D-Day, June 6, 1944 was the focal point of the greatest and most planned out invasion
of all time. The Allied invasion of France was long awaited and tactfully thought out. For
months the Allied forces of millions of soldiers trained in Britain waiting for the Supreme
Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces, General Eisenhower to set a date. June
5, 1944 was to be the day with the H-hour at 06:30. The vast power of an Allied Army
2.5 million strong lay coiled in England, ready to spring across the channel into
German occupied France. Some of the more than 5000 strong armada of ships and
small craft of the invasion fleet had already put to sea. On that June morning screaming
winds and a downpour of rain threatened to cancel the invasion. General Eisenhower had
to make a decision and make it soon. He postponed the attack 24 hours and waited for
the weather to clear. If he was to cancel it one more time it would be another month
before the tide and moonlight conditions would be once again favorable for both a
Seaborne and Airborne attack. Predictions by the staff meteorologist cautiously
predicted clearing skies for the next day, 6 June. General Eisenhower conferred with his
generals and admirals. He then thought for a minute, then stood up Okl he said lets
go.Aircraft bombed German installations and helped prepare the ground attack. The
ground forces landed and made their push inland. Soon Operation Overlord was in full
affect as the Allied Forces pushed the Germans back towards the Russian forces coming
in from the east. D-Day was the beginning and the key to the fight to take back Europe.
The thesis of this paper is that the Allied Invasion of Normandy was the beginning
Operation Overlord was in no way a last minute operation thrown together. When
the plan was finalized in the spring of 1944 the world started work on preparing the
hundreds of thousands of men for the greatest battle in history. By June of 1944 the
landing forces were training hard, awaiting D-Day, 1,700,000 British, 1,500,000
Americans, 175,000 from Dominions (mostly Canada), and another 44,000 from other
countries were going to take part. Not only did men have to be recruited and trained but
also equipment had to be built to transport and fight with the soldiers. More than 1,300
warships, 1,600 merchant ships, 4,000 landing craft and 13,000 aircraft including
bombers, fighters and gliders were built. Several new types of tanks and Armored
vehicles were built. Two examples are the Sherman Crab flail tank and the Churchill
Crocodile. On the ground, Britain assembled three Armored Divisions, eight Infantry
Divisions, two Airborne Divisions and ten independent fighting Brigades. The United
States had six Armored Divisions, thirteen Infantry and two Airborne Divisions. With
one Armored Division and two Infantry Divisions, Canada also contributed greatly with
the war effort especially when you look at the size of the country at the time. In the air
Britains one hundred RAF squadrons (1,200 aircraft) paled in comparison to the one
hundred and sixty-five USAAF squadrons (2,000 aircraft). The entire Operation Overlord
was supposed to go according to Montgomerys Master Plan which was created by
General Sir Bernard L. Montgomery. His plan was initiated by a command system which
connected the U.S. and Britain and helped them jointly run the operation. This plan was
to have five Divisions act as a first wave, landing on the sixty-one mile long beach front.
Four more Divisions, as well as some Airborne landings, would support the first wave.
The beaches of Normandy would be separated into five beaches, codenamed, from west
to east Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword. The Americans would invade the two
westernmost beaches, being Utah and Omaha and the British and its Dominions would
take Gold, Juno and Sword. The Canadians were nearly the entire force to land on Juno
beach. The operation was also coordinated with various French resistance groups
called the Secret Army. The naval plans were to transport the Allied expeditionary
forces, help secure and defend a beachhead, and to help setup a method of constant
resupplying of Allied forces. Operation Overlord, in short, was as follows: The Airforce
would be used to knock out German defenses and immobilize their forces. Blowup tanks
and other misinformation was used to fool Germans into thinking the invasion was
coming at Pas de Calais. The navy would transport the troops while doing whatever it
could to help them gain ground, and enough of France would be liberated and held by
the Allied forces so that they would not fail by being pushed back into the sea.
Utah beach was a stretch of beachfront approximately five miles long and located
in the dunes of Varreville. Like most beach attacks that day, the planned attack time was
06:30 or H hour. As early as 02:00 (H-4:30) the preparations for attack was being made
as minesweepers started working at creating a safe path for Allied battleships, frigates,
and corvettes. At about 02:30 the flagship for Utah beach was in place and the order
was given for the landing crafts to be loaded and placed into the water. The four waves
of troops were ready to go and the German radar had not spotted any buildup of ships.
The first gunfire occurred at daybreak when some ships were
spotted and fired upon by coastal guns. A group of 276 planes, all B-26 Marauders flew
in to drop their payload of 4400 bombs on the targets. Almost all missed and nearly a
third fell short onto the beaches and into the sea, far away from their targets. Although
some guns were silenced the poor accuracy of the aircraft was costly and would turn out
to be only one of the many errors made by the Allied forces. At 06:30 the first of the
troops landed, the 4th Infantry Division and the 8th Infantry Regiment missed the correct
beach and landed 2,000 yards away on what turned out to luckily be a less heavily
defended beach. This mix up was blamed on tides, smoke and rough seas. These first
troops were all part of the twenty landing craft, each carrying thirty men that made up the
first wave. After the first wave came the 32 amphibious tanks. The second wave of
troops consisted of 32 craft carrying Combat Engineers and Naval Demolition Teams.
Dozer tanks would make up the third wave. Shortly after the securing of the beach 2
Engineer Battalions arrived. This may sound like all the Divisions made it easily to shore
but that is not true. Many of the amphibious tanks were unable to swim through the rough
surf and sank. Two out of the three control vessels for the beach hit sea mines and sank
and countless landing craft were shelled by German coastal guns. There were also
numerous drownings involving troops that were so weighed down by the equipment that
they wore that they were drowned in water only six feet deep. If the soldiers managed to
make it to shore they were still faced with devastating German machine gun fire.
Fortunately, the beach and much of its surroundings had become the victim of a large
sea launched rocket attack clearing some of the German defenses. Once the Division
had made it on the beach and secured it they had to start moving inland on their pre-
planned missions. The units that landed on the wrong beach decided to start the war
from right here. Most of the landed troops were supposed to secure the areas and push
inland, eventually meeting up with the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions that had
dropped behind the enemy on the western flank by St. Mere Eglise in order to work their
way to the beach and secure the major crossroads and so that they could be attacked
from two angles. The 4th Infantry Division and 8th Infantry Regiment that landed on the
wrong beaches still continued on with their missions. The 4th, which was originally
supposed to land on the islands of St. Marcouf to destroy coastal guns thought to be
there ended up moving inland and linking up with the 101st Airborne Division. The other
Unit that unfortunately landed in the wrong location was the 8th Infantry. Their mission
was to reduce beach fortifications and to move inland. The last two Infantry Regiments
were the 12th and 22nd. Both units were to work together to secure the northern region
of the beach. The 22nd was to move northwest clearing beaches and the high ground
overlooking them while the 12th moved inland on their left flank. Unfortunately the 22nd
was unable to make its deep swing into the Northwest. By the end of the day, the only
Infantry unit that was able to achieve its objective was the 8th Infantry, and they landed
on the wrong beach. Most of the area was secure except for a pocket of Germans that
controlled a small area shaped like a two mile finger on the ridges north of Les Forges.
The experimental idea of having two Airborne Divisions drop farther inland had helped
make the Utah Beach attack a near success.

The Omaha beach area was the largest of all the Normandy beaches at
approximately 34,500 yards in length. The beach itself had only five passable ways off,
creating a challenge for the landing troops and vehicles. Behind the beach were heavily
defended bluffs and high cliffs. In order to invade the area, which was defended by
twelve German strongpoints, over 34,000 troops and 3,300 vehicles would be involved in
the Omaha Beach invasion. The large number was partly because of the fact that
beginning in April, of the same year, German military had started to fortify the area in
hopes of deterring any invasion from the area. The sandy beaches themselves were free
of mines but three bands of obstacles were put into place in order to create impassable
obstacles for landing sea craft. First, large gate-like structures called Belgian Gates were
built, simply to get in the way of landing craft. The second band of obstacles were large
posts and logs dug into the beach at an angle towards the sea and topped off with a
waterproofed landmine also creating a deadly obstacle. The third and final obstacle was
farther up the beach, they were large hedgehogs which were mined steel I beams
shaped in an X to impede the movement of armored vehicles .Like the rest of the
beaches, the planned attack time (H hour) was 06:30. Many would think that this would
be when the death toll would first start to rise but this just wasnt so. Many men died far
from the beach. Two companies of amphibious DD tanks sank because of heavy seas.
Included with the 27 tanks that sunk were 11 landing craft that tipped over by rough
seas. Most soldiers on these transports drowned because of the weight of the equipment
they were carrying held them under the water, and their inflatable lifesavers failed to
inflate. Other craft hit mines, losing valuable troops, supplies and weapons. Most of the
landing craft hitting the beach were being fired upon by deadly accurate German
machine gun fire even when the craft were still over 1,000 yards away from the beach.
Some even ran aground while still 100 feet from shore. Attempts to improve the situation
were made by groups such as the 29th Division who decided to bring their tanks in on
the landing craft. Only 8 of the 16 tanks made it to the beach. Other landing craft either
missed their landing area or arrived too late. The lateral current dragged some Infantry
units hundreds of yards from their objectives and a few battalions, like the 2nd Ranger
Battalion, arrived 40 minutes after they were scheduled to land. Once most of the craft
had managed to make it to the beach the soldiers still faced many problems. Air strikes
that were planned to knock out enemy machine gunners were not successful enough.
Most of the troops were pinned behind the sea wall and other obstacles by machine gun
fire ahead of them and the raising tides behind them. Tides rose four feet per hour,
shrinking the beach by eighty feet in the same time period. Those soldiers who were too
injured to walk or crawl drowned as the tide sped up on them. With soldiers pinned
down and not enough vehicles being able to get off the beach other craft were unable to
land due to the lack of room.For the first few hours at Omaha Beach things looked grim.
No major advances were being made. The real turnaround that day was when a few
destroyers actually came in as close as four hundred yards in order to fire at enemy
strongpoints. The risk of grounding the destroyers took and the arrival of tanks, lead to
the eventual fall of the German beach defenses. Once the units could move inland their
individual missions were put into place. One of the most important missions put upon
any division was the destruction of five French-made 155mm naval guns at Pointe du
Hoc. This responsibility was given to the 116th Brigade and its two combat teams: The
5th Ranger and 2nd Ranger teams. The 5th met the fate of many Battalions as the
landed on the wrong beach. Luckily, the remaining two teams did manage to destroy the
naval guns that were capable of attacking ships as far out as 25,000 yards (22km) as
well as soldiers on both Utah and Omaha beaches. These guns were not in the
concrete bunkers, as aerial reconvenes had observed, but were actually located inland
several hundred yards. This would prove to be one of the few missions that the Rangers
completed that day. Because of the great break downs in planned assaults, the day
started to look like a chaotic day with the only missions being that of individual survival.
Most divisions managed to stay organized and plan their survival and attack plans. Col.
George H. Taylor of the 16th Regiment said, Two kinds of people are staying on this
beach, the dead and those about to die. These sort of speeches sparked other soldiers
to continue with their slightly revised missions. Originally it was planned for the areas
above the beaches to be taken by an advance up the heavily defended bluffs but the
plan was changed to a less organized direct assault on the German gunners in the high
cliffs. Other such companies that decided on newly created missions included the 16th
Infantry and the 29th Division. These two units decided on a joint mission to save their
buddies who were pinned on the beach. Also involved on the Omaha Beach invasion
were the 1st Infantry Division, and the 18th and 115th Brigades. By the end of D-Day on
Omaha Beach the advance had gone barely one and a half miles inland. Several of the
enemy strongpoints were intact and the beachhead was still under fire. Although this
hectic day sounds like a disaster, the major exits from the area were held, three villages
were under Allied control and a hole in the German line about two and half kilometers
long was made and the coastal guns were destroyed. The landing had been made, all
the troops could do was secure the area and organize the beach for the introduction of
Gold Beach was the second largest of the beaches of Normandy and was also the
middle beach: Utah and Omaha to the west and Juno and Sword to the east. Gold beach
was like most of the other beaches invaded on D-Day except it had one characteristic
which was disadvantageous to the allies. Coral reefs, ranging from twenty to a hundred
yards out could ground landing craft at low tide. Because of this factor the Gold Beach
was postponed almost an hour after most of the other attacks that day. H hour on this
beach was to be 07:25. It turned out the this adverse condition would soon show to have
its pros and cons. The largest pro being that this left more time for bombardment of
German defenses by RAF bombers and naval guns. The cons were of course the fact
that with the rising tides men landing on the beach would end up
facing the fate of many soldiers on Omaha beach, being pinned behind a sea wall and
being drowned by the advancing waves. It would also turn out that, along with beach
obstacles, the rising tide would make it even harder for landing craft to make their
transport runs. Not soon after the arrival of the first wave of landing crafts the problems
started to mount. Also, regiments decided to bring their DD Sherman tanks on their LCD
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transports instead of floating them in. This was mainly because of the weather, which
created high seas. Unfortunately, this sort of tactic left the tanks as sitting ducks and all
but one of the tanks were disabled or destroyed. Soon one problem lead to another as
those soldiers that landed on the beach were unable to advance and were without any
tanks to bail them out of their predicament. Eventually with the help of the one tank that
survived the landing, the troops at Gold Beach were able to press forward. Not unlike
any of the other beaches, Gold had a complicated battle plan including many Divisions,
Regiments and even a commando group. The overall goal was to take the key points of
the German defenses and secure the area. One such key point was Port-en-Bessin
which was to be invaded by the British 47th Royal Marine Commando who would later
meet up with an America Regiment from Omaha. The problem was that not everything
went according to plan and they were unable to take the city. The Americans who were
supposed to help in the fight inland by moving through the North-west flank of the area
never showed up.Another such joining of teams did go according to plans as the 50th
Division met up with a Division of Canadians from Juno beach after coming within a mile
of their D-day objective of the taking of Bayeux. The only two groups to succeed in their
D-day objectives as Gold Beach were the 69th and 231st Regiments. The 231st
successfully took the city of Arromanches while the 69th took la Riviere even after they
were forced to originally bypass the stronghold and return and destroy it later on. Other
groups involved included the British 8th, 151st and 56th Regiments who aided in the
push inland and the clearing of the beaches of mines and obstacles. By the end of the
day ,most of the D-day objectives had failed but three brigades were ready to push
farther inland at sunlight. The beach was secured and ready for reinforcements.
Unfortunately, Bayeux was not taken but most of the areas hidden bunkers and trenches
were. Some in fact were found to be manned by unwilling Asiatic conscripts from the
southern Soviet republics who were put there by Germans.
Juno beach was Canadas beach with over 21,000 Canadians
landing there. Not unlike other beaches, Junos H-hour was delayed until 07:45. The
reason was that air reconnaissance had spotted some underwater shoals (rocks/reefs)
and the Canadians wanted to wait until the tide had gone in to make it safer for the
landing craft. (Later on the shoals turned out to be masses of floating seaweed). The
beach itself was wide enough to land two Brigades side by side, the Canadian 7th at
Courseulles and the 8th at Bernieres. The decision to wait until 07:45 caused more
problems than it solved. The rising tide hid most of the beach obstacles meaning two
things: it was dangerous for the landing craft to come ashore and the demolition crews
couldnt get at the obstacles to make room for the landing craft. Thirty percent of all the
landing craft at Juno beach on D-day were disabled in beach obstacle related incidents.
One such example was when one craft started to disembark troops, a wave threw the
craft onto a mined beach obstacle. Like at most of the beaches that day, Armored
Divisions started to bring their tanks in on the landing craft but like on all the other
beaches this caused problems. The Regina Rifles, one of the first groups to land, had to
wait twenty minutes on the beach without the aid of any tanks or heavy artillery. Due to
heavy seas and tanks coming in on the landing craft it meant that people who should
have been in front were behind.The Canadians were smarter than most in the setup of
their landing. They chose a position at sea which was only seven or eight miles out
instead of the distance most other beach operations were using of about eleven miles.
This greatly increased the speed and accuracy of the landings and the first Canadian
wave was on the beach by 08:15. Once on the beach the amount of German defenses
surprised the Allied forces, once again the air assault on the German gunneries was not
46
as successful as planned. However, like at Gold beach, the Canadians did find out that
the firepower of their tanks was the difference between being able to push inland and
being pinned down at the beach. After the main beach defenses of the Germans were
taken the inland push became slower and slower the farther south they got. A few of the
main objectives were successful. The 3rd Division reach the Caen-Bayeux road and a
lot of French towns were liberated. The one strongpoint that would become a problem for troops at Juno, as well as Sword, would be Caen. The Canadians found increased
resistance the closer they got and in that aspect their D-day mission did not succeed. As
night fell the Canadians were still well short of a lot of objectives. They did get their tanks
on the Caen-Bayeux road but that was about it. The British 3rd Division from Sword
beach was planned to meet up with the Canadians in order to close the gap between
Juno and Sword beaches but they never showed. This left a two mile gap in the beaches
and would be the area of the only German counterattack of the day. The other linkup
between beaches was successful as Canadians met the 50th Division from Gold beach.
Overall the Canadians didnt get all that far but were in a good position to move inland.

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Sword beach was the easternmost beach in Normandy. Like at Juno Beach H-
hour was again postponed because of shoals until 07:25. The main objective at Sword
beach was to advance and invade the German strongpoint of Caen. Four whole
brigades of the 3rd Division were sent to Caen. There were also Airborne Divisions that
dropped behind lines using large gliders which could carry troops as well as other
Armored vehicles. Those groups not supposed to head toward Caen were planned to
reach the Airborne Divisions and secure the areas bridges from counterattack. Even as
the Canadians moved inland, trouble was developing back at the beach. Although all the
DD tanks made it to the beach the tide was turning the already small beach into one with
only ten yards from the seafront to the waters edge. With only one road off the beach
the overcrowding caused delays in most objectives for that day. Some of the Armored
Divisions like the 27th Armored Brigade abandoned their objectives in order to bail out
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Infantry pinned down on the crowded beaches. Those who did make it off the beach in
time were quite successful in reaching their D-day objectives. By late afternoon the
leading troops of the Brigades heading for Caen had reached and liberated the towns of
Beuville and Bieville which were only two or so miles short of Caen. Strongpoints, like
the one at La Breche, were taken as early as 10:00. Those troops that didnt make it off
the beach in time, like the 185th Brigade, had to leave all their heavy equipment behind
in order to catch up with the forces already nearing Caen. The move inland was really
looking quite promising until the Germans launched the only counterattack of the day.
The 21st Panzer Division was sent out from Caen, half to take on the southward allies
and the other half to head right up between Juno and Sword beach where that two mile of
beach was unoccupied by Allied forces. Fifty German tanks faced the Brigades heading
for Caen. Luckily the British were ready with artillery, fighter-bombers and a special
Firefly Sherman tank that was fitted with a seventeen pound anti-tank gun instead of the
normal 75mm gun. Soon, thirteen of the German tanks were destroyed with only one M-
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10 tank destroyer damaged. This just went to show that the British were slow in advance
but almost unbreakable in defense. Still the Germans pressed forward until about 21:00
when the last wave of gliders of the 6th Airborne Divisions came in. The Germans
56
looked up and saw about 250 gliders fly in and land behind them. The allies now were
attacking from two directions and the only German counterattack ended quickly. By the
end of the day the German resistance at Sword beach was almost obliterated other than
that at Caen. A lot of the success was because of the joint effort of Airborne Divisions
and Divisions landing on the beach. Of the 6,250 troops of the 6th Airborne that landed
there were only 650 casualties. Unfortunately Caen was not taken but its liberation was
By the end of June 6, 1944 one of the most complicated and the most coordinated
invasions the world would ever witness had started. On Utah Beach, the American 1st
Army held a firm beachhead with several Divisions already receiving the supplies they
needed and would soon be ready to move inland. On Omaha Beach, the troops there
had recovered from what had looked like an impending disaster in the first hours and
started to break through the stiff German defenses. At the British run beaches of Juno,
Gold and Sword the forces had managed to push inland an average of six miles. Even
with the amount of soldiers numbering about seventy-five thousand, the casualties
between the three U.S. beaches were only approximately three thousand. Overlooking
the Omaha beach landing site is the Normandy American Cemetery. Under headstones
of white Italian marble lie 9386 American soldiers, airmen and sailors. Of these men
whom are buried here are 307 whose names are known but to God. Their valiant
soldiers unselfishly gave their lives in landing operations, the establishment of the
beachheads and the drive inland towards Paris. The remains of 14,000 others had
originally been buried here but had been returned home at the request of their next of
kin. This was the price paid for a foothold on Europe.D-Day was the beginning of the
end for the Germans in Europe and the end of the beginning for the fight for Europe.


Bibliography:
SOURCES USED
Ambrose, Stephen E. D-Day June 6, 1944: The Climatic Battle of World War II, ( New York New York, Simon and Schuster 1994)
Golstein, Donald M. Katherine V. Dillon, and Michael Wenger, D-DAY NORMANDY: The Story and The Photographs, ( Washington, New York, London, Basseys 1994)
Young, Brigadeir Peter D-DAY, ( London England, Bison Books Limited, 1981)
The American Battle Monuments Commission, Normandy American Cemetary and Memorial, ( A Handout; The American Battle Monuments Commission 1987)