Saturday, June 5, 2010

June 6, 1944

66 years ago today, the combined forces of Canada, England and the United States invaded the Northern coast of France, in an effort to drive the occupying German Army out of western Europe. It was long time in planning. Difficult and expensive in terms of lives lost, but necessary.

The Naval portion was known as Operation Neptune. It had three main objectives.

1. Deliver the men and equipment to the French beaches of Normandy.
2. Blockade and defend the Northern Flank against the German Naval presence in Scandinavian waters.
3. defend the water borne forces from the possibility of attack by Germany's submarine forces.

It's secondary mission was to provide Naval gunfire support for the invasion forces.

The land attack was known to the military planners as Operation Overlord.

You know it as:


this is the words spoken by radio transmission to the men of the invasion force:

Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force!

You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have
striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The
hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you.
In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on
other Fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war
machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of
Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.

Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well
equipped and battle hardened. He will fight savagely.

But this is the year 1944! Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of
1940-41. The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats,
in open battle, man-to-man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their
strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our Home
Fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions
of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men.
The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to

I have full confidence in your courage and devotion to duty and skill in
battle. We will accept nothing less than full Victory!

Good luck! And let us beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great
and noble undertaking.

                                            Dwight D. Eisenhower

Allied land forces that saw combat in Normandy on D-Day itself came from Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Free French forces and Poland also participated in the battle after the assault phase, and there were also minor contingents from Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Greece, the Netherlands, and Norway.[14]  Other Allied nations participated in the naval and air forces. Once the beachheads were secured, a three-week military buildup occurred on the beaches before Operation Cobra, the operation to break out from the Normandy beachhead, began. The battle for Normandy continued for more than two months, with campaigns to expand the foothold on France, and concluded with the closing of the Falaise pocket on 24 August, the liberation of Paris on 25 August, and the German retreat across the Seine which was completed on 30 August 1944.

Normandy presented serious logistical problems, not the least of which was that the only viable port in the area, Cherbourg, was heavily defended. Many among the higher echelons of command argued that the Pas de Calais would make a more suitable landing area on these grounds alone. Although the Pas de Calais was the shortest distance to the European mainland from the UK, it was the most heavily fortified and defended landing site. It was also considered that it offered few opportunities for expansion as the area was bounded by numerous rivers and canals, whereas landings on a broad front in Normandy would permit simultaneous threats against the port of Cherbourg, coastal ports further west in Brittany, and an overland attack towards Paris and towards the border with Germany. Normandy was a less-defended coast and an unexpected but strategic jumping-off point, with the potential to confuse and scatter the German defending forces. Normandy was hence chosen as the landing site

British "Pathfinders" Synchronize their watches.

Senior Officers aboard the USS AUGUSTA.
second from left, General Omar Bradley.

US troops aboard a landing craft.
Approaching Omaha Beach.

Canadian Troopers
Display a captured German Flag

The cost of the Normandy campaign had been high for both sides. From D-Day to 21 August the Allies had landed 2,052,299 men in northern France. The Allies lost around 209,672 casualties from June 6 to the end of August, around 10 % of the forces landed in France. The casualties breaks down to 36,976 killed, 153,475 wounded and 19,221 missing. Split between the Army-Groups; the Anglo-Canadian Army-Group suffered 16,138 killed, 58,594 wounded and 9,093 missing for a total of 83,825 casualties. The American Army-Group suffered 20,838 killed, 94,881 wounded and 10,128 missing for a total of 125,847 casualties. To these casualties it should be added that 4,101 aircraft were lost and 16,714 airmen were killed in direct connection to Operation Overlord. Thus total Allied casualties rises to 226,386 men, of whom 53,150 were killed.

81 Free French SAS (Special Air Service) were killed and another 195 wounded from 6 June to the beginning of August in Brittany. For Allied tank losses there are no direct number. Estimations are that around 4,000 tanks were destroyed.


The beaches of Normandy are still known by their invasion codenames today. Streets near the beaches are still named after the units that fought there, and occasional markers commemorate notable incidents. At significant points, such as Pointe du Hoc and Pegasus Bridge, there are plaques, memorials or small museums. The Mulberry harbour still sits in the sea at Arromanches. In Sainte-Mère-Église, a dummy paratrooper hangs from the church spire.


Ms. Anthropy said...

I've got some amazing cemetery pictures I should forward to you. They are beautiful, but sad, if you think about all the lives lost.

PTSD, A Caregiver's Perspective said...

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch, be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Indi said...

A beautiful tribute to the many who gave their lives so that we could have a future. I some times wonder why we have to go to war, yes to fight for our Countries but is it really necessary? To die.. and for so many so young?



Marnie said...

This was a great post. I always learn something from them. You should be a history teacher.

Heff said...

I liked Ike.

Jo said...

My father always talked about the amazing efforts on D-Day. Good post!

I have been catching up on my blogging, and I just saw your post with your picture on it. You look younger than your stated age. Much younger!