their partly submerged ships.
In carrying out the time-honored task of saving lives, despite coming under enemy fire on a shore thousands of miles from home, the US Coast Guard involved in the invasion of Normandy saved more than 1,400 souls, but it was also one of the bloodiest days in Coast Guard history.
German losses on D-Day were around 1,000 men. Allied losses were at least 10,000, with 4,414 confirmed dead.
A large convoy of landing craft crossed the Channel on June 6, 1944.
Royal Marine commandos attached to the 3rd Infantry Division moved inland from Sword Beach on June 6, 1944.
Carrying equipment, the American assault troops headed for Utah Beach. Landing craft can be seen in the background.
American assault troops in an LCVP landing craft approach Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944.
British troops land in the Jig Green area, Gold Beach.
Members of the Royal Canadian Navy Beach Commando “W” personnel land on the Mike Beach sector of Juno Beach on June 6, 1944.
Allied Expeditionary Force Supreme Headquarters meeting, February 1, 1944. Front row: Air Chief Marshal Arthur Tedder, 1st Baron Tedder; General Dwight D. Eisenhower; General Bernard Montgomery. Back row: Lieutenant-General Omar Bradley; Admiral Bertram Ramsay; Air Chief Marshal Trafford Leigh-Mallory; Lieutenant-General Walter Bedell Smith.
BÃ©ny-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery
The German military cemetery of La Cambe, near Bayeux
The opinions expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.