June 6, 1944
Today is the anniversary of the Allied invasion of Normandy, also known as D-Day. Let us tell you more about that eventful day of June 6, 1944.
The Normandy landings that began on Tuesday, June 6, 1944, often referred to as D-Day, was the largest seaborne invasion in history. The operation began the liberation of German-occupied northwestern Europe from Nazi control and laid the foundations for the Allied victory on the Western Front.
Plans for this operation began in 1943. In the months leading up to the invasion, the Allies conducted a significant military deception, codenamed Operation Bodyguard, to mislead the Germans as to the date and location of the main Allied landings. Weather on D-Day was far from ideal and the operation had to be delayed for 24 hours after the original planned date. However, because the invasion planners had specific requirements for the phase of the moon, the tides, and the time of day, only a few days each month were deemed suitable and a further postponement would have meant a delay of at least two weeks.
Allied infantry and armored divisions began landing on the coast of France at 6:30 AM on June 6, 1944. The target 50-mile stretch of the Normandy coast was divided into five sections: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword. Strong winds blew the landing craft east of their intended positions, particularly at Omaha and Utah. 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 specialized tanks.
The Allies failed to achieve any of their goals on the first day. Only two of the major beaches (Gold and Juno) were linked on the first day and all five beachheads were not connected until June 12. However, this operation allowed the Allies to gain a foothold which they gradually expanded over the coming months.