Invasion of Normandy

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Invasion of Normandy
Part of Operation Overlord (World War II)
Into the Jaws of Death 23-0455M edit.jpg
Into the Jaws of Death by Robert F. Sargent. Assault craft land one of the first waves at Omaha Beach. The U.S. Coast Guard caption identifies the unit as Company E, 16th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division.
Date6 June 1944 – mid-July 1944
Location
Normandy, France

Coordinates: 49°20′N0°34′W / 49.333°N 0.567°W / 49.333; -0.567
Result Allied victory
Territorial
changes
German army retreats east towards Paris
Belligerents

Allies

Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom
Flag of the United States (1912-1959).svg  United States
Canadian Red Ensign (1921-1957).svg  Canada
Flag of France (1794-1815, 1830-1958).svg France
Flag of Poland (1928-1980).svg Poland
Flag of Australia (converted).svg  Australia [nb 1]
Flag of Belgium (civil).svg Belgium
Flag of New Zealand.svg  New Zealand
Flag of the Netherlands.svg Netherlands
Flag of Norway.svg Norway [1]
Flag of the Czech Republic.svg Czechoslovakia
Flag of Luxembourg.svg Luxembourg [2]
Flag of Greece (1822-1978).svg Greece

Axis

Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg  Nazi Germany
Commanders and leaders
Flag of the United States (1912-1959).svg Dwight D. Eisenhower
(Supreme Allied Commander)
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Arthur Tedder
(Deputy Supreme Allied Commander)
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Bernard Montgomery
(21st Army Group, Ground Forces Commander in Chief)
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Trafford Leigh-Mallory
(Air Commander in Chief)
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Bertram Ramsay
(Naval Commander in Chief)
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Miles Dempsey
(British 2nd Army)
Flag of the United States (1912-1959).svg Omar Bradley
(U.S. 1st Army)
Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg Gerd von Rundstedt (Oberbefehlshaber West)
Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg Erwin Rommel (Heeresgruppe B)
Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg Friedrich Dollmann (7 Armeeoberkommando)
Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg Leo Geyr von Schweppenburg (Panzergruppe West)
Strength
1,332,000 (by 24 July) [3] 380,000 (by 23 July) [4]
Casualties and losses
by 24 July:
≈120,000 casualties [3]
by 24 July:
113,059 casualties [3]


The Western Allies of World War II launched the largest amphibious invasion in history when they assaulted Normandy, located on the northern coast of France, on 6 June 1944. The invaders were able to establish a beachhead as part of Operation Overlord after a successful "D-Day," the first day of the invasion.

Allies of World War II Grouping of the victorious countries of World War II

The Allies of World War II, called the United Nations from the 1 January 1942 declaration, were the countries that together opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War (1939–1945). The Allies promoted the alliance as a means to control German, Japanese and Italian aggression.

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

Amphibious warfare Type of offensive military operations

Amphibious warfare is a type of offensive military operation that today uses naval ships to project ground and air power onto a hostile or potentially hostile shore at a designated landing beach. Through history the operations were conducted using ship's boats as the primary method of delivering troops to shore. Since the Gallipoli Campaign, specialised watercraft were increasingly designed for landing troops, materiel and vehicles, including by landing craft and for insertion of commandos, by fast patrol boats, zodiacs and from mini-submersibles.

Contents

Allied land forces came from the United States, Britain, Canada, and Free French forces. In the weeks following the invasion, Polish forces and contingents from Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Greece and the Netherlands participated in the ground campaign; most also provided air and naval support alongside elements of the Royal Australian Air Force, the Royal New Zealand Air Force, and the Royal Norwegian Navy. [5] [nb 1] [1]

United States Army Land warfare branch of the United States Armed Forces

The United States Army (USA) is the land warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces. It is one of the seven uniformed services of the United States, and is designated as the Army of the United States in the United States Constitution. As the oldest and most senior branch of the U.S. military in order of precedence, the modern U.S. Army has its roots in the Continental Army, which was formed to fight the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783)—before the United States of America was established as a country. After the Revolutionary War, the Congress of the Confederation created the United States Army on 3 June 1784 to replace the disbanded Continental Army. The United States Army considers itself descended from the Continental Army, and dates its institutional inception from the origin of that armed force in 1775.

British Army land warfare branch of the British Armed Forces of the United Kingdom

The British Army is the principal land warfare force of the United Kingdom, a part of British Armed Forces. As of 2018, the British Army comprises just over 81,500 trained regular (full-time) personnel and just over 27,000 trained reserve (part-time) personnel.

Canadian Army land component of the Canadian Armed Forces

The Canadian Army is the command responsible for the operational readiness of the conventional ground forces of the Canadian Armed Forces. As of 2018 the Army has 23,000 regular soldiers, about 17,000 reserve soldiers, including 5,000 rangers, for a total of 40,000 soldiers. The Army is supported by 3,000 civilian employees. It maintains regular forces units at bases across Canada, and is also responsible for the Army Reserve, the largest component of the Primary Reserve. The Commander of the Canadian Army and Chief of the Army Staff is Lieutenant-General Jean-Marc Lanthier.

The Normandy invasion began with overnight parachute and glider landings, massive air attacks and naval bombardments. In the early morning, amphibious landings commenced on five beaches codenamed Sword, Juno, Gold, Omaha and Utah, with troops from the United States landing on Omaha and Utah, Great Britain landing on Gold and Sword and Canada landing on Juno. During the evening the remaining elements of the airborne divisions landed. Land forces used on D-Day sailed from bases along the south coast of England, the most important of these being Portsmouth. [6]

Paratrooper Military parachutists functioning as part of an airborne force

A paratrooper is a military parachutist—someone trained to parachute into an operation, and usually functioning as part of an airborne force. Military parachutists (troops) and parachutes were first used on a large scale during World War II for troop distribution and transportation. Paratroopers are often used in surprise attacks, to seize strategic objectives such as airfields or bridges.

Military glider glider for military use in combat operations

Military gliders have been used by the military of various countries for carrying troops and heavy equipment to a combat zone, mainly during the Second World War. These engineless aircraft were towed into the air and most of the way to their target by military transport planes, e.g., C-47 Skytrain or Dakota, or bombers relegated to secondary activities, e.g., Short Stirling. Most military gliders do not soar, although there were attempts to build military sailplanes as well, such as the DFS 228.

Aerial warfare is the battlespace use of military aircraft and other flying machines in warfare. Aerial warfare includes bombers attacking enemy installations or a concentration of enemy troops or strategic targets; fighter aircraft battling for control of airspace; attack aircraft engaging in close air support against ground targets; naval aviation flying against sea and nearby land targets; gliders, helicopters and other aircraft to carry airborne forces such as paratroopers; aerial refueling tankers to extend operation time or range; and military transport aircraft to move cargo and personnel. Historically, military aircraft have included lighter-than-air balloons carrying artillery observers; lighter-than-air airships for bombing cities; various sorts of reconnaissance, surveillance and early warning aircraft carrying observers, cameras and radar equipment; torpedo bombers to attack enemy shipping; and military air-sea rescue aircraft for saving downed airmen. Modern aerial warfare includes missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles. Surface forces are likely to respond to enemy air activity with anti-aircraft warfare.

Planning

U.S. soldiers march through Weymouth, Dorset, en route to board landing ships for the invasion of France. Soldiers-english-coast.jpg
U.S. soldiers march through Weymouth, Dorset, en route to board landing ships for the invasion of France.

Allied forces rehearsed their D-Day roles for months before the invasion. On 28 April 1944, in south Devon on the English coast, 749 U.S. soldiers and sailors were killed when German torpedo boats surprised one of these landing exercises, Exercise Tiger. [7] [ page needed ]

Devon County of England

Devon, also known as Devonshire, which was formerly its common and official name, is a county of England, reaching from the Bristol Channel in the north to the English Channel in the south. It is part of South West England, bounded by Cornwall to the west, Somerset to the north east, and Dorset to the east. The city of Exeter is the county town. The county includes the districts of East Devon, Mid Devon, North Devon, South Hams, Teignbridge, Torridge, and West Devon. Plymouth and Torbay are each geographically part of Devon, but are administered as unitary authorities. Combined as a ceremonial county, Devon's area is 6,707 km2 and its population is about 1.1 million.

E-boat

E-boat was the Western Allies' designation for the fast attack craft of the Kriegsmarine during World War II. The most popular, the S-100 class, were very seaworthy, heavily armed and capable of sustaining 43.5 knots, briefly accelerating to 48 knots.

Exercise Tiger

Exercise Tiger, or Operation Tiger, was the code name for one in a series of large-scale rehearsals for the D-Day invasion of Normandy, which took place in April 1944 on Slapton Sands in Devon. Coordination and communication problems resulted in friendly fire deaths during the exercise, and an Allied convoy positioning itself for the landing was attacked by E-boats of Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine, resulting in the deaths of at least 749 American servicemen. Because of the impending invasion of Normandy, the incident was under the strictest secrecy at the time and was only nominally reported afterwards.

In the months leading up to the invasion, the Allied forces conducted a deception operation, Operation Fortitude, aimed at misleading the Germans with respect to the date and place of the invasion.

Operation Fortitude military deception operation

Operation Fortitude was the code name for a World War II military deception employed by the Allied nations as part of an overall deception strategy during the build-up to the 1944 Normandy landings. Fortitude was divided into two sub-plans, North and South, with the aim of misleading the German high command as to the location of the invasion.

There were several leaks prior to or on D-Day. Through the Cicero affair, the Germans obtained documents containing references to Overlord, but these documents lacked all detail. [8] Double Cross agents, such as the Spaniard Juan Pujol (code-named Garbo), played an important role in convincing the German High Command that Normandy was at best a diversionary attack. U.S. Major General Henry Miller, chief supply officer of the US 9th Air Force, during a party at Claridge's Hotel in London complained to guests of the supply problems he was having but that after the invasion, which he told them would be before 15 June, supply would be easier. After being told, Eisenhower reduced Miller to lieutenant colonel [Associated Press, June 10, 1944] and sent him back to the U.S. where he retired. [9] Another such leak was General Charles de Gaulle's radio message after D-Day. He, unlike all the other leaders, stated that this invasion was the real invasion. This had the potential to ruin the Allied deceptions Fortitude North and Fortitude South. In contrast, Gen. Eisenhower referred to the landings as the initial invasion.

Juan Pujol García double agent for the British in World War II

Juan Pujol García, also known as Joan Pujol Garcia, was a Spanish double agent against Nazi Germany during World War II, when he relocated to Britain to carry out fictitious spying activities for the Germans. He was given the codename Garbo by the British; their German counterparts codenamed him Alaric and referred to his non-existent spy network as "Arabal."

Henry J. F. Miller US Army general

Henry Jervis Friese Miller served as a general in the United States Army Air Forces during World War II. He was demoted to the rank of colonel as a result of a security breach related to the allied invasion of Normandy.

Claridges hotel in Mayfair, London, England

Claridge's is a 5-star hotel at the corner of Brook Street and Davies Street in Mayfair, London. is a 5-star hotel at the corner of Brook Street and Davies Street in Mayfair, London. It has long-standing connections with royalty that have led to it sometimes being referred to as an "an nexe to Buckingham Palace".

Only ten days each month were suitable for launching the operation: a day near the full moon was needed both for illumination during the hours of darkness and for the spring tide, the former to illuminate navigational landmarks for the crews of aircraft, gliders and landing craft, and the latter to expose defensive obstacles placed by the German forces in the surf on the seaward approaches to the beaches. A full moon occurred on 6 June. Allied Expeditionary Force Supreme Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower had tentatively selected 5 June as the date for the assault. The weather was fine during most of May, but deteriorated in early June. On 4 June, conditions were clearly unsuitable for a landing; wind and high seas would make it impossible to launch landing craft from larger ships at sea, low clouds would prevent aircraft finding their targets. The Allied troop convoys already at sea were forced to take shelter in bays and inlets on the south coast of Britain for the night.

It seemed possible that everything would have to be cancelled and the troops returned to their embarkation camps (which would be almost impossible, as the enormous movement of follow-up formations into them was already proceeding). [10] The next full moon period would be nearly a month away. At a vital meeting on 5 June, Eisenhower's chief meteorologist (Group Captain J.M. Stagg) forecast a brief improvement for 6 June. [11] Commander of all land forces for the invasion General Bernard Montgomery and Eisenhower's Chief of Staff General Walter Bedell Smith wished to proceed with the invasion. Commander of the Allied Air Forces Air Chief Marshal Leigh Mallory was doubtful, but Allied Naval Commander-in-Chief Admiral Bertram Ramsay believed that conditions would be marginally favorable. [10] On the strength of Stagg's forecast, Eisenhower ordered the invasion to proceed. [12] As a result, prevailing overcast skies limited Allied air support, and no serious damage would be done to the beach defences on Omaha and Juno. [13]

The Germans meanwhile took comfort from the existing poor conditions, which were worse over Northern France than over the English Channel itself, and believed no invasion would be possible for several days. Some troops stood down and many senior officers were away for the weekend. Field Marshal Erwin Rommel took a few days' leave to celebrate his wife's birthday, [14] while dozens of division, regimental and battalion commanders were away from their posts conducting war games just prior to the invasion. [15]

Codenames

The Allies assigned codenames to the various operations involved in the invasion. Overlord was the name assigned to the establishment of a large-scale lodgement on the northern portion of the Continent. The first phase, the establishment of a secure foothold, was codenamed Neptune. According to the D-Day Museum:

The armed forces use codenames to refer to the planning and execution of specific military operations. Operation Overlord was the codename for the Allied invasion of northwest Europe. The assault phase of Operation Overlord was known as Operation Neptune. (…) Operation Neptune began on D-Day (6 June 1944) and ended on 30 June 1944. By this time, the Allies had established a firm foothold in Normandy. Operation Overlord also began on D-Day, and continued until Allied forces crossed the River Seine on 19 August 1944. [16]

Officers with knowledge of D-Day were not to be sent where there was the slightest danger of being captured. These officers were given the codename of "Bigot", derived from the words "To Gib" (To Gibraltar) that was stamped on the papers of officers who took part in the North African invasion in 1942. [17] On the night of 27 April, during Exercise Tiger, a pre-invasion exercise off the coast of Slapton Sands beach, several American LSTs were attacked by German E boats and among the 638 Americans killed in the attack and a further 308 killed by friendly fire, ten "Bigots" were listed as missing. As the invasion would be cancelled if any were captured or unaccounted for, [18] their fate was given the highest priority and eventually all ten bodies were recovered.

Allied order of battle

D-Day

D-day assault routes into Normandy Allied Invasion Force.jpg
D-day assault routes into Normandy

The following major units were landed on D-Day (6 June 1944). A more detailed order of battle for D-Day itself can be found at Normandy landings and List of Allied forces in the Normandy Campaign.

The total number of troops landed on D-Day was around 130,000 [24] –156,000 [25] roughly half American and the other half from the Commonwealth Realms.

Subsequent days

Off Omaha Beach, American Liberty ships - 'Corn Cobs' - were scuttled to provide a makeshift breakwater during the early days of the invasion. Mulberry-harbor.jpg
Off Omaha Beach, American Liberty ships – 'Corn Cobs' – were scuttled to provide a makeshift breakwater during the early days of the invasion.

The total troops, vehicles and supplies landed over the period of the invasion were:

Large landing craft convoy crosses the English Channel on 6 June 1944 Lci-convoy.jpg
Large landing craft convoy crosses the English Channel on 6 June 1944

The invasion fleet was drawn from eight different navies, comprising 6,939 vessels: 1,213 warships, 4,126 transport vessels (landing ships and landing craft), and 736 ancillary craft and 864 merchant vessels. [19]

The overall commander of the Allied Naval Expeditionary Force, providing close protection and bombardment at the beaches, was Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay. The Allied Naval Expeditionary Force was divided into two Naval Task Forces: Western (Rear-Admiral Alan G Kirk) and Eastern (Rear-Admiral Sir Philip Vian).

The warships provided cover for the transports against the enemy—whether in the form of surface warships, submarines, or as an aerial attack—and gave support to the landings through shore bombardment. These ships included the Allied Task Force "O".

German order of battle

The number of military forces at the disposal of Nazi Germany reached its peak during 1944. Tanks on the east front peaked at 5,202 in November 1944, while total aircraft in the Luftwaffe inventory peaked at 5,041 in December 1944. By D-Day 157 German divisions were stationed in the Soviet Union, 6 in Finland, 12 in Norway, 6 in Denmark, 9 in Germany, 21 in the Balkans, 26 in Italy and 59 in France, Belgium and the Netherlands. [27] However, these statistics are somewhat misleading since a significant number of the divisions in the east were depleted; German records indicate that the average personnel complement was at about 50% in the spring of 1944. [28]

A more detailed order of battle for D-Day itself can be found at Normandy landings.

Atlantic Wall

A map of the Atlantic Wall. Atlantikwall.gif
A map of the Atlantic Wall.
German Cross-Channel gun of the Atlantic Wall. One of three 40.6cm guns at Batterie "Lindemann" Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-364-2314-16A, Atlantikwall, Batterie "Lindemann".jpg
German Cross-Channel gun of the Atlantic Wall. One of three 40.6cm guns at Batterie "Lindemann"

Standing in the way of the Allies was the English Channel, an obstacle that had frustrated the ambitions of the Spanish Armada and Napoleon Bonaparte's Navy. Compounding the difficulty of invasion was the extensive Atlantic Wall, ordered by Hitler in his Directive 51. Believing that any forthcoming landings would be timed for high tide (this caused the landings to be timed for low tide), Hitler had the entire wall fortified with tank top turrets and extensive barbed wire, and laid a million mines to deter landing craft.[ citation needed ] The sector that was attacked was guarded by four divisions.

Divisional areas

German infantrymen scan the skies for Allied aircraft in Normandy, 1944 Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-731-0388-20, Frankreich, nach der Invasion, Infanteristen.jpg
German infantrymen scan the skies for Allied aircraft in Normandy, 1944

The following units were deployed in a static defensive mode in the areas of the actual landings:

Adjacent divisional areas

Other divisions occupied the areas around the landing zones, including:

Armoured reserves

Rommel's defensive measures were frustrated by a dispute over armoured doctrine. In addition to his two army groups, Rundstedt also commanded the headquarters of Panzer Group West under General Leo Geyr von Schweppenburg (usually referred to as "von Geyr"). This formation was nominally an administrative HQ for Rundstedt's armoured and mobile formations, but it was later to be brought into the line in Normandy and renamed Fifth Panzer Army. Geyr and Rommel disagreed over the deployment and use of the vital Panzer divisions.

Rommel recognised that the Allies would possess air superiority and would be able to harass his movements from the air. He therefore proposed that the armoured formations be deployed close to the invasion beaches. In his words, it was better to have one Panzer division facing the invaders on the first day, than three Panzer divisions three days later when the Allies would already have established a firm beachhead. Geyr argued for the standard doctrine that the Panzer formations should be concentrated in a central position around Paris and Rouen, and deployed en masse against the main Allied beachhead when this had been identified.

The argument was eventually brought before Hitler for arbitration. He characteristically imposed an unworkable compromise solution. Only three Panzer divisions were given to Rommel, too few to cover all the threatened sectors. The remainder, nominally under Geyr's control, were actually designated as being in "OKW Reserve". Only three of these were deployed close enough to intervene immediately against any invasion of Northern France; the other four were dispersed in southern France and the Netherlands. Hitler reserved to himself the authority to move the divisions in OKW Reserve, or commit them to action. On 6 June many Panzer division commanders were unable to move because Hitler had not given the necessary authorisation, and his staff refused to wake him upon news of the invasion.

Army Group B reserve

  • 21st Panzer Division (Generalmajor Edgar Feuchtinger), was deployed near Caen as a mobile striking force as part of the Army Group B reserve. However, Rommel placed it so close to the coastal defenses that, under standing orders in case of invasion, several of its infantry and anti-aircraft units would come under the orders of the fortress divisions on the coast, reducing the effective strength of the division.

The other two armoured divisions over which Rommel had operational control, the 2nd Panzer Division and 116th Panzer Division, were deployed near the Pas de Calais in accordance with German views about the likely Allied landing sites. Neither was moved from the Pas de Calais for at least fourteen days after the invasion.

OKW reserve

The other mechanized divisions capable of intervening in Normandy were retained under the direct control of the German Armed Forces HQ (OKW) and were initially denied to Rommel:

Four divisions were deployed to Normandy within seven days of the invasion:

  • 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend (Brigadeführer Fritz Witt) was stationed to the southeast. Its officers and NCOs (this division had a very weak core of NCOs in Normandy with only slightly more than 50% of its authorised strength [29] ) were long-serving veterans, but the junior soldiers had all been recruited directly from the Hitler Youth movement at the age of seventeen in 1943. It was to acquire a reputation for ferocity and war crimes in the coming battle.
  • Panzer-Lehr-Division (Generalmajor Fritz Bayerlein). Further to the southwest was an elite unit, originally formed by amalgamating the instructing staff at various training establishments. Not only were its personnel of high quality, but the division also had unusually high numbers of the latest and most capable armoured vehicles.
  • 1st SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler was refitting in Belgium on the Netherlands border after being decimated on the Eastern Front.
  • 17th SS Panzergrenadier Division Götz von Berlichingen (Oberführer Werner Ostendorff) was based on Thouars, south of the Loire River, and although equipped with Assault guns instead of tanks and lacking in other transport (such that one battalion each from the 37th and 38th Panzergrenadier Regiments moved by bicycle), it provided the first major counterattack against the American advance at Carentan on 13 June.
Landing supplies at Normandy NormandySupply edit.jpg
Landing supplies at Normandy

Three other divisions (the 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich, which had been refitting at Montauban in Southern France, and the 9th SS Panzer Division Hohenstaufen and 10th SS Panzer Division Frundsberg which had been in transit from the Eastern Front on 6 June), were committed to battle in Normandy around twenty-one days after the first landings.

One more armoured division (the 9th Panzer Division) saw action only after the American breakout from the beachhead. Two other armoured divisions which had been in the west on 6 June (the 11th Panzer Division and 19th Panzer Division) did not see action in Normandy.

Leaders

The following is a list of leaders in the Battle of Normandy.

Battle of Normandy leaders
Area Allied Powers Germany
GHQ Dwight D. Eisenhower - SAC
Sir Arthur Tedder - Deputy SAC
Walter Bedell Smith - COSSAC
Bernard Montgomery (ground forces)
Trafford Leigh-Mallory (air forces)
Bertram Ramsay (naval forces)
Alfred Jodl
Gerd von Rundstedt
Günther Blumentritt
Erwin Rommel
Leo Geyr von Schweppenburg
Günther von Kluge
Hans Speidel
Max Pemsel
Erich Marcks
Wolfgang Hager
Hans von Salmuth
Naval forces Alan G. Kirk (US)
Utah Beach Omar Bradley Theodore Roosevelt Jr.
Raymond O. Barton
Robert Haines
James M. Gavin (airborne landings)
Omaha Beach Norman Cota
Gold Beach
Juno Beach Harry Crerar
Guy Simonds
Charles Foulkes
Sword Beach Simon Fraser, 15th Lord Lovat

Landings

Allied establishment in France

The build-up of Omaha Beach: 2nd Infantry Division troops and equipment moving inland from Omaha Beach to Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer on D+1, 7 June 1944. 2nd Infantry Division, E-1 draw, Easy Red sector, Omaha Beach, D+1, June 7, 1944.jpg
The build-up of Omaha Beach: 2nd Infantry Division troops and equipment moving inland from Omaha Beach to Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer on D+1, 7 June 1944.

The Allied invasion plans had called for the capture of Saint-Lô, Caen, and Bayeux on the first day, with all the beaches linked except Utah, and Sword (the last linked with paratroopers) and a front line 10 to 16 kilometres (6–10 mi) from the beaches. However, practically none of these objectives had been achieved. It took six weeks for British and Canadian troops to capture Caen, as they faced seven Panzer divisions, while their American allies, although advancing more rapidly, faced only two of these divisions. Overall the casualties had not been as heavy as some had feared (around 10,000 compared to the 20,000 Churchill had estimated) and the bridgeheads had withstood the expected counterattacks.

Once the beachhead was established, two artificial Mulberry harbours were towed across the English Channel in segments and made operational around D+3 (9 June). One was constructed at Arromanches by British forces, the other at Omaha Beach by American forces. By 19 June, when severe storms interrupted the landing of supplies for several days and destroyed the Omaha harbour, the British had landed 314,547 men, 54,000 vehicles, and 102,000 tons of supplies, while the Americans put ashore 314,504 men, 41,000 vehicles, and 116,000 tons of supplies. [30] Around 9,000 tons of materiel were landed daily at the Arromanches harbour until the end of August 1944, by which time the port of Cherbourg had been secured by the Allies and had begun to return to service. [31] [32]

In addition, with the installation of PLUTO in August 1944 the Allies had fuel piped over directly from England without having to rely on vulnerable tankers.

Assessment of the battle

La Cambe German war cemetery German military cemetery Normandy 1.jpg
La Cambe German war cemetery

The Normandy landings were the first successful opposed landings across the English Channel in over eight centuries. They were costly in terms of men, but the defeat inflicted on the Germans was one of the largest of the war. Strategically, the campaign led to the loss of the German position in most of France and the secure establishment of a new major front. In larger context the Normandy landings helped the Soviets on the Eastern Front, who were facing the bulk of the German forces and, to a certain extent, contributed to the shortening of the conflict there.

Although there was a shortage of artillery ammunition, at no time were the Allies critically short of any necessity. This was a remarkable achievement considering they did not hold a port until Cherbourg fell. By the time of the breakout the Allies also enjoyed a considerable superiority in numbers of troops (approximately 7:2) and armoured vehicles (approximately 4:1) which helped overcome the natural advantages the terrain gave to the German defenders.

Allied intelligence and counterintelligence efforts were successful beyond expectations. The Operation Fortitude deception before the invasion kept German attention focused on the Pas de Calais, and indeed high-quality German forces were kept in this area, away from Normandy, until July. Prior to the invasion, few German reconnaissance flights took place over Britain, and those that did saw only the dummy staging areas. Ultra decrypts of German communications had been helpful as well, exposing German dispositions and revealing their plans such as the Mortain counterattack.

General Bernard Montgomery with British troops in Normandy, July 1944 The British Army in Normandy 1944 B6934.jpg
General Bernard Montgomery with British troops in Normandy, July 1944

Allied air operations also contributed significantly to the invasion, via close tactical support, interdiction of German lines of communication (preventing timely movement of supplies and reinforcements—particularly the critical Panzer units), and rendering the Luftwaffe ineffective in Normandy. [nb 2] Although the impact upon armoured vehicles was less than expected, air activity intimidated these units and cut their supplies.

Despite initial heavy losses in the assault phase, Allied morale remained high. Casualty rates among all the armies were tremendous, and the Commonwealth forces had to use a recently created category—Double Intense—to be able to describe them.

German leadership

German commanders at all levels failed to react to the assault phase in a timely manner. Communications problems exacerbated the difficulties caused by Allied air and naval firepower. Local commanders also seemed incapable of the task of fighting an aggressive defense on the beach, as Rommel had envisioned.

The German High Command remained fixated on the Calais area, and von Rundstedt was not permitted to commit the armoured reserve. When it was finally released late in the day, its chance of success was greatly reduced. Overall, despite considerable Allied material superiority, the Germans kept the Allies bottled up in a small beachhead for nearly two months, aided immeasurably by terrain factors.

Although there were several known disputes among the Allied commanders, their tactics and strategy were essentially determined by agreement among the main commanders. By contrast, the German leaders were bullied and their decisions interfered with by OKW. Field Marshals von Rundstedt and Rommel repeatedly asked Hitler for more discretion but were refused. Rundstedt was removed from his command on 29 June after he bluntly told the Chief of Staff at Hitler's Armed Forces HQ (Field Marshal Keitel) to "Make peace, you idiots!" Rommel was severely injured by Allied aircraft on 17 July.

Sixty thousand of the 850,000 in Rundstedt's command were raised from the many prisoners of war taken on the Eastern Front. [33] Many surrendered or deserted at the first available opportunity.

War memorials and tourism

The beaches at Normandy are still referred to on maps and signposts by their invasion codenames. There are several vast cemeteries in the area. The American cemetery, in Colleville-sur-Mer, contains row upon row of identical white crosses and Stars of David, immaculately kept, commemorating the American dead. Commonwealth graves, maintained in many locations by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, uses white headstones engraved with the person's religious or medal (Victoria Cross or George Cross only) symbol and their unit insignia. The Bayeux War Cemetery, with 4,648 burials, is the largest British cemetery of the war. [34] The largest cemetery in Normandy is the La Cambe German war cemetery, with 21,222 burials, which features granite stones almost flush with the ground and groups of low-set crosses. There is also a Polish cemetery.

Paratroop memorial in Sainte-Mere-Eglise Stmereeglise.jpg
Paratroop memorial in Sainte-Mère-Église

At the Bayeux Memorial, a monument erected by Britain has a Latin inscription on the memorial reads "Nos a gulielmo victi victoris patriam liberavimus" – freely translated, this reads "We, once conquered by William, have now set free the Conqueror's native land". [34]

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. On Juno Beach, the Canadian government has built the Juno Beach Information Centre, commemorating one of the most significant events in Canadian military history.

In England the most significant memorial is the D-Day Story in Southsea, Hampshire. The museum was opened in 1984 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of D-Day. Its centrepiece is the Overlord Embroidery commissioned by Lord Dulverton of Batsford (1915–92) as a tribute to the sacrifice and heroism of those men and women who took part in Operation Overlord.

On 5 June 1994 a drumhead service was held on Southsea Common adjacent to the D-Day Museum. This service was attended by US President Bill Clinton, Queen Elizabeth II and over 100,000 members of the public.

Dramatisations

The Battle of Normandy has been the topic of many films, television shows, songs, computer games and books. Many dramatisations focus on the initial landings, and these are covered at Normandy Landings. Some examples that cover the wider battle include:

Films

See also

Notes

Footnotes
  1. 1 2 Defence against a mass U-boat attack relied on "19 Group of [RAF] Coastal Command … [it] included one Czech, one Polish, one New Zealander, two Australian and three Canadian squadrons. Even the RAF's own 224 Squadron was a mixed bag of nationalities with 137 Britons, forty-four Canadians, thirty-three Anzacs, two Americans, a Swiss, a Chilean, a South African and a Brazilian" [35] "The D-Day air offensive was another [RAF] multinational operation. It included five New Zealander, seven Australian, twenty-eight Canadian, one Rhodesian, six French, fourteen Polish, three Czech, two Belgian, two Dutch and two Norwegian squadrons" [36] At 05:37 the Norwegian destroyer Sevenner, one of 37 destroyers in the Eastern Task Force, was sunk by a torpedo launched from a German E-boat . [37] "In addition to the Cruiser ORP Dragon, the Polish destroyers ORP Krakowiak and Slazak took part in beach support operations, while the destroyers OKP Blyskewica and Piorun were employed as part of the covering force" [38]
  2. Following Normandy, a joke regarding their lack of air support became common and widely spread by Wehrmacht soldiers: "If the plane in the sky is silver, it's American, if it's blue, it's British, if it's invisible, it's ours!"[ citation needed ]
Citations
  1. 1 2 "Title: The Norwegian Navy in the Second World War". Resdal. Retrieved 24 May 2008.
  2. Luxembourg Army website.
  3. 1 2 3 Tamelander, M, Zetterling, N (2004), Avgörandes Ögonblick: Invasionen i Normandie. Norstedts Förlag, p. 295
  4. Zetterling 2000, p. 32.
  5. Williams, Jeffery (1988). The long left flank: the hard fought way to the Reich, 1944–1945. London: Cooper. p. [ page needed ]. ISBN   0-85052-880-1.
  6. Keegan 1989.
  7. Small, Ken; Rogerson, Mark (1988). The Forgotten Dead – Why 946 American Servicemen Died Off The Coast Of Devon In 1944 – And The Man Who Discovered Their True Story. London: Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN   0-7475-0309-5.
  8. Keegan 1989, p. 279.
  9. F Pogue, The Supreme Command, Department of the Army, 1954, pp. 163–64
  10. 1 2 Wilmot 1997 , p. 225
  11. Wilmot 1997 , p. 224
  12. Wilmot 1997 , p. 226
  13. Juno Beach from The Canadian Encyclopedia.
  14. "D-Day, People & Events: Erwin Rommel (1891–1944)". American Experience, PBS. Retrieved 5 June 2009.
  15. David White; Daniel P. Murphy. "The Normandy Invasion". netplaces. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 6 June 2012.
  16. "D-Day and the Battle of Normandy: Your Questions Answered". D-Day Museum. Retrieved 24 May 2008.[ dead link ]
  17. Untold Stories of D-Day, National Geographic, June 2002.
  18. Small, Ken; Rogerson, Mark (1988). The Forgotten Dead – Why 946 American Servicemen Died Off The Coast Of Devon In 1944 – And The Man Who Discovered Their True Story. London: Bloomsbury. ISBN   0-7475-0309-5.
  19. 1 2 3 Keegan, John. "Britannica guide to D-Day 1944". Encyclopædia Britannica . Retrieved 30 October 2007.
  20. Keegan, John. "Britannica guide to D-Day 1944". Encyclopædia Britannica . Retrieved 30 October 2007.
  21. 1 2 3 4 Map 81, M.R.D. Foot; I.C.B. Dear, eds. (2005). The Oxford Companion to World War II. Oxford University Press. p. 663. ISBN   978-0-19-280666-6.
  22. Bradley, John H. (2002). The Second World War: Europe and the Mediterranean. Square One Publishers. p. 290. ISBN   0-7570-0162-9 . Retrieved 16 November 2007.
  23. Patrick Elie – Normandie – France. "D-Day : Normandy 1944 – UTAH BEACH : U.S. Troops". 6juin1944.com. Retrieved 2012-08-25.
  24. 1 2 D-Day 6 June 1944 Archived 9 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  25. 1 2 "Frequently Asked Questions for D-Day and the Battle of Normandy". Ddaymuseum.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-08-25.
  26. "HyperWar: The War in Western Europe: Part 1 (June to December, 1944) [Chapter 3]". Ibiblio.org. Retrieved 2012-08-25.
  27. Wilmot 1997.
  28. Tippelskirch, Kurt von, Gechichte der Zweiten Weltkrieg. 1956
  29. Zetterling 2000, p. 350.
  30. Pogue, Forrest C. (1954). "The Supreme Command,". United States Army in World War II: European Theater of Operations. Washington D.C.: CMH Publication 7–1, Office of the chief of military history, Department of the Army.
  31. Atkinson, p. 116.
  32. Wilmot, p. 387.
  33. Keegan 1994, p. 61.
  34. 1 2 Reed, Paul. "Normandy War Cemeteries: Bayeux Memorial". Battlefields of WW2 website. Retrieved 10 October 2008.
  35. Beevor 2009, p. 76.
  36. Beevor 2009, p. 77.
  37. Beevor 2009, p. 82.
  38. Beevor 2009, p. 82 footnotes.

Related Research Articles

Sword Beach landing area during Operation Overlord

Sword, commonly known as Sword Beach, was the code name given to one of the five main landing areas along the Normandy coast during the initial assault phase, Operation Neptune, of Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion of German-occupied France that commenced on 6 June 1944. Stretching 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) from Ouistreham to Saint-Aubin-sur-Mer, the beach was the easternmost landing site of the invasion. Taking Sword was to be the responsibility of the British Army with sea transport, mine sweeping, and a naval bombardment force provided by the British Royal Navy as well as elements from the Polish, Norwegian and other Allied navies.

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Operation Perch was a British offensive of the Second World War which took place from 7 to 14 June 1944, during the early stages of the Battle of Normandy. The operation was intended to encircle and seize the German occupied city of Caen, which was a D-Day objective for the British 3rd Infantry Division in the early phases of Operation Overlord. Operation Perch was to begin immediately after the British beach landings with an advance to the south-east of Caen by XXX Corps. Three days after the invasion the city was still in German hands and the operation was amended. The operation was expanded to include I Corps for a pincer attack on Caen.

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Rommels asparagus

Rommel's asparagus were 13-to-16-foot logs which the Axis placed in the fields and meadows of Normandy to cause damage to the expected invasion of Allied military gliders and paratroopers. Also known in German as Holzpfähle, the wooden defenses were placed in early 1944 in coastal areas of France and the Netherlands against airlanding infantry. Rommelspargel took their name from Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, who ordered their design and usage; Rommel himself called the defensive concept Luftlandehindernis.

References

Further reading

  1. Robert W. Coakley and Richard M. Leighton, Global Logistics and Strategy (1968);
  2. Martin Blumenson, Breakout and Pursuit (1961);
  3. Forrest C. Pogue, The Supreme Command (1954);
  4. Roland G. Ruppenthal, Logistical Support of the Armies (1953); and
  5. Graham A. Cosmas and Albert E. Cowdrey, The Medical Department: Medical Service in the European Theater of Operations (1992).
  1. OMAHA Beachhead (1989);
  2. UTAH Beach to Cherbourg (1990); and
  3. St. Lo (1984).
  1. Major L. F. Ellis, Victory in the West: The Battle of Normandy, Official Campaign History v. I (History of the Second World War: United Kingdom Military), Naval & Military Press Ltd; New Ed edition (Sep 2004)., 1-84574-058-0
  2. Michael Howard, British Intelligence in the Second World War: Volume 5, Strategic Deception, Cambridge University Press (26 October 1990). ISBN   0-521-40145-3 (Series edited by F. H. Hinsley)
  3. Grand Strategy, Volume 5: August 1943 – September 1944, 1956
  1. Charles MacDonald, The Mighty Endeavor: American Armed Forces in the European Theater in World War II (1969); and
  2. Charles MacDonald and Martin Blumenson, "Recovery of France", in Vincent J. Esposito, ed., A Concise History of World War II (1965).
  1. Omar N. Bradley, A Soldier's Story (1951);
  2. Omar N. Bradley and Clay Blair, A General's Life (1983);
  3. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe (1948);
  4. Sir Bernard Law Montgomery of Alamein, Normandy to the Baltic (1948);
  5. Sir Bernard Law Montgomery of Alamein, The Memoirs of Field Marshal the Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, K.G., Collins (1958). and
  6. Sir Frederick Edgeworth Morgan, Overture to Overlord (1950).
  1. Kurt Meyer, Grenadiers, Stackpole Books, U.S., New Ed edition (15 May 2005)., ISBN   0-8117-3197-9
  2. Stuart Hills, By Tank Into Normandy, Cassell military; New Ed edition (11 September 2003)., 0-30436-640-4
  3. Hans von Luck, Panzer Commander: The Memoirs of Colonel Hans von Luck, Cassell military; New Ed edition (9 March 2006)., ISBN   0-304-36401-0
  1. Stephen E. Ambrose, The Supreme Commander: The War Years of General Dwight D. Eisenhower (1970), and Eisenhower, Soldier, General of the Army, President-Elect, 1890–1952 (1983);
  2. Nigel Hamilton, Master of the Battlefield: Monty's War Years, 1942–1944 (1983);
  3. Richard Lamb, Montgomery in Europe, 1943–1945: Success or Failure (1984);
  4. Nigel Hamilton, "Montgomery, Bernard Law" in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography . Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2004. ISBN   0-19-861411-X, ISBN   0-19-861351-2.
  5. Ronald Lewin, Rommel as Military Commander (1968).
  6. B. H. Liddell Hart, The Rommel Papers (section on Normandy written by Lt.Gen Fritz Bayerlein)
  7. Hans Speidel, Invasion 1944: Rommel and the Normandy Campaign. Chicago: Henry Regnery (1950) (Speidel was Rommel's chief of staff).
  1. John Colby, War From the Ground Up: The 90th Division in World War II (1989);
  2. Carlo D'Este, Decision in Normandy: The Unwritten Story of Montgomery and the Allied Campaign (1983);
  3. Max Hastings, Overlord, D-Day, June 6, 1944 (1984);
  4. John Keegan, Six Armies in Normandy: From D-Day to the Liberation of Paris (1982);
  5. Robin Neillands, The Battle of Normandy 1944 (2002);
  6. Stephen T. Powers, "Battle of Normandy: The Lingering Controversy", Journal of Military History 56 (1992):455–71.
  7. Russell F. Weigley, Eisenhower's Lieutenants: The Campaign of France and Germany, 1944–45 (1981);
  8. Cornelius Ryan, The Longest Day', (1959);
  9. Stephen Ambrose, D-Day: June 6, 1944, The Battle for the Normandy Beaches, (1994);
  10. Milton Shulman, Defeat in the West, (New Ed edition 2003)
  11. Richard Holmes, The D-Day Experience: From the Invasion to the Liberation of Paris with Other and Map and CD,(2004);
  12. Chester Wilmot, The Struggle for Europe, (New Ed edition 1997), and
  13. Stephen Ashley Hart, Colossal Cracks: Montgomery's 21st Army Group in Northwest Europe, 1944–45, (2007)
  1. Barney Oldfield, Never a Shot in Anger (1956); and
  2. Richard Collier, Fighting Words: The Correspondents of World War II (1989). CMH Pub 72–18