The Normandy invasion

The Normandy Invasion: June 6 1944

‘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.’
— General Dwight Eisenhower, Letter to Allied Forces

normandy invasion 6 june 1944

By May 1944, 1.5 million American troops had arrived in the United Kingdom. Most were housed in temporary camps in the south-west of England, ready to move across the Channel to the western section of the landing zone. British and Canadian troops were billeted in accommodations further east, spread from Southampton to Newhaven, and even on the east coast for men who would be coming across in later waves.

A complex system called Movement Control assured that the men and vehicles left on schedule from twenty departure points. Some men had to board their craft nearly a week before departure. The ships met at a rendezvous point (nicknamed “Piccadilly Circus”) south-east of the Isle of Wight to assemble into convoys to cross the Channel.

Minesweepers began clearing lanes on the evening of June 5, and a thousand bombers left before dawn to attack the coastal defences. Some 1,200 aircraft departed England just before midnight to transport three airborne divisions to their drop zones behind enemy lines several hours before the beach landings. The US 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions were assigned objectives on the Cotentin Peninsula west of Utah. The British 6th Airborne Division was assigned to capture intact the bridges over the Caen Canal and River Orne. The Free French 4th SAS battalion of 538 men was assigned objectives in Brittany (Operation Dingson, Operation Samwest). Some 132,000 men were transported by sea on D-Day, and a further 24,000 came by air. Preliminary naval bombardment commenced at 05:45 and continued until 06:25 from five battleships, twenty cruisers, sixty-five destroyers, and two monitors. Infantry began arriving on the beaches at around 06:30.

The Normandy invasion: US Army Sherman tanks loaded in a landing craft tankUS Army Sherman tanks loaded in a landing craft tank (LCT), late may, early june 1944

Some figures

  • June 6 is the 1.741st day of World War II.
  • At the evening of June 6 132.715 soldiers have set foot on the beaches, 57.500 Americans and 75.215 English and Canadians.
  • 23.400 paratroopers were dropped.
  • 20.000 vehicles came ashore.
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