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June 4,1944 D-Day Invasion of Normandy - History

June 4,1944 D-Day Invasion of Normandy - History

Omaha Beach

The invasion began with a massive naval bombardment. The U.S. First Army began landing on the Omaha and Utah beaches, while the British Second Army landed on Gold Juno and Sword beaches. Americans soldiers had a hard time making it off the beachhead at Omaha beach. Eventually their very large numbers, and the close naval support they received from U.S. Destroyers turned the tide of battle. As a result, they managed to move inland. America lost about 2,500 soldiers on the beaches of Normandy, but the Allies were back in France to stay.

The planning for D-Day began in 1943. The Russians had been asking from 1942 for the Allies to open a second front against the Nazis, but the initial answer was the invasion of North Africa. The British were opposed to landing in France too early and urged delay. Finally May 1944 was set as the date for the attack. The invasion was assigned the name Operation Overlord. For almost a year a steady stream of men and material were transported to England prepare for the invasion. Thirty-nine allied divisions; 22 American, 12 British, 3 Canadian and one Polish and French prepared for the invasion. As part of the plans the Allies set up fake armies to keep the Germans guessing as to where the invasion would take place. With no port close by the Germans were not expecting Normandy to be the location for the invasion.

Because of a lack of landing craft the invasion was delay from May until June. The invasion was set for June 5th but bad weather forced the invasion to be delayed for one day. In the month before the invasion Allied air forces bombed targets throughout France to try make it difficult for the German to reinforce their forces.

The invasion forces included 6,939 ships, 1213 warships, 4,126 landing craft, 736 support ships and 864 merchant ships. At midnight 2,2000 British, Canadian and American planes started attacking targets around the coast and inland. As part of the operations airborne troops were landed behind the lines, who were tasked with either capturing or destroying key bridges and junctions. Many of the airborne troops missed their targets when landing, but the failure of some of the troops to land in the right locations, confused the Germans who were unsure where the main assault was coming. An earlier destruction of the German radar station allowed the fleet to remain undetected until 2 AM.

The invasion was divided into a number of different locations. One was Utah beach. There the 4th Infantry landed 2000 yards south of their intended target due to a strong current. The mistaken location turned out to be a good location. Because they landed to the south they did not achieve their first day objectives, but by nightfall they had landed 21,000 troops and sustained only 179 casualties.

The most heavily defended beach was Omaha Beach and there the troops had a hard time landing. When they first did land they were often pinned down by the German troops . Many of the tanks landing craft never made it to beach. Slowly the overwhelming number of allied troops with strong support from naval ships offshore allowed the American troops of the 1st and 29th Infantry Divisions slowly move off the beach and conquer the heights above. Casualties that first day at Omaha were 2,000 troops and it took until the third day of invasion for the goals of D-day to all be achieved at Omaha Beach

The invasion on at Gold Beach began a little later due to the difference in tides. The shore included fortified houses, but they were quickly cleared by troops of the British 30th Division. There was also heavy gun emplacement located at near the beach, three of which were knocked out by direct naval gunfire the fourth by charges placed at the rear of one of the emplacement. By the end of the day both the beach and the heights above were in British hands.

The British X corps were responsible for capturing the Sword Beach, Most of their amphibious
tanks made it to the beach, thus providing cover for the infantry. The beach was covered with obstacles that slowed the advance, but slowly the troops who were soon joined by French troops cleared the beach. In the course of the day the troops who captured Sword beach suffered 1,000 casualties.

All together the Allies had 10,000 casualties on D-Day with 4,414 confirmed dead. However, in the course of the first day 160,000 Allied troops landed. While none of the objectives of the first day were achieved , by the end of June and additional 800,000 men with all their equipment were landed and their was no stopping the better equipped Allied troops, the Germans could only hope to slow them down.



Normandy landings

The Normandy landings were the landing operations and associated airborne operations on Tuesday, 6 June 1944 of the Allied invasion of Normandy in Operation Overlord during World War II. Codenamed Operation Neptune and often referred to as D-Day, it was the largest seaborne invasion in history. The operation began the liberation of France (and later western Europe) and laid the foundations of the Allied victory on the Western Front.

  • United Kingdom[1]
  • United States[1]
  • Canada[1]
  • France[2]
  • Australia[3]
  • Czechoslovakia[4]
  • Poland[2]
  • Norway[2]
  • New Zealand[1]
  • Greece[5]

Planning for the operation began in 1943. In the months leading up to the invasion, the Allies conducted a substantial military deception, codenamed Operation Bodyguard, to mislead the Germans as to the date and location of the main Allied landings. The weather on D-Day was far from ideal, and the operation had to be delayed 24 hours a further postponement would have meant a delay of at least two weeks, as the invasion planners had requirements for the phase of the moon, the tides, and the time of day that meant only a few days each month were deemed suitable. Adolf Hitler placed Field Marshal Erwin Rommel in command of German forces and of developing fortifications along the Atlantic Wall in anticipation of an Allied invasion. US President Franklin D. Roosevelt placed Major General Dwight D. Eisenhower in command of Allied forces.

The amphibious landings were preceded by extensive aerial and naval bombardment and an airborne assault—the landing of 24,000 American, British, and Canadian airborne troops shortly after midnight. Allied infantry and armoured divisions began landing on the coast of France at 06:30. The target 50-mile (80 km) stretch of the Normandy coast was divided into five sectors: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword. Strong winds blew the landing craft east of their intended positions, particularly at Utah and Omaha. 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 specialised tanks.

The Allies failed to achieve any of their goals on the first day. Carentan, St. Lô, and Bayeux remained in German hands, and Caen, a major objective, was not captured until 21 July. Only two of the beaches (Juno and Gold) were linked on the first day, and all five beachheads were not connected until 12 June however, the operation gained a foothold that the Allies gradually expanded over the coming months. German casualties on D-Day have been estimated at 4,000 to 9,000 men. Allied casualties were documented for at least 10,000, with 4,414 confirmed dead. Museums, memorials, and war cemeteries in the area now host many visitors each year.


D-Day: The allied invasion of Normandy

The sun was just coming up over the Normandy coast at about 5 a.m. on June 6, 1944 — D-Day.

The military planners had given Canada a major role on D-Day: to take one of the five designated beaches where Allied forces were to land to begin the liberation of Europe from Nazi Germany.

The Americans had Utah and Omaha beaches in the west, then came the British at Gold, then the Canadians at Juno Beach and finally the British at Sword on the east.

The greatest seaborne invasion in history was aimed at 80 kilometres of mostly flat, sandy beach along the Normandy coast, west of the Seine River, east of the jutting Cotentin Peninsula. Canada's objective was right in the middle.

There were about 155,000 soldiers, 5,000 ships and landing craft, 50,000 vehicles and 11,000 planes set for the coming battle.

For Canada, 14,000 soldiers were to land on the beaches another 450 were to drop behind enemy lines by parachute or glider. The Royal Canadian Navy supplied ships and about 10,000 sailors.

Lancaster bombers and Spitfire fighters from the Royal Canadian Air Force supported the invasion.

The Canadians who landed on Juno Beach were part of Britain's Second Army, under the command of British Lt. General Miles Dempsey, who had served in North Africa and Italy with the overall British commander, Bernard Montgomery. The Canadian assault forces were the Third Canadian Infantry Division, commanded by Major General R. F. Keller and the Second Canadian Armoured Brigade, with Brigadier R.A. Wyman in charge.

The units were from across the country from east to west, from the North Nova Scotia Highlanders, to the Canadian Scottish from Victoria.

The bombardment of the beaches began at 6 a.m. Within an hour the lead landing craft were away from the ships.

Two hours later, the German defences at Juno Beach had been shattered and Canada had established the beachhead.


Operation Neptune: The D-Day Normandy Landings

Background

The D-Day invasion of Normandy was necessitated by the overwhelming dominance of Nazi Germany over Continental Europe. As can be seen in the map given below, every country in Europe apart from the Soviet Union and neutral states was either allied with or controlled by Hitler.

The region representing Nazi Germany included the annexed German-speaking Czechoslovakian states of Bohemia and Moravia (Sudetenland), Austria, which was annexed to Germany after the Anschluss, and annexed areas of Poland. The regions occupied by Germany or Italy included those like Norway, northern France, and the Low Countries (Belgium and the Netherlands). Regions allied to Germany or ruled by German puppet states included regions such as Italy, which was allied to Germany, Vichy France, a puppet state installed in southern France, and Romania, Bulgaria, etc. Allied countries in Europe included the United Kingdom and its territories and the Soviet Union. And the neutral countries included Turkey, Sweden, Switzerland, Ireland, Spain, and Portugal.

The neutrality of Spain and Portugal meant that Nazi Germany controlled virtually the entire Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts of Europe. Using this to his advantage, Hitler had started to build a linked chain of fortifications along the Atlantic coast, called the Atlantic Wall. This would safeguard Germany from naval attacks by the U.S. and the UK.

Meanwhile, Hitler had violated Germany’s peace accord with the Soviet Union, which led Joseph Stalin to request the Allies to open a second, western front in Europe. Though Winston Churchill declined the request at first due to a lack of manpower, eventually the Allies saw the need for an amphibious attack on Continental Europe.

Why Normandy?

Four sites, all in northern France, were considered as possible landing sites for the D-Day invasion. However, two of them were peninsulas, which would make it very easy for the Germans, who were situated in the broader part of the peninsulas, to defeat the Allied forces. Another option was Calais, but since it was the closest to Great Britain, it was heavily fortified and guarded by the Germans as an obvious point for the entry of soldiers from Britain. This left Normandy as a viable option. It allowed for separate landings without being concentrated in the tip of a peninsula, and the planned landing beaches were very close to the ports of Cherbourg and Le Havre.

Operation Bodyguard

One of the main problems of the landing was that, even if the coastal fortifications of the Germans could be overcome, the area further inland was still teeming with Nazi battalions, patrolled by able generals such as the Field Marshals Erwin Rommel and Gerd von Rundstedt. The Allies had to distract the Nazi army so that Normandy would lie unprotected.

Operation Bodyguard was launched to this end. This operation consisted of diverting the attention of German generals to other regions. Some of the methods used to achieve this objective were increasing radio traffic in a particular area, dropping dummy paratroopers, establishing fake military bases, etc. Even an actor with a close resemblance to General Bernard Montgomery was hired to fool the Germans into believing the regions visited by this fake Montgomery were regions worth keeping an eye on. Here’s a map of the regions worked upon in Operation Bodyguard the titles signify the names of the operations for that particular location.

British double agents were used extensively in this operation. The role of one particular double agent, Joan Pujol Garcia, codenamed ‘Garbo’ by the Allies and ‘Arabel’ by the Nazis, was particularly noteworthy.

Garcia fed Germans reliable information about the Normandy attack, in order to make his espionage more believable. However, the information was relayed too late for the Germans to do anything about it. A more important part of his operations included convincing the Germans that a fictitious U.S. Army Division was stationed in the south of England, and would use the Normandy invasion as a diversion for an all-out attack on Calais. This information, relayed on June 9 and bolstered by the accuracy of Garcia’s information about the Normandy landings, convinced the Germans to keep extra regiments at Calais even after the D-Day Normandy invasion, which gave the Allied forces in Normandy more time to achieve their objectives. The illusion of the fictitious US Army Division was maintained by fake planes and tanks, including inflatables, and constant but meaningless radio traffic.

Garcia was motivated to work against the Nazis by his disgust of Fascism and Communism. He was so adept at his art that, at one point, he got the Germans to financially support a network of 27 spies. Excluding ‘Arabel’ himself, all the spies were fictitious!

Garcia’s standing in the German camp and the efficacy of his deception was such that ‘Arabel’ received an Iron Cross Second Class for his contribution to German war efforts, an award that required personal authorization from the Fuehrer himself! ‘Garbo’ later received an MBE from King George VI, making Garcia arguably the only person to receive felicitations from both the Allies and the Germans.

The Airborne Divisions Land

Before the landings, the French Resistance was told via coded messages to disrupt German communication and transport services in Normandy, an accomplishment that came in very useful in the latter stages of the landings. Though the heavy radio traffic in the days leading up to the invasion raised alarms in the German intelligence agencies, most defense posts ignored their warning, since countless failed warnings had been given earlier.

The Normandy invasion began with a large-scale bombing of the Normandy beaches where the troops would land. More than 2,200 Allied bombers peppered the beaches after midnight on June 6, 1944, in order to remove defensive structures established on the beach. The bombings were largely successful on all but one beach: Omaha. Overcast conditions at Omaha meant that the bombers couldn’t ascertain their targets visually. Many delayed the attack, and eventually found themselves in the position of not being able to release their warheads without risking damaging their own arriving ships and units. This left the German defenses on Omaha beach virtually untouched, a factor that would turn out to be crucial.

The first airborne operations began at 00.15 am, when American ‘pathfinders’ started to drop behind enemy lines in order to set up drop zones for the arriving forces. Bad weather conditions hampered their operation, and many of the airborne divisions landed scattered and disorganized as a result. As an unintended benefit, the German Army also became fragmented trying to follow all isolated groups of paratroopers.

The first military operation, however, began immediately after the arrival of pathfinders, at 00.16 am. This was a British operation at Sword Beach aimed at capturing and protecting the bridges on the Caen canal and the river Orne. These bridges were the only exit points for the incoming British infantry at Sword Beach, and failure to capture or stop the Germans from blowing them up would result in a massive disaster for the British 3rd Infantry Division. The bridges were captured by the British 6th Airborne Division, who also defended it against German counterattacks until further reinforcements arrived.

US paratroopers from the 101st Airborne started dropping on Utah Beach from 01.30 am. This division had the primary objective of securing the causeways behind Utah Beach and destroy other links to the beach, including road and rail bridges. These landings were highly erratic due to the cloud cover and the confusing terrain, many paratroopers only reached the causeways after the 4th Infantry Division had already captured them after overcoming the defenses at the beach. The German 7th Army received news of the parachute drops at 1.20 am, but von Rundstedt misjudged the scale of the offensive and thought it could easily be suppressed by the defenses at the seaboard.

The 82nd Airborne Division started arriving at 2.30 am. They had the primary objective of securing the bridges on the river Merderet. This Division secured Sainte-Mère-Église, an important crossroads town in the region, but lost the bridges on the Merderet after having won them first. The bridges weren’t loaded with explosives, unlike the ones on the Caen Canal and the Orne, and crossfire over the bridges continued for several days.

The Naval Landings

The 8th Infantry Regiment of the 4th Infantry Division landed on Utah Beach at 6.30 am. Like most infantry divisions, their landing craft had been blown eastward by the wind, but by good fortune, the eventual point where they landed was more beneficial for their objectives than the one they had planned. Soon joined by reinforcements, including engineers and demolition teams, the 4th Infantry quickly took Utah Beach.

The 1st Infantry Division and 29th Infantry Division landed on Omaha. This was the most heavily guarded beach, and the battle here claimed the most lives of all five beaches. As mentioned before, bombers hadn’t been able to deploy their loads over Omaha Beach due to cloudy conditions, due to which the defenses were mostly untouched. To compound the American tragedy, many troops had to disembark from their landing craft in deep water since the craft got stuck on sandbanks. This left them completely exposed to the firing from the German lines, while they sought to clamber up the beach. Specially modified amphibious tanks, called DD tanks, also had to be unloaded farther out than optimum, and 27 of 32 tanks sank. Aided by reinforcements, the objectives for Omaha Beach were eventually accomplished three days after D-Day (D+3).

High winds also disrupted the landings at Gold Beach. The primary defensive gun installment had been severely damaged by attacks from British Cruisers at 6.20 am. Only one of four guns was remaining, but its crew held out till the next day before finally surrendering. Another gun was disabled by a tank at 7.30 am. The Le Hamel gun installment was destroyed at 4 pm by a tank from the Armored Vehicles Royal Engineers. The only Victoria Cross awarded in the D-Day operations was awarded in the battle in the towns along Gold Beach, to Company Sergeant Major Stanley Hollis. By the end of the day, the Brits at Gold Beach had established contact with the Canadian army at Juno Beach.

Like at Omaha, bombers had missed many of their targets on Juno Beach, which hampered the progress of the 3rd Canadian Division. In addition to the failed bombardment, the DD tanks at Juno Beach had fallen behind the infantry, which left the soldiers completely exposed to defensive fire from the Germans. However, by nightfall Juno Beach was captured, and the beachhead was merged with Gold Beach.

Though the British 6th Airborne Division had already been fighting inland of Sword Beach for a few hours, Infantry divisions only landed at 7.30. The British 3rd Infantry got the most out of the DD tanks, with 21 of 25 tanks landing safely. The beach was taken during the day, but the 3rd Infantry faced a German counterattack from the 21st Panzer Division. This was the only armored counterattack on D-Day. The thrust of the counterattack was thwarted by the Brit division, but one company reached the beach and set about strengthening the defensive structures there. However, they abandoned the task when they saw the arrival of aerial reinforcements, though the reinforcements were actually intended for the 6th Airborne rather than the 3rd Infantry.

Order of Battle

Among the Infantry Divisions, the division of labor was as follows:

Utah Beach was taken by the American VII Corps, led by Major General J. Lawton Collins, and consisted the following Divisions:

  • 4th Infantry
  • 9th Infantry
  • 79th Infantry
  • 90th Infantry
  • 82nd Airborne
  • 101st Airborne

This army faced the German 709th Infantry Division.

Omaha Beach would be taken by the American V Corps, led by Maj. Gen. Leonard T. Gerow, and consisted the following Divisions:

The V Corps faced the German 352nd Infantry Division.

Utah and Omaha beaches were the mission objectives of the American First Army, under the overall command of General Omar Bradley.

Gold Beach was taken by the British XXX Corps, made up by the 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division led by Lieutenant General Gerard Bucknall.

Juno Beach was the objective of the British I Corps, led by Lt. Gen. John Crocker and consisting of the 3rd Canadian Division.

The Allied forces at Juno and Gold Beaches faced a combination of the German 352nd Infantry and 716th Infantry Divisions. The latter was also partially responsible for the German response at Sword Beach.

Sword Beachwas also an objective of the British I Corps. The 3rd Infantry and 6th Airborne attacked Sword Beach.

The British 3rd Infantry faced the only armored German counterattack in the Normandy landings, from the 21st Panzer Division.

Gold, Juno, and Sword Beaches were assigned to the British Second Army, under the overall command of Lt. Gen. Sir Miles Dempsey. The British 79th Armored Division provided support to all operations in the form of specially customized amphibious tanks called DD tanks. The British Second Army was not exclusively British despite the name, and in addition to the Canadian Division on Juno Beach, several Allied soldiers from various countries―particularly Australia―were included in many British regiments.

The US First Army contained 73,000 men, and the British Second Army contained 83,115. Of the latter, 61,715 were British.

Timeline

Here’s a brief timeline noting the important events during and immediately after the Normandy landings.

Specific times given in the timeline refer to June 6, 1944.

1943-early 1944: Operation Bodyguard is carried out
Mid May-early June, 1944: French Resistance sabotages German communication and transport lines around Normandy
June 4, 1944: Original plans for an invasion on June 5 are postponed by a day
00.00 on D-Day: Aerial bombing of landing sites begins
00.15: American ‘pathfinders’ start to drop behind landing beaches
00.16: Paratroopers from the British 6th Airborne Division start to land behind Sword Beach
01.20: Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt receives word of the landings, dismisses them
01.30: Paratroopers from the US 101st Airborne Division start to land /behind Utah Beach
02.30: Paratroopers from the US 82nd Airborne Division start to land behind Utah Beach
06.30: US Infantry divisions start to land on Utah and Omaha Beach
07.30: British and Canadian Infantry divisions start to land on Gold, Juno, and Sword Beach
16.00: 21st Panzer Division makes the only armored counterattack of the invasion
June 7, 1944: British units start to build artificial ‘Mulberry’ harbors
June 9, 1944: Mission objectives for Omaha Beach are achieved, the last of all beaches
June 12, 1944: The five beaches are connected
June 21, 1944: Allies capture Caen
June 26, 1944: Allies capture Cherbourg
August 1, 1944: Allies break out of Normandy
August 15, 1944: A naval invasion, Operation Dragoon, is launched in southern France
August 25, 1944: Paris is liberated

Aftermath

The objective of the Allied armies on D-Day was to capture Bayeux, Caen, Carentan, and Saint-Lô, and establish a joined beachhead across all five beaches more than 10 km inland. None of these objectives were met by the first day. In fact, Caen was only captured on July 21. However, the Allies continued to inch on, expanding outwards from the beachheads they had established on D-Day.

More than two million Allied troops were sent into Normandy over the coming weeks. In spite of that, the army only succeeded in breaking out of Normandy in early August. There on, though, they achieved quick progress, liberating Paris on August 25 and liberating Luxembourg and Belgium by the end of September.

Conclusion

Close to 160,000 Allied troops crossed into Normandy on almost 5,000 landing craft and aircraft on D-Day. This makes the Normandy landings the largest naval invasion in human history.

The Allies suffered more than 12,000 casualties on D-Day 4,414 deaths were registered. Close to 2,500 American soldiers died on D-Day, the most of any Allied nation.

Normandy Landings In Popular Culture

The Normandy beaches house several museums and memorials dedicated to the bravery of Allied forces during the activities of the D-Day invasion. Among the notable ones are the memorial to the American National guard at Omaha, a museum about the operations on Utah Beach at Sainte-Marie-du-Mont, and the Juno Beach Center at Juno, funded by the Canadian and French governments as well as Canadian veterans.

The Normandy landings are one of the most iconic events during the Second World War, and have been depicted in various books, movies and TV shows. Notable modern depictions include the movie Saving Private Ryan and the TV miniseries Band of Brothers. The former is renowned for its unabashed depiction of the violence and brutality at the landing at Omaha Beach. The latter, which is based on the book of the same name by Stephen E. Ambrose, focuses on the “Easy” Company of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, and depicts several battles in the Normandy invasion from the view of various characters in the E Company.


Contents

In June 1940, Germany's leader Adolf Hitler had triumphed in what he called "the most famous victory in history"—the fall of France. [21] British craft evacuated to England over 338,000 Allied troops trapped along the northern coast of France (including much of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF)) in the Dunkirk evacuation (27 May to 4 June). [22] British planners reported to Prime Minister Winston Churchill on 4 October that even with the help of other Commonwealth countries and the United States, it would not be possible to regain a foothold in continental Europe in the near future. [23] After the Axis invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin began pressing for a second front in Western Europe. Churchill declined because he felt that even with American help the British did not have adequate forces for such a strike, [24] and he wished to avoid costly frontal assaults such as those that had occurred at the Somme and Passchendaele in World War I. [25] Two tentative plans code-named Operation Roundup and Operation Sledgehammer were put forward for 1942–43, but neither was deemed by the British to be practical or likely to succeed. [26] Instead, the Allies expanded their activity in the Mediterranean, launching the invasion of French North Africa in November 1942, the invasion of Sicily in July 1943, and invading Italy in September. [27] These campaigns provided the troops with valuable experience in amphibious warfare. [28]

Attendees at the Trident Conference in Washington in May 1943 took the decision to launch a cross-Channel invasion within the next year. [29] Churchill favoured making the main Allied thrust into Germany from the Mediterranean theatre, but the Americans, who were providing the bulk of the men and equipment, over-ruled him. [30] British Lieutenant-General Frederick E. Morgan was appointed Chief of Staff, Supreme Allied Commander (COSSAC), to begin detailed planning. [29] The initial plans were constrained by the number of available landing-craft, most of which were already committed in the Mediterranean and in the Pacific. [31] In part because of lessons learned in the Dieppe Raid of 19 August 1942, the Allies decided not to directly assault a heavily defended French seaport in their first landing. [32] The failure at Dieppe also highlighted the need for adequate artillery and air support, particularly close air support, and specialised ships able to travel extremely close to shore. [33] The short operating-range of British aircraft such as the Spitfire and Typhoon greatly limited the number of potential landing-sites, as comprehensive air-support depended upon having planes overhead for as long as possible. [34] Morgan considered four sites for the landings: Brittany, the Cotentin Peninsula, Normandy, and the Pas de Calais. As Brittany and Cotentin are peninsulas, the Germans could have cut off the Allied advance at a relatively narrow isthmus, so these sites were rejected. [35]

Pas de Calais, the closest point in continental Europe to Britain, was the location of launch sites for V-1 and V-2 rockets, then still under development. [d] The Germans regarded it as the most likely initial landing zone and accordingly made it the most heavily fortified region [36] however, it offered the Allies few opportunities for expansion as the area is bounded by numerous rivers and canals. [37] On the other hand, 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 eventually into Germany. The Allies therefore chose Normandy as the landing site. [38] The most serious drawback of the Normandy coast—the lack of port facilities—would be overcome through the development of artificial harbours. [39]

The COSSAC staff planned to begin the invasion on 1 May 1944. [37] The initial draft of the plan was accepted at the Quebec Conference in August 1943. General Dwight D. Eisenhower was appointed commander of Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF). [40] General Bernard Montgomery was named commander of the 21st Army Group, which comprised all of the land forces involved in the invasion. [41] On 31 December 1943, Eisenhower and Montgomery first saw the COSSAC plan, which proposed amphibious landings by three divisions, with two more divisions in support. The two generals immediately insisted on expanding the scale of the initial invasion to five divisions, with airborne descents by three additional divisions, to allow operations on a wider front and to speed up the capture of the port at Cherbourg. This significant expansion required the acquisition of additional landing craft, which caused the invasion to be delayed by a month until June 1944. [41] Eventually the Allies committed 39 divisions to the Battle of Normandy: 22 American, 12 British, three Canadian, one Polish, and one French, totalling over a million troops. [42] [43] [e]

Allied invasion plan Edit

"Overlord" was the name assigned to the establishment of a large-scale lodgement on the Continent. [44] The first phase, the amphibious invasion and establishment of a secure foothold, was code-named Operation Neptune. [39] To gain the required air superiority needed to ensure a successful invasion, the Allies launched a bombing campaign (codenamed Operation Pointblank) to target German aircraft-production, fuel supplies, and airfields. Under the Transport Plan, communications infrastructure and road and rail links were bombed to cut off the north of France and to make it more difficult to bring up reinforcements. These attacks were widespread so as to avoid revealing the exact location of the invasion. [39] Elaborate deceptions were planned to prevent the Germans from determining the timing and location of the invasion. [45]

The coastline of Normandy was divided into seventeen sectors, with codenames using a spelling alphabet—from Able, west of Omaha, to Roger on the east flank of Sword. Eight further sectors were added when the invasion was extended to include Utah on the Cotentin Peninsula. Sectors were further subdivided into beaches identified by the colours Green, Red, and White. [46]

Allied planners envisaged preceding the sea-borne landings with airborne drops: near Caen on the eastern flank to secure the Orne River bridges, and north of Carentan on the western flank. The initial goal was to capture Carentan, Isigny, Bayeux, and Caen. The Americans, assigned to land at Utah and Omaha, were to cut off the Cotentin Peninsula and capture the port facilities at Cherbourg. The British at Sword and Gold, and the Canadians at Juno, were to capture Caen and form a front line from Caumont-l'Éventé to the south-east of Caen in order to protect the American flank, while establishing airfields near Caen. Possession of Caen and its surroundings would give the Anglo-Canadian forces a suitable staging area for a push south to capture the town of Falaise. A secure lodgement would be established and an attempt made to hold all territory captured north of the Avranches-Falaise line during the first three weeks. The Allied armies would then swing left to advance towards the River Seine. [47] [48] [49]

The invasion fleet, led by Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay, was split into the Western Naval Task Force (under Admiral Alan G Kirk) supporting the American sectors and the Eastern Naval Task Force (under Admiral Sir Philip Vian) in the British and Canadian sectors. [50] [51] The American forces of the First Army, led by Lieutenant General Omar Bradley, comprised VII Corps (Utah) and V Corps (Omaha). On the British side, Lieutenant-General Miles Dempsey commanded the Second Army, under which XXX Corps was assigned to Gold and I Corps to Juno and Sword. [52] Land forces were under the overall command of Montgomery, and air command was assigned to Air Chief Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory. [53] The First Canadian Army included personnel and units from Poland, Belgium, and the Netherlands. [3] Other Allied nations also participated. [54]

Reconnaissance Edit

The Allied Expeditionary Air Force undertook over 3,200 photo-reconnaissance sorties from April 1944 until the start of the invasion. Photos of the coastline were taken at extremely low altitude to show the invaders the terrain, obstacles on the beach, and defensive structures such as bunkers and gun emplacements. To avoid alerting the Germans as to the location of the invasion, this work had to be undertaken over the entire European coastline. Inland terrain, bridges, troop emplacements, and buildings were also photographed, in many cases from several angles, to give the Allies as much information as possible. [55] Members of Combined Operations Pilotage Parties clandestinely prepared detailed harbour maps, including depth soundings. [56]

An appeal for holiday pictures and postcards of Europe announced on the BBC produced over ten million items, some of which proved useful. Information collected by the French resistance helped provide details on Axis troop movements and on construction techniques used by the Germans for bunkers and other defensive installations. [57]

Many German radio messages were encoded using the Enigma machine and other enciphering techniques and the codes were changed frequently. A team of code breakers stationed at Bletchley Park worked to break codes as quickly as possible to provide advance information on German plans and troop movements. British military intelligence code-named this information Ultra intelligence as it could only be provided to the top level of commanders. The Enigma code used by Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt, Oberbefehlshaber West (Supreme Commander West OB West), commander of the Western Front, was broken by the end of March. German intelligence changed the Enigma codes right after the Allied landings of 6 June but by 17 June the Allies were again consistently able to read them. [58]

Technology Edit

In response to the lessons learned at the disastrous Dieppe Raid, the Allies developed new technologies to help ensure the success of Overlord. To supplement the preliminary offshore bombardment and aerial assaults, some of the landing craft were equipped with artillery and anti-tank guns to provide close supporting fire. [59] The Allies had decided not to immediately attack any of the heavily protected French ports and two artificial ports, called Mulberry harbours, were designed by COSSAC planners. Each assembly consisted of a floating outer breakwater, inner concrete caissons (called Phoenix breakwaters) and several floating piers. [60] The Mulberry harbours were supplemented by blockship shelters (codenamed "Gooseberries"). [61] With the expectation that fuel would be difficult or impossible to obtain on the continent, the Allies built a "Pipe-Line Under The Ocean" (PLUTO). Specially developed pipes 3 inches (7.6 cm) in diameter were to be laid under the Channel from the Isle of Wight to Cherbourg by D-Day plus 18. Technical problems and the delay in capturing Cherbourg meant the pipeline was not operational until 22 September. A second line was laid from Dungeness to Boulogne in late October. [62]

The British military built a series of specialised tanks, nicknamed Hobart's Funnies, to deal with conditions expected during the Normandy campaign. Developed under the supervision of Major-General Percy Hobart, these were specially modified M4 Sherman and Churchill tanks. Examples include the Sherman Crab tank (equipped with a mine flail), the Churchill Crocodile (a flame-throwing tank), and the Armoured Ramp Carrier, which other tanks could use as a bridge to scale sea-walls or to overcome other obstacles. [63] In some areas, the beaches consisted of a soft clay that could not support the weight of tanks. The "bobbin" tank would overcome this problem by deploying a roll of matting over the soft surface and leaving the material in place as a route for more conventional tanks. [64] The Armoured Vehicle Royal Engineers (AVREs) were modified for many tasks, including laying bridges and firing large charges into pillboxes. [65] The Duplex-Drive tank (DD tank), another design developed by Hobart's group, was a self-propelled amphibious tank kept afloat using a waterproof canvas screen inflated with compressed air. [66] These tanks were easily swamped, and on D-Day, many sank before reaching the shore, especially at Omaha. [67]

Deception Edit

In the months leading up to the invasion, the Allies conducted Operation Bodyguard, the overall strategy designed to mislead the Germans as to the date and location of the main Allied landings. [68] Operation Fortitude included Fortitude North, a misinformation campaign using fake radio-traffic to lead the Germans into expecting an attack on Norway, [69] and Fortitude South, a major deception designed to fool the Germans into believing that the landings would take place at Pas de Calais in July. A fictitious First U.S. Army Group was invented, supposedly located in Kent and Sussex under the command of Lieutenant General George S. Patton. The Allies constructed dummy tanks, trucks, and landing craft, and positioned them near the coast. Several military units, including II Canadian Corps and 2nd Canadian Division, moved into the area to bolster the illusion that a large force was gathering there. [45] [70] As well as the broadcast of fake radio-traffic, genuine radio messages from 21st Army Group were first routed to Kent via landline and then broadcast, to give the Germans the impression that most of the Allied troops were stationed there. [71] Patton remained stationed in England until 6 July, thus continuing to deceive the Germans into believing a second attack would take place at Calais. [72] Military and civilian personnel alike were aware of the need for secrecy, and the invasion troops were as much as possible kept isolated, especially in the period immediately before the invasion. One American general was sent back to the United States in disgrace after revealing the invasion date at a party. [45]

The Germans thought they had an extensive network of spies operating in the UK, but in fact, all their agents had been captured, and some had become double agents working for the Allies as part of the Double-Cross System. The double agent Juan Pujol García, a Spanish opponent of the Nazis known by the code name "Garbo", developed over the two years leading up to D-Day a fake network of informants that the Germans believed were collecting intelligence on their behalf. In the months preceding D-Day, Pujol sent hundreds of messages to his superiors in Madrid, messages specially prepared by the British intelligence service to convince the Germans that the attack would come in July at Calais. [71] [73]

Many of the German radar stations on the French coast were destroyed by the RAF in preparation for the landings. [74] On the night before the invasion, in Operation Taxable, 617 Squadron (the famous "Dambusters") dropped strips of "window", metal foil that German radar operators interpreted as a naval convoy approaching Cap d'Antifer (about 80 km from the actual D-Day landings). The illusion was bolstered by a group of small vessels towing barrage balloons. No. 218 Squadron RAF also dropped "window" near Boulogne-sur-Mer in Operation Glimmer. On the same night, a small group of Special Air Service (SAS) operators deployed dummy paratroopers over Le Havre and Isigny. These dummies led the Germans to believe an additional airborne assault had occurred. [75]

Rehearsals and security Edit

Training exercises for the Overlord landings took place as early as July 1943. [76] As the nearby beach resembled the planned Normandy landing-site, the town of Slapton in Devon, was evacuated in December 1943, and taken over by the armed forces as a site for training exercises that included the use of landing craft and the management of beach obstacles. [77] A friendly fire incident there on 27 April 1944 resulted in as many as 450 deaths. [78] The following day, an additional estimated 749 American soldiers and sailors died when German torpedo-boats surprised members of Assault Force "U" conducting Exercise Tiger. [79] [80] Exercises with landing craft and live ammunition also took place at the Combined Training Centre in Inveraray in Scotland. [81] Naval exercises took place in Northern Ireland, and medical teams in London and elsewhere rehearsed how they would handle the expected waves of casualties. [82] Paratroopers conducted exercises, including a huge demonstration drop on 23 March 1944 observed by Churchill, Eisenhower, and other top officials. [83]

Allied planners considered tactical surprise to be a necessary element of the plan for the landings. [84] Information on the exact date and location of the landings was provided only to the topmost levels of the armed forces. Men were sealed into their marshalling areas at the end of May, with no further communication with the outside world. [85] Troops were briefed using maps that were correct in every detail except for the place names, and most were not told their actual destination until they were already at sea. [86] A news blackout in Britain increased the effectiveness of the deception operations. [45] Travel to and from the Republic of Ireland was banned, and movement within several kilometres of the coast of England restricted. [87]

Weather forecasting Edit

The invasion planners specified a set of conditions regarding the timing of the invasion, deeming only a few days in each month suitable. A full moon was desirable, as it would provide illumination for aircraft pilots and have the highest tides. The Allies wanted to schedule the landings for shortly before dawn, midway between low and high tide, with the tide coming in. This would improve the visibility of obstacles the enemy had placed on the beach while minimising the amount of time the men had to spend exposed in the open. Specific criteria were also set for wind speed, visibility, and cloud cover. [88] Eisenhower had tentatively selected 5 June as the date for the assault, however, on 4 June, conditions were clearly unsuitable for a landing high winds and heavy seas made it impossible to launch landing craft, and low clouds would prevent aircraft from finding their targets. [89]

By the evening of 4 June, the Allied meteorological team, headed by Group Captain James Stagg of the Royal Air Force, predicted that the weather would improve sufficiently so that the invasion could go ahead on 6 June. He met Eisenhower and other senior commanders at their headquarters at Southwick House in Hampshire to discuss the situation. [90] General Montgomery and Major-General Walter Bedell Smith, Eisenhower's chief of staff, were eager to launch the invasion. Admiral Bertram Ramsay was prepared to commit his ships, while Air Chief Marshal Trafford Leigh-Mallory expressed concern that the conditions would be unfavourable for Allied aircraft. After much discussion, Eisenhower decided that the invasion should go ahead. [91] Allied control of the Atlantic meant that German meteorologists did not have access to as much information as the Allies on incoming weather patterns. [74] As the Luftwaffe meteorological centre in Paris predicted two weeks of stormy weather, many Wehrmacht commanders left their posts to attend war games in Rennes, and men in many units were given leave. [92] Marshal Erwin Rommel returned to Germany for his wife's birthday and to meet Hitler to try to get more Panzers. [93]

Had Eisenhower postponed the invasion, the next available period with the right combination of tides (but without the desirable full moon) was two weeks later, from 18 to 20 June. As it happened, during this period the invaders would have encountered a major storm lasting four days, between 19 and 22 June, that would have made the initial landings impossible. [89]

German preparations and defences Edit

Nazi Germany had at its disposal 50 divisions in France and the Low Countries, with another 18 stationed in Denmark and Norway. [f] Fifteen divisions were in the process of formation in Germany, but there was no strategic reserve. [94] The Calais region was defended by the 15th Army under Generaloberst (Colonel General) Hans von Salmuth, and Normandy by the 7th Army commanded by Generaloberst Friedrich Dollmann. [95] [96] Combat losses throughout the war, particularly on the Eastern Front, meant the Germans no longer had a pool of able young men from which to draw. German soldiers were now on average six years older than their Allied counterparts. Many in the Normandy area were Ostlegionen (eastern legions)—conscripts and "volunteers" from Turkestan, [97] Russia, Mongolia, and elsewhere. The Wehrmacht had provided them mainly with unreliable captured equipment they lacked motorised transport. [98] Formations that arrived later, such as the 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend, were, for the most part, younger and far better equipped and trained than the static troops stationed along the coast. [99]

In early 1944, OB West was significantly weakened by personnel and materiel transfers to the Eastern Front. During the Soviet Dnieper–Carpathian Offensive (24 December 1943 – 17 April 1944), the German High Command was forced to transfer the entire II SS Panzer Corps from France, consisting of the 9th and 10th SS Panzer Divisions, as well as the 349th Infantry Division, 507th Heavy Panzer Battalion and the 311th and 322nd StuG Assault Gun Brigades. All told, the German forces stationed in France were deprived of 45,827 troops and 363 tanks, assault guns, and self-propelled anti-tank guns. [100] It was the first major transfer of forces from France to the east since the creation of Führer Directive 51, which no longer allowed any transfers from the west to the east. [101] There were also transfers to the Italian front: von Rundstedt complained that many of his best units had been sent on a "fool's errand" to Italy, saying it was "madness . that frightful boot of a country should have been evacuated . we should have held a decent front with a few divisions on the Alpine frontier." [102]

The 1st SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler, 9th, 11th, 19th and 116th Panzer divisions, alongside the 2nd SS Panzer Division "Das Reich", had only arrived in March–May 1944 to France for extensive refit after being badly damaged during Dnieper-Carpathian operation. Seven of the eleven panzer or panzergrenadier divisions stationed in France were still not fully operational or only partially mobile in early June 1944. [103]

Atlantic Wall Edit

Alarmed by the raids on St Nazaire and Dieppe in 1942, Hitler ordered the construction of fortifications all along the Atlantic coast, from Spain to Norway, to protect against an expected Allied invasion. He envisioned 15,000 emplacements manned by 300,000 troops, but due to shortages, particularly of concrete and manpower, most of the strongpoints were never built. [104] As the expected site of an Allied invasion, Pas de Calais was heavily defended. [104] In the Normandy area the best fortifications were concentrated at the port facilities at Cherbourg and Saint-Malo. [105]

A report by Rundstedt to Hitler in October 1943 regarding the weak defences in France led to the appointment of Rommel to oversee the construction of further fortifications along the expected invasion-front, which stretched from the Netherlands to Cherbourg. [104] [106] Rommel was given command of the newly re-formed Army Group B, which included the 7th Army, the 15th Army, and the forces guarding the Netherlands. [107] [108] Nazi Germany's tangled command structure made it difficult for Rommel to achieve his task. He was not allowed to give orders to the Organisation Todt, which was commanded by armaments minister Albert Speer, so in some places he had to assign soldiers to do construction work. [105]

Rommel believed that the Normandy coast could be a possible landing point for the invasion, so he ordered the construction of extensive defensive works along that shore. In addition to concrete gun-emplacements at strategic points along the coast, he ordered wooden stakes, metal tripods, mines, and large anti-tank obstacles to be placed on the beach to delay the approach of landing craft and to impede the movement of tanks. [109] Expecting the Allies to land at high tide so that the infantry would spend less time exposed on the beach, he ordered many of these obstacles to be placed at the high-tide mark. [88] Tangles of barbed wire, booby traps, and the removal of ground cover made the approach hazardous for infantry. [109] On Rommel's order, the number of mines along the coast was tripled. [105] Given the Allied air supremacy (4,029 Allied aircraft assigned to operations in Normandy plus 5,514 aircraft assigned to bombing and defence, versus 570 Luftwaffe planes stationed in France and the Low Countries [88] ), booby-trapped stakes known as Rommelspargel (Rommel's asparagus) were set up in meadows and fields to deter airborne landings. [105]

Mobile reserves Edit

Rommel, believing that the Germans' best chance was to stop the invasion at the shore, requested that mobile reserves—especially tanks—be stationed as close to the coast as possible. Rundstedt, General Leo Geyr von Schweppenburg (commander of Panzer Group West), and other senior commanders believed that the invasion could not be stopped on the beaches. Geyr argued for a conventional doctrine: keeping the Panzer formations concentrated in a central position around Paris and Rouen and deploying them only when the main Allied beachhead had been identified. Geyr also noted that in the Italian Campaign the armour stationed near the coast had been damaged by naval bombardment. Rommel's opinion was that because of the overwhelming Allied air superiority, large-scale movement of tanks would not be possible once the invasion was underway. Hitler made the final decision: he left three divisions under Geyr's command and gave Rommel operational control of three tank-divisions as reserves. Hitler took personal control of four divisions as strategic reserves, not to be used without his direct orders. [110] [111] [112]

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.

By May 1944, 1.5 million American troops had arrived in the United Kingdom. [57] 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 accommodation 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. [85] Some men had to board their craft nearly a week before departure. [114] 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. [115] Minesweepers began clearing lanes on the evening of 5 June, [89] and a thousand bombers left before dawn to attack the coastal defences. [116] 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. [117] The American 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. [118] The Free French 4th SAS battalion of 538 men was assigned objectives in Brittany (Operation Dingson, Operation Samwest). [119] [120] Some 132,000 men were transported by sea on D-Day, and a further 24,000 came by air. [85] Preliminary naval bombardment commenced at 05:45 and continued until 06:25 from five battleships, twenty cruisers, sixty-five destroyers, and two monitors. [85] [121] Infantry began arriving on the beaches at around 06:30. [122]

Beaches Edit

The craft bearing the U.S. 4th Infantry Division assaulting Utah were pushed by the current to a spot about 1,800 metres (2,000 yd) south of their intended landing zone. The troops met light resistance, suffering fewer than 200 casualties. [123] [124] Their efforts to push inland fell far short of their targets for the first day, but they were able to advance about 4 miles (6.4 km), making contact with the 101st Airborne Division. [48] [125] The airborne landings west of Utah were not very successful, as only ten per cent of the paratroopers landed in their drop zones. Gathering the men together into fighting units was made difficult by a shortage of radios and by the terrain, with its hedgerows, stone walls and marshes. [126] [127] The 82nd Airborne Division captured its primary objective at Sainte-Mère-Église and worked to protect the western flank. [128] Its failure to capture the river crossings at the River Merderet resulted in a delay in sealing off the Cotentin Peninsula. [129] The 101st Airborne Division helped protect the southern flank and captured the lock on the River Douve at La Barquette, [127] but did not capture the assigned nearby bridges on the first day. [130]

At Pointe du Hoc, the task for the two hundred men of the 2nd Ranger Battalion, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel James Rudder, was to scale the 30 metres (98 ft) cliffs with ropes and ladders to destroy the gun battery located there. While under fire from above, the men scaled the cliff, only to discover that the guns had already been withdrawn. The Rangers located the weapons, unguarded but ready to use, in an orchard some 550 metres (600 yd) south of the point, and disabled them. Under attack, the men at the point became isolated, and some were captured. By dawn on D+1, Rudder had only 90 men able to fight. Relief did not come until D+2, when members of the 743rd Tank Battalion arrived. [131]

Omaha, the most heavily defended sector, was assigned to the U.S. 1st Infantry Division, supplemented by troops from the U.S. 29th Infantry Division. [124] [132] They faced the 352nd Infantry Division, rather than the expected single regiment. [133] Strong currents forced many landing craft east of their intended position or delayed them. Casualties were heavier than all the other landings combined, as the men were subjected to fire from the cliffs above. [134] Problems clearing the beach of obstructions led to the beachmaster calling a halt to further landings of vehicles at 08:30. A group of destroyers arrived around this time to offer supporting artillery fire. [135] Exit from Omaha was possible only via five gullies, and by late morning barely six hundred men had reached the higher ground. By noon, as the artillery fire took its toll and the Germans started to run out of ammunition, the Americans were able to clear some lanes on the beaches. They also started clearing the draws of enemy defences so that vehicles could move off the beach. [136] The tenuous beachhead was expanded over the following days, and the D-Day objectives were accomplished by D+3. [137]

At Gold, high winds made conditions difficult for the landing craft, and the amphibious DD tanks were landed close to shore or directly on the beach instead of further out as planned. [138] Aerial attacks had failed to hit the Le Hamel strongpoint, and its 75 mm gun continued to do damage until 16:00. On the western flank, the 1st Battalion, Hampshire Regiment captured Arromanches (future site of Mulberry "B"), and contact was made on the eastern flank with the Canadian forces at Juno. [139]

Landings of infantry at Juno were delayed because of rough seas, and the men arrived ahead of their supporting armour, suffering many casualties while disembarking. Most of the offshore bombardment had missed the German defences. In spite of these difficulties, the Canadians quickly cleared the beach and created two exits to the villages above. Delays in taking Bény-sur-Mer led to congestion on the beach, but by nightfall, the contiguous Juno and Gold beachheads covered an area 12 miles (19 km) wide and 7 miles (10 km) deep. [140] Casualties at Juno were 961 men. [141]

On Sword, 21 of 25 DD tanks succeeded in getting safely ashore to provide cover for the infantry, who began disembarking at 07:30. They quickly cleared the beach and created several exits for the tanks. In the windy conditions, the tide came in more quickly than expected, making manoeuvring the armour difficult. [142] The 2nd Battalion, King's Shropshire Light Infantry advanced on foot to within a few kilometres of Caen, but had to withdraw due to lack of armour support. [143] At 16:00, the German 21st Panzer Division mounted a counterattack between Sword and Juno and nearly succeeded in reaching the coast. They met stiff resistance from the British 3rd Infantry Division and were soon recalled to assist in the area between Caen and Bayeux. [144] [145]

The first components of the Mulberry harbours were brought across on D+1 and the structures were in use for unloading by mid-June. [61] One was constructed at Arromanches by the British, the other at Omaha by the Americans. Severe storms on 19 June interrupted the landing of supplies and destroyed the Omaha harbour. [146] The repaired Arromanches harbour was able to receive around 6,000 tons of materiel daily and was in continuous use for the next ten months, but most shipments were brought in over the beaches until the port of Cherbourg was cleared of mines and obstructions on 16 July. [147] [148]

Allied casualties on the first day were at least 10,000, with 4,414 confirmed dead. [149] The Germans lost 1,000 men. [150] The Allied invasion plans had called for the capture of Carentan, St. Lô, Caen, and Bayeux on the first day, with all the beaches (other than Utah), linked with a front line 10 to 16 kilometres (6 to 10 mi) from the beaches none of these objectives were achieved. [48] The five bridgeheads were not connected until 12 June, by which time the Allies held a front around 97 kilometres (60 mi) long and 24 kilometres (15 mi) deep. [151] Caen, a major objective, was still in German hands at the end of D-Day and would not be completely captured until 21 July. [152] Nearly 160,000 troops crossed the English Channel on 6 June, and more than two million Allied troops were in France by the end of August. [153]

Cherbourg Edit

In the western part of the lodgement, US troops were to occupy the Cotentin Peninsula, especially Cherbourg, which would provide the Allies with a deep water harbour. The terrain behind Utah and Omaha was characterised by bocage, with thorny hedgerows on embankments 3 to 4 feet (0.91 to 1.2 m) high with a ditch on either side. [154] Many areas were additionally protected by rifle pits and machine-gun emplacements. [155] Most of the roads were too narrow for tanks. [154] The Germans had flooded the fields behind Utah with sea water for up to 2 miles (3.2 km) from the coast. [156] German forces on the peninsula included the 91st Infantry Division and the 243rd and 709th Static Infantry Divisions. [157] By D+3 the Allied commanders realised that Cherbourg would not quickly be taken, and decided to cut off the peninsula to prevent any further reinforcements from being brought in. [158] After failed attempts by the inexperienced 90th Infantry Division, Major General J. Lawton Collins, the VII Corps commander, assigned the veteran 9th Infantry Division to the task. They reached the west coast of the Cotentin on 17 June, cutting off Cherbourg. [159] The 9th Division, joined by the 4th and 79th Infantry Divisions, took control of the peninsula in fierce fighting from 19 June Cherbourg was captured on 26 June. By this time, the Germans had destroyed the port facilities, which were not brought back into full operation until September. [160]

Caen Edit

Fighting in the Caen area versus the 21st Panzer, the 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend and other units soon reached a stalemate. [161] During Operation Perch, XXX Corps attempted to advance south towards Mont Pinçon but soon abandoned the direct approach in favour of a pincer attack to encircle Caen. XXX Corps made a flanking move from Tilly-sur-Seulles towards Villers-Bocage with part of the 7th Armoured Division, while I Corps tried to pass Caen to the east. The attack by I Corps was quickly halted and XXX Corps briefly captured Villers-Bocage. Advanced elements of the British force were ambushed, initiating a day-long Battle of Villers-Bocage and then the Battle of the Box. The British were forced to withdraw to Tilly-sur-Seulles. [162] [163] After a delay because of storms from 17 to 23 June, Operation Epsom began on 26 June, an attempt by VIII Corps to swing around and attack Caen from the south-west and establish a bridgehead south of the Odon. [164] Although the operation failed to take Caen, the Germans suffered many tank losses after committing every available Panzer unit to the operation. [165] Rundstedt was dismissed on 1 July and replaced as OB West by Field Marshal Günther von Kluge after remarking that the war was now lost. [166] The northern suburbs of Caen were bombed on the evening of 7 July and then occupied north of the River Orne in Operation Charnwood on 8–9 July. [167] [168] Operation Atlantic and Operation Goodwood captured the rest of Caen and the high ground to the south from 18 to 21 July, by when the city was nearly destroyed. [169] Hitler survived an assassination attempt on 20 July. [170]

Breakout from the beachhead Edit

After securing territory in the Cotentin Peninsula south as far as Saint-Lô, the U.S. First Army launched Operation Cobra on 25 July and advanced further south to Avranches by 1 August. [171] The British launched Operation Bluecoat on 30 July to secure Vire and the high ground of Mont Pinçon. [172] Lieutenant General Patton's U.S. Third Army, activated on 1 August, quickly took most of Brittany and territory as far south as the Loire, while the First Army maintained pressure eastward toward Le Mans to protect their flank. By 3 August, Patton and the Third Army were able to leave a small force in Brittany and drive eastward towards the main concentration of German forces south of Caen. [173] Over Kluge's objections, on 4 August Hitler ordered a counter-offensive (Operation Lüttich) from Vire towards Avranches. [174]

While II Canadian Corps pushed south from Caen toward Falaise in Operation Totalize on 8 August, [175] Bradley and Montgomery realised that there was an opportunity for the bulk of the German forces to be trapped at Falaise. The Third Army continued the encirclement from the south, reaching Alençon on 11 August. Although Hitler continued to insist until 14 August that his forces should counter-attack, Kluge and his officers began planning a retreat eastward. [176] The German forces were severely hampered by Hitler's insistence on making all major decisions himself, which left his forces without orders for periods as long as 24 hours while information was sent back and forth to the Führer's residence at Obersalzberg in Bavaria. [177] On the evening of 12 August, Patton asked Bradley if his forces should continue northward to close the gap and encircle the German forces. Bradley refused because Montgomery had already assigned the First Canadian Army to take the territory from the north. [178] [179] The Canadians met heavy resistance and captured Falaise on 16 August. The gap was closed on 21 August, trapping 50,000 German troops but more than a third of the German 7th Army and the remnants of nine of the eleven Panzer divisions had escaped to the east. [180] Montgomery's decision-making regarding the Falaise Gap was criticised at the time by American commanders, especially Patton, although Bradley was more sympathetic and believed Patton would not have been able to close the gap. [181] The issue has been the subject of much discussion among historians, criticism being levelled at American, British and Canadian forces. [182] [183] [184] Hitler relieved Kluge of his command of OB West on 15 August and replaced him with Field Marshal Walter Model. Kluge committed suicide on 19 August after Hitler became aware of his involvement in the 20 July plot. [185] [186] An invasion in southern France (Operation Dragoon) was launched on 15 August. [187]

The French Resistance in Paris rose against the Germans on 19 August. [188] Eisenhower initially wanted to bypass the city to pursue other targets, but amid reports that the citizens were going hungry and Hitler's stated intention to destroy it, de Gaulle insisted that it should be taken immediately. [189] French forces of the 2nd Armoured Division under General Philippe Leclerc arrived from the west on 24 August, while the U.S. 4th Infantry Division pressed up from the south. Scattered fighting continued throughout the night, and by the morning of 25 August Paris was liberated. [190]

Operations continued in the British and Canadian sectors until the end of the month. On 25 August, the U.S. 2nd Armored Division fought its way into Elbeuf, making contact with British and Canadian armoured divisions. [191] The 2nd Canadian Infantry Division advanced into the Forêt de la Londe on the morning of 27 August. The area was strongly held the 4th and 6th Canadian brigades suffered many casualties over the course of three days as the Germans fought a delaying action in terrain well suited to defence. The Germans pulled back on 29 August, withdrawing over the Seine the next day. [191] On the afternoon of 30 August, the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division crossed the Seine near Elbeuf and entered Rouen to a jubilant welcome. [192]

Eisenhower took direct command of all Allied ground forces on 1 September. Concerned about German counter-attacks and the limited materiel arriving in France, he decided to continue operations on a broad front rather than attempting narrow thrusts. [193] The linkup of the Normandy forces with the Allied forces in southern France occurred on 12 September as part of the drive to the Siegfried Line. [194] On 17 September, Montgomery launched Operation Market Garden, an unsuccessful attempt by Anglo-American airborne troops to capture bridges in the Netherlands to allow ground forces to cross the Rhine into Germany. [193] The Allied advance slowed due to German resistance and the lack of supplies (especially fuel). On 16 December the Germans launched the Ardennes Offensive, also known as the Battle of the Bulge, their last major offensive of the war on the Western Front. A series of successful Soviet actions began with the Vistula–Oder Offensive on 12 January. Hitler committed suicide on 30 April as Soviet troops neared his Führerbunker in Berlin, and Germany surrendered on 7 May 1945. [195]

The Normandy landings were the largest seaborne invasion in history, with nearly 5,000 landing and assault craft, 289 escort vessels, and 277 minesweepers. [115] They hastened the end of the war in Europe, drawing large forces away from the Eastern Front that might otherwise have slowed the Soviet advance. The opening of another front in western Europe was a tremendous psychological blow for Germany's military, who feared a repetition of the two-front war of World War I. The Normandy landings also heralded the start of the "race for Europe" between the Soviet forces and the Western powers, which some historians consider to be the start of the Cold War. [196]

Victory in Normandy stemmed from several factors. German preparations along the Atlantic Wall were only partially finished shortly before D-Day Rommel reported that construction was only 18 per cent complete in some areas as resources were diverted elsewhere. [197] The deceptions undertaken in Operation Fortitude were successful, leaving the Germans obliged to defend a huge stretch of coastline. [198] The Allies achieved and maintained air superiority, which meant that the Germans were unable to make observations of the preparations underway in Britain and were unable to interfere via bomber attacks. [199] Transport infrastructure in France was severely disrupted by Allied bombers and the French Resistance, making it difficult for the Germans to bring up reinforcements and supplies. [200] Much of the opening artillery barrage was off-target or not concentrated enough to have any impact, [201] but the specialised armour worked well except on Omaha, providing close artillery support for the troops as they disembarked onto the beaches. [202] The indecisiveness and overly complicated command structure of the German high command was also a factor in the Allied success. [203]

Allies Edit

From D-Day to 21 August, the Allies landed 2,052,299 men in northern France. The cost of the Normandy campaign was high for both sides. [13] Between 6 June and the end of August, the American armies suffered 124,394 casualties, of whom 20,668 were killed. [g] The American armies suffered 10,128 soldiers missing. [13] Casualties within the First Canadian and Second British Armies are placed at 83,045: 15,995 killed, 57,996 wounded, and 9,054 missing. [h] Of these, Canadian losses amounted to 18,444, with 5,021 killed in action. [204] The Allied air forces, having flown 480,317 sorties in support of the invasion, lost 4,101 aircraft and 16,714 airmen (8,536 members of the USAAF, and 8,178 flying under the command of the RAF). [13] [205] The Free French SAS paratroopers suffered 77 killed, with 197 wounded and missing. [206] Allied tank losses have been estimated at around 4,000, with losses split evenly between the American and British/Canadian armies. [14] Historians slightly differ on overall casualties during the campaign, with the lowest losses totaling 225,606 [207] [208] and the highest at 226,386. [209] [210]

Germany Edit

German forces in France reported losses of 158,930 men between D-Day and 14 August, just before the start of Operation Dragoon in Southern France. [211] In action at the Falaise pocket, 50,000 men were lost, of whom 10,000 were killed and 40,000 captured. [14] Sources vary on the total German casualties. Niklas Zetterling, on examining German records, places the total German casualties suffered in Normandy and facing the Dragoon landings to be 288,695. [15] Other sources arrive at higher estimates: 400,000 (200,000 killed or wounded and a further 200,000 captured), [195] 500,000 (290,000 killed or wounded, 210,000 captured), [11] to 530,000 in total. [16]

There are no exact figures regarding German tank losses in Normandy. Approximately 2,300 tanks and assault guns were committed to the battle, [i] of which only 100 to 120 crossed the Seine at the end of the campaign. [11] While German forces reported only 481 tanks destroyed between D-day and 31 July, [211] research conducted by No. 2 Operational Research Section of 21st Army Group indicates that the Allies destroyed around 550 tanks in June and July [212] and another 500 in August, [213] for a total of 1,050 tanks destroyed, including 100 destroyed by aircraft. [214] Luftwaffe losses amounted to 2,127 aircraft. [17] By the end of the Normandy campaign, 55 German divisions (42 infantry and 13 panzer) had been rendered combat ineffective seven of these were disbanded. By September, OB West had only 13 infantry divisions, 3 panzer divisions, and 2 panzer brigades rated as combat effective. [215]

Civilians and French heritage buildings Edit

During the liberation of Normandy, between 13,632 and 19,890 French civilians were killed, [20] and more were seriously wounded. [19] In addition to those who died during the campaign, 11,000 to 19,000 Normans are estimated to have been killed during pre-invasion bombing. [19] A total of 70,000 French civilians were killed throughout the course of the war. [19] Land mines and unexploded ordnance continued to inflict casualties upon the Norman population following the end of the campaign. [216]

Prior to the invasion, SHAEF issued instructions (later the basis for the 1954 Hague Convention Protocol I) emphasising the need to limit the destruction to French heritage sites. These sites, named in the Official Civil Affairs Lists of Monuments, were not to be used by troops unless permission was received from the upper echelons of the chain of command. [217] Nevertheless, church spires and other stone buildings throughout the area were damaged or destroyed to prevent them being used by the Germans. [218] Efforts were made to prevent reconstruction workers from using rubble from important ruins to repair roads, and to search for artefacts. [219] The Bayeux tapestry and other important cultural treasures had been stored at the Château de Sourches near Le Mans from the start of the war, and survived intact. [220] The occupying German forces also kept a list of protected buildings, but their intent was to keep the facilities in good condition for use as accommodation by German troops. [219]

Many cities and towns in Normandy were totally devastated by the fighting and bombings. By the end of the Battle of Caen there remained only 8,000 liveable quarters for a population of over 60,000. [218] Of the 18 listed churches in Caen, four were seriously damaged and five were destroyed, along with 66 other listed monuments. [220] In the Calvados department (location of the Normandy beachhead), 76,000 citizens were rendered homeless. Of Caen's 210 pre-war Jewish population, only one survived the war. [221]

Looting was a concern, with all sides taking part—the retreating Germans, the invading Allies, and the local French population taking advantage of the chaos. [219] Looting was never condoned by Allied forces, and any perpetrators who were found to be looting were punished. [222]

The beaches of Normandy are still known by their invasion code names. Significant places have plaques, memorials, or small museums, and guide books and maps are available. Some of the German strong points remain preserved Pointe du Hoc, in particular, is little changed from 1944. The remains of Mulberry harbour B still sits in the sea at Arromanches. Several large cemeteries in the area serve as the final resting place for many of the Allied and German soldiers killed in the Normandy campaign. [223]

Above the English channel on a bluff at Omaha Beach, the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial has hosted numerous visitors each year. The site covers 172.5 acres and contains the remains of 9,388 American military dead, most of whom were killed during the invasion of Normandy and ensuing military operations in World War II. Included are graves of Army Air Corps crews shot down over France as early as 1942 and four American women. [224]


Contents

Prehistory Edit

Archaeological finds, such as cave paintings, prove that humans were present in the region in prehistoric times.

Celtic period Edit

Celts (also known as Belgae and Gauls) invaded Normandy in successive waves from the 4th to the 3rd century BC. When Julius Caesar invaded Gaul (58–50 BC), there were nine different Celtic tribes living in Normandy. [5] The Romanisation of Normandy was achieved by the usual methods: Roman roads and a policy of urbanisation. Classicists mention many Gallo-Roman villas in Normandy.

Saxon pirates Edit

In the late 3rd century AD, barbarian raids devastated Normandy. Coastal settlements were raided by Saxon pirates. Christianity also began to enter the area during this period. In 406, Germanic tribes began invading from the east, while the Saxons subjugated the Norman coast. As early as 487, the area between the River Somme and the River Loire came under the control of the Frankish lord Clovis.

Viking period Edit

Vikings started to raid the Seine valley during the middle of the 9th century. As early as 841, a Viking fleet appeared at the mouth of the Seine, the principal route by which they entered the kingdom. [6] After attacking and destroying monasteries, including one at Jumièges, they took advantage of the power vacuum created by the disintegration of Charlemagne's empire to take northern France. The fiefdom of Normandy was created for the Viking leader Hrólfr Ragnvaldsson or Rollo (also known as Robert of Normandy). Rollo had besieged Paris but in 911 entered vassalage to the king of the West Franks, Charles the Simple, through the Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte. In exchange for his homage and fealty, Rollo legally gained the territory which he and his Viking allies had previously conquered. The name "Normandy" reflects Rollo's Viking (i.e. "Norseman") origins.

The descendants of Rollo and his followers adopted the local Gallo-Romance language, intermarried with the area's native Gallo-Roman inhabitants and adopted Christianity. They became the Normans – a Norman French-speaking mixture of Norsemen and indigenous Franks, Celts and Romans.

Rollo's descendant William became king of England in 1066 after defeating Harold Godwinson, the last of the Anglo-Saxon kings, at the Battle of Hastings, while retaining the fiefdom of Normandy for himself and his descendants.

Norman expansion Edit

Besides the conquest of England and the subsequent invasions of Wales and Ireland, the Normans expanded into other areas. Norman families, such as that of Tancred of Hauteville, Rainulf Drengot and Guimond de Moulins played important parts in the conquest of southern Italy and the Crusades.

The Drengot lineage, de Hauteville's sons William Iron Arm, Drogo, and Humphrey, Robert Guiscard and Roger the Great Count progressively claimed territories in southern Italy until founding the Kingdom of Sicily in 1130. They also carved out a place for themselves and their descendants in the Crusader states of Asia Minor and the Holy Land.

The 14th-century explorer Jean de Béthencourt established a kingdom in the Canary Islands in 1404. He received the title King of the Canary Islands from Pope Innocent VII but recognized Henry III of Castile as his overlord, who had provided him with military and financial aid during the conquest.

13th to 17th centuries Edit

In 1204, during the reign of John of England, mainland Normandy was taken from England by France under King Philip II. Insular Normandy (the Channel Islands) remained, however, under English control. In 1259, Henry III of England recognized the legality of French possession of mainland Normandy under the Treaty of Paris. His successors, however, often fought to regain control of their ancient fiefdom.

The Charte aux Normands granted by Louis X of France in 1315 (and later re-confirmed in 1339) – like the analogous Magna Carta granted in England in the aftermath of 1204 – guaranteed the liberties and privileges of the province of Normandy.

French Normandy was occupied by English forces during the Hundred Years' War in 1345–1360 and again in 1415–1450. Normandy lost three-quarters of its population during the war. [7] Afterwards, prosperity returned to Normandy until the Wars of Religion. When many Norman towns (Alençon, Rouen, Caen, Coutances, Bayeux) joined the Protestant Reformation, battles ensued throughout the province. In the Channel Islands, a period of Calvinism following the Reformation was suppressed when Anglicanism was imposed following the English Civil War.

Samuel de Champlain left the port of Honfleur in 1604 and founded Acadia. Four years later, he founded the City of Québec. From then onwards, Normans engaged in a policy of expansion in North America. They continued the exploration of the New World: René-Robert Cavelier de La Salle travelled in the area of the Great Lakes, then on the Mississippi River. Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville and his brother Lemoyne de Bienville founded Louisiana, Biloxi, Mobile and New Orleans. Territories located between Québec and the Mississippi Delta were opened up to establish Canada and Louisiana. Colonists from Normandy were among the most active in New France, comprising Acadia, Canada, and Louisiana.

Honfleur and Le Havre were two of the principal slave trade ports of France.

Modern history Edit

Although agriculture remained important, industries such as weaving, metallurgy, sugar refining, ceramics, and shipbuilding were introduced and developed.

In the 1780s, the economic crisis and the crisis of the Ancien Régime struck Normandy as well as other parts of the nation, leading to the French Revolution. Bad harvests, technical progress and the effects of the Eden Agreement signed in 1786 affected employment and the economy of the province. Normans laboured under a heavy fiscal burden.

In 1790 the five departments of Normandy replaced the former province.

13 July 1793, the Norman Charlotte Corday assassinated Marat.

The Normans reacted little to the many political upheavals which characterized the 19th century. Overall they warily accepted the changes of régime (First French Empire, Bourbon Restoration, July Monarchy, French Second Republic, Second French Empire, French Third Republic).

Following the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars (1792–1815) there was an economic revival that included the mechanization of textile manufacturing and the introduction of the first trains.

With seaside tourism in the 19th century came the advent of the first beach resorts.

During the Second World War, following the armistice of 22 June 1940, continental Normandy was part of the German occupied zone of France. The Channel Islands were occupied by German forces between 30 June 1940 and 9 May 1945. The town of Dieppe was the site of the unsuccessful Dieppe Raid by Canadian and British armed forces.

The Allies, in this case involving Britain, the United States, Canada and Free France, coordinated a massive build-up of troops and supplies to support a large-scale invasion of Normandy in the D-Day landings on 6 June 1944 under the code name Operation Overlord. The Germans were dug into fortified emplacements above the beaches. Caen, Cherbourg, Carentan, Falaise and other Norman towns endured many casualties in the Battle of Normandy, which continued until the closing of the so-called Falaise gap between Chambois and Mont Ormel. The liberation of Le Havre followed. This was a significant turning point in the war and led to the restoration of the French Republic.

The remainder of Normandy was liberated only on 9 May 1945 at the end of the war, when the Channel Island occupation effectively ended.

The historical Duchy of Normandy was a formerly independent duchy occupying the lower Seine area, the Pays de Caux and the region to the west through the Pays d'Auge as far as the Cotentin Peninsula and Channel Islands.

Western Normandy belongs to the Armorican Massif, while most of the region lies in the Paris Basin. France's oldest rocks are exposed in Jobourg, on the Cotentin peninsula. [8] The region is bounded to the north and west by the English Channel. There are granite cliffs in the west and limestone cliffs in the east. There are also long stretches of beach in the centre of the region. The bocage typical of the western areas caused problems for the invading forces in the Battle of Normandy. A notable feature of the landscape is created by the meanders of the Seine as it approaches its estuary.

The highest point is the Signal d'Écouves (417 m), in the Armorican Massif.

Normandy is sparsely forested: [9] 12.8% of the territory is wooded, compared to a French average of 23.6%, although the proportion varies between the departments. Eure has the most cover, at 21%, while Manche has the least, at 4%, a characteristic shared with the Channel Islands.

Sub-regions Edit

Mainland Normandy Edit

  • The Avranchin
  • The Bessin
  • The Bauptois
  • The bocage virois
  • The campagne d'Alençon
  • The campagne d'Argentan
  • The campagne de Caen
  • The campagne de Falaise
  • The campagne du Neubourg
  • The campagne de Saint-André (or d’Évreux)
  • The Cotentin
  • The Perche
  • The Domfrontais or Passais
  • The Hiémois
  • The Lieuvin
  • The Mortainais
  • The pays d'Auge, central Normandy, is characterized by excellent agricultural land.
  • The pays de Bray
  • The pays de Caux
  • The pays d'Houlme
  • The pays de Madrie, area between the Seine and the Eure.
  • The pays d'Ouche
  • The Roumois et Marais-Vernier
  • The Suisse Normande (Norman Switzerland), in the south, presents hillier terrain.
  • The Val de Saire

Insular Normandy (Channel Islands) Edit

The Channel Islands are considered culturally and historically a part of Normandy. However, they are British Crown Dependencies, and are not part of the modern French administrative region of Normandy,

Although the British surrendered claims to mainland Normandy, France, and other French possessions in 1801, the monarch of the United Kingdom retains the title Duke of Normandy in respect to the Channel Islands. [10] The Channel Islands (except for Chausey) remain Crown dependencies of the British Crown in the present era. Thus the Loyal Toast in the Channel Islands is La Reine, notre Duc ("The Queen, our Duke"). The British monarch is understood to not be the Duke with regards to mainland Normandy described herein, by virtue of the Treaty of Paris of 1259, the surrender of French possessions in 1801, and the belief that the rights of succession to that title are subject to Salic Law which excludes inheritance through female heirs. [11]

Rivers Edit

Rivers in Normandy include:

  • the Bresle
  • the Couesnon, which traditionally marks the boundary between the Duchy of Brittany and the Duchy of Normandy
  • the Dives
  • the Orne
  • the Sée
  • the Sélune
  • the Touques
  • the Veules, the shortest French river
  • the Vire

Mainland Normandy Edit

The modern region of Normandy was created by the territorial reform of French Regions in 2014 by the merger of Lower Normandy, and Upper Normandy. The new region took effect on 1 January 2016, after the regional elections in December 2015. [12]

The Regional Council has 102 members who are elected under a system of proportional representation. The executive consists of a president and vice-presidents. Hervé Morin from the Centre party was elected president of the council in January 2016.

Channel Islands Edit

The Channel Islands are not part of French territory, but are instead British Crown dependencies. They are self-governing, each having its own parliament, government and legal system. The head of state of both territories is Elizabeth II and each have an appointed Lieutenant-Governor.

The Bailiwick of Guernsey comprises three separate jurisdictions: Guernsey, Alderney and Sark. Administratively, Herm forms part of Guernsey.

Much of Normandy is predominantly agricultural in character, with cattle breeding the most important sector (although in decline from the peak levels of the 1970s and 1980s). The bocage is a patchwork of small fields with high hedges, typical of western areas. Areas near the Seine (the former Upper Normandy region) contain a higher concentration of industry. Normandy is a significant cider-producing region, and also produces calvados, a distilled cider or apple brandy. Other activities of economic importance are dairy produce, flax (60% of production in France), horse breeding (including two French national stud farms), fishing, seafood, and tourism. The region contains three French nuclear power stations. There is also easy access to and from the UK using the ports of Cherbourg, Caen (Ouistreham), Le Havre and Dieppe. [13] Jersey and Guernsey are often considered to be tax havens, due to having large financial services sectors and low tax rates. [14]

Year Area Labour force in agriculture Labour force in industry Labour force in services
2003 Upper Normandy [15] 2.30 % 36.10 % 61.60 %
2006 Lower Normandy [16] 6.50 % 25.00 % 68.50 %
2006 France [17] 2.20 % 20.60 % 77.20 %
Area GDP (in million of Euros) [18] (2006) Unemployment (% of the labour force) [18] (2007)
Upper Normandy 46,853 6.80 %
Lower Normandy 34,064 7.90 %
France 1,791,956 7.50 %

In January 2006 the population of French Normandy (including the part of Perche which lies inside the Orne département but excluding the Channel Islands) was estimated at 3,260,000 with an average population density of 109 inhabitants per km 2 , just under the French national average, but rising to 147 for Upper Normandy. The population of the Channel Islands is estimated around 174,000 (2021). [19]

The main cities (population given from the 1999 census) are Rouen (518,316 in the metropolitan area), the capital since 2016 of the province and formerly of Upper Normandy Caen (420,000 in the metropolitan area) and formerly the capital of Lower Normandy Le Havre (296,773 in the metropolitan area) and Cherbourg (117,855 in the metropolitan area).

Flag Edit

The traditional provincial flag of Normandy, gules, two leopards passant or, is used in the region and its predecessors. The historic three-leopard version (known in the Norman language as les treis cats, "the three cats") is used by some associations and individuals, especially those who supported reunification of the regions and cultural links with the Channel Islands and England. Jersey and Guernsey use three leopards in their national symbols. The three leopards represents the strength and courage Normandy has towards the neighbouring provinces.

The unofficial anthem of the region is the song "Ma Normandie".

"Two-leopard" version, which is the main one.

Flag used by the sailors of Normandy.

Flag used by the hometown of William the Conqueror.

Language Edit

The Norman language, including its insular variations Jèrriais and Guernésiais, is a regional language, spoken by a minority of the population on the continent and the islands, with a concentration in the Cotentin Peninsula in the far west (the Cotentinais dialect), and in the Pays de Caux in the East (the Cauchois dialect). Many place names demonstrate the Norse influence in this Oïl language for example -bec (stream), -fleur (river), -hou (island), -tot (homestead), -dal or -dalle (valley) and -hogue (hill, mound). [20] French is the only official language in continental Normandy and English is also an official language in the Channel Islands.

Architecture Edit

Architecturally, Norman cathedrals, abbeys (such as the Abbey of Bec) and castles characterise the former duchy in a way that mirrors the similar pattern of Norman architecture in England following the Norman Conquest of 1066.

Domestic architecture in upper Normandy is typified by half-timbered buildings that also recall vernacular English architecture, although the farm enclosures of the more harshly landscaped Pays de Caux are a more idiosyncratic response to socio-economic and climatic imperatives. Much urban architectural heritage was destroyed during the Battle of Normandy in 1944 – post-war urban reconstruction, such as in Le Havre and Saint-Lô, could be said to demonstrate both the virtues and vices of modernist and brutalist trends of the 1950s and 1960s. Le Havre, the city rebuilt by Auguste Perret, was added to Unesco's World Heritage List in 2005.

Vernacular architecture in lower Normandy takes its form from granite, the predominant local building material. The Channel Islands also share this influence – Chausey was for many years a source of quarried granite, including that used for the construction of Mont Saint-Michel.

The south part of Bagnoles-de-l'Orne is filled with bourgeois villas in Belle Époque style with polychrome façades, bow windows and unique roofing. This area, built between 1886 and 1914, has an authentic “Bagnolese” style and is typical of high-society country vacation of the time. The Chapel of Saint Germanus (Chapelle Saint-Germain) at Querqueville with its trefoil floorplan incorporates elements of one of the earliest surviving places of Christian worship in the Cotentin – perhaps second only to the Gallo-Roman baptistry at Port-Bail. It is dedicated to Germanus of Normandy.

Gastronomy Edit

Parts of Normandy consist of rolling countryside typified by pasture for dairy cattle and apple orchards. A wide range of dairy products are produced and exported. Norman cheeses include Camembert, Livarot, Pont l'Évêque, Brillat-Savarin, Neufchâtel, Petit Suisse and Boursin. [21] Normandy butter and Normandy cream are lavishly used in gastronomic specialties. Jersey and Guernsey cattle are famous cattle breeds worldwide, especially to North America.

Turbot and oysters from the Cotentin Peninsula are major delicacies throughout France. Normandy is the chief oyster-cultivating, scallop-exporting, and mussel-raising region in France.

Normandy is a major cider-producing region (very little wine is produced). Perry is also produced, but in less significant quantities. Apple brandy, of which the most famous variety is calvados, is also popular. The mealtime trou normand, or "Norman hole", is a pause between meal courses in which diners partake of a glassful of calvados in order to improve the appetite and make room for the next course, and this is still observed in many homes and restaurants. Pommeau is an apéritif produced by blending unfermented cider and apple brandy. Another aperitif is the kir normand, a measure of crème de cassis topped up with cider. Bénédictine is produced in Fécamp.

Other regional specialities include tripes à la mode de Caen, andouilles and andouillettes, salade cauchoise, salt meadow (pré salé) lamb, seafood (mussels, scallops, lobsters, mackerel. ), and teurgoule (spiced rice pudding).

Normandy dishes include duckling à la rouennaise, sautéed chicken yvetois, and goose en daube. Rabbit is cooked with morels, or à la havraise (stuffed with truffled pigs' trotters). Other dishes are sheep's trotters à la rouennaise, casseroled veal, larded calf's liver braised with carrots, and veal (or turkey) in cream and mushrooms.

Normandy is also noted for its pastries. Normandy turns out douillons (pears baked in pastry), craquelins, roulettes in Rouen, fouaces in Caen, fallues in Lisieux, sablés in Lisieux. It is the birthplace of brioches (especially those from Évreux and Gisors). Confectionery of the region includes Rouen apple sugar, Isigny caramels, Bayeux mint chews, Falaise berlingots, Le Havre marzipans, Argentan croquettes, and Rouen macaroons.

Normandy is the native land of Taillevent, cook of the kings of France Charles V and Charles VI. He wrote the earliest French cookery book named Le Viandier. Confiture de lait was also made in Normandy around the 14th century.

Literature Edit

The dukes of Normandy commissioned and inspired epic literature to record and legitimise their rule. Wace, Orderic Vitalis and Stephen of Rouen were among those who wrote in the service of the dukes. After the division of 1204, French literature provided the model for the development of literature in Normandy. Olivier Basselin wrote of the Vaux de Vire, the origin of literary vaudeville. Notable Norman writers include Jean Marot, Rémy Belleau, Guy de Maupassant, Jules Barbey d'Aurevilly, Gustave Flaubert, Octave Mirbeau, and Remy de Gourmont, and Alexis de Tocqueville. The Corneille brothers, Pierre and Thomas, born in Rouen, were great figures of French classical literature.

David Ferrand (1591–1660) in his Muse Normande established a landmark of Norman language literature. In the 16th and 17th centuries, the workers and merchants of Rouen established a tradition of polemical and satirical literature in a form of language called the parler purin. At the end of the 18th century and beginning of the 19th century a new movement arose in the Channel Islands, led by writers such as George Métivier, which sparked a literary renaissance on the Norman mainland. In exile in Jersey and then Guernsey, Victor Hugo took an interest in the vernacular literature. Les Travailleurs de la mer is a well-known novel by Hugo set in the Channel Islands. The boom in insular literature in the early 19th century encouraged production especially in La Hague and around Cherbourg, where Alfred Rossel, Louis Beuve and Côtis-Capel became active. The typical medium for literary expression in Norman has traditionally been newspaper columns and almanacs. The novel Zabeth by André Louis which appeared in 1969 was the first novel published in Norman.

Painting Edit

Normandy has a rich tradition of painting and gave to France some of its most important artists.

In the 17th century some major French painters were Normans like Nicolas Poussin, born in Les Andelys and Jean Jouvenet.

Romanticism drew painters to the Channel coasts of Normandy. Richard Parkes Bonington and J. M. W. Turner crossed the Channel from Great Britain, attracted by the light and landscapes. Théodore Géricault, a native of Rouen, was a notable figure in the Romantic movement, its famous Radeau de la Méduse being considered come the breakthrough of pictorial romanticism in France when it was officially presented at the 1819 Salon. The competing Realist tendency was represented by Jean-François Millet, a native of La Hague. The landscape painter Eugène Boudin, born in Honfleur, was a determining influence on the impressionists and was highly considered by Monet.

Breaking away from the more formalised and classical themes of the early part of the 19th century, Impressionist painters preferred to paint outdoors, in natural light, and to concentrate on landscapes, towns and scenes of daily life.

Leader of the movement and father of modern painting, Claude Monet is one of the best known Impressionists and a major character in Normandy's artistic heritage. His house and gardens at Giverny are one of the region's major tourist sites, much visited for their beauty and their water lilies, as well as for their importance to Monet's artistic inspiration. Normandy was at the heart of his creation, from the paintings of Rouen's cathedral to the famous depictions of the cliffs at Étretat, the beach and port at Fécamp and the sunrise at Le Havre. It was Impression, Sunrise, Monet's painting of Le Havre, that led to the movement being dubbed Impressionism. After Monet, all the main avant-garde painters of the 1870s and 1880s came to Normandy to paint its landscapes and its changing lights, concentrating along the Seine valley and the Norman coast.

Landscapes and scenes of daily life were also immortalised on canvas by artists such as William Turner, Gustave Courbet, the Honfleur born Eugène Boudin, Camille Pissarro, Alfred Sisley, Auguste Renoir, Gustave Caillebotte, Paul Gauguin, Georges Seurat, Paul Signac, Pierre Bonnard, Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso. While Monet's work adorns galleries and collections all over the world, a remarkable quantity of Impressionist works can be found in galleries throughout Normandy, such as the Museum of Fine Arts in Rouen, the Musée Eugène Boudin in Honfleur or the André Malraux Museum in Le Havre.

Maurice Denis, one of the leaders and theoricists of the Nabis movement in the 1890s, was a native of Granville, in the Manche department.

The Société Normande de Peinture Moderne was founded in 1909 by Pierre Dumont, Robert Antoine Pinchon, Yvonne Barbier and Eugène Tirvert. Among members were Raoul Dufy, a native of Le Havre, Albert Marquet, Francis Picabia and Maurice Utrillo. Also in this movement were the Duchamp brothers, Jacques Villon and Marcel Duchamp, considered one of the father of modern art, also natives of Normandy. Jean Dubuffet, one of the leading French artist of the 1940s and the 1950s was born in Le Havre.

Religion Edit

Christian missionaries implanted monastic communities in the territory in the 5th and 6th centuries. Some of these missionaries came from across the Channel. The influence of Celtic Christianity can still be found in the Cotentin. By the terms of the treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte, Rollo, a Viking pagan, accepted Christianity and was baptised. The Duchy of Normandy was therefore formally a Christian state from its foundation. The cathedrals of Normandy have exerted influence down the centuries in matters of both faith and politics. King Henry II of England, did penance at the cathedral of Avranches on 21 May 1172 and was absolved from the censures incurred by the assassination of Thomas Becket. Mont Saint-Michel is a historic pilgrimage site.

Normandy does not have one generally agreed patron saint, although this title has been ascribed to Saint Michael, and to Saint Ouen. Many saints have been revered in Normandy down the centuries, including:


On This Day: Allied troops launch D-Day invasion on Normandy

In 1844, the Young Men's Christian Association -- YMCA -- was founded in London.

In 1872, feminist Susan B. Anthony was fined for voting in an election in Rochester, N.Y. She refused to pay the fine and a judge allowed her to go free.

In 1933, the first drive-in movie theater opened -- in Camden, N.J.

In 1944, hundreds of thousands of Allied troops began crossing the English Channel in the D-Day invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe. It was the largest invasion in history.

In 1966, James Meredith, who in 1962 became the first African American to attend the University of Mississippi, was shot by a sniper during a civil rights "March Against Fear" walk in the South. Meredith was hospitalized and recovered from his wounds, later rejoining the long march, which he had originated.

In 1968, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, Democratic presidential candidate and former U.S. attorney general, died the day after he was struck by an assassin's bullets in California. He was 42.

In 1972, a coal mine explosion in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), trapped 464 miners underground. More than 425 people died.

In 1981, a train conductor braked too hard to avoid hitting a cow, causing several cars in his train to slip off the tracks in rainy weather. The cars slid off a bridge into a swollen river, drowning an estimated 600 people in India.

In 1982, thousands of Israeli forces pushed deep into Lebanon in an effort to defeat Palestinian guerrillas sheltering in the southern border region and near the capital of Beirut. Syria said its forces joined the fighting in a major escalation of the conflict.

In 1993, the Guatemalan legislature elected Ramiro de Leon Carpio as president to replace ousted leader Jorge Serrano.

In 2009, a fire that inspectors said began in a tire store next door destroyed a childcare center in Hermosillo, Mexico, killing 35 children ages 1-5 and injuring about 100 others.


The Day We Didn’t Invade Normandy

Photo by Lt. Donald I. Grant, courtesy of Library and Archives Canada/Flickr

On June 3, 1944, at 4:39 p.m. Eastern War Time, just as the thoroughbreds thundered into the final turn of the Belmont Stakes, CBS interrupted sportscaster Ted Husing’s breathless call. A news flash: The Associated Press was reporting that the highly anticipated invasion of France had begun. Noting the scanty and unconfirmed information, the CBS announcer told the audience to stay tuned, and the network returned to the horse race.

Less than three minutes later the Associated Press killed the erroneous story. CBS again broke into the sportscast and retracted the report.

It was too late. NBC and the Mutual Broadcasting System followed CBS, reporting that D-Day had begun. In an instant, the “news” swept the nation. Shocked radio listeners telephoned friends. “The potency of the words stirred millions into electric activity,” reported the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. In New York City, Major League Baseball’s Giants and Pirates paused their game when the invasion was announced. “There were only 9,000 people at the Polo Grounds,” remembered one spectator, “but the roar that went up could have been from 90,000. We all leaped to our feet, yelled, pounded the backs of total strangers, and had mental images of the war’s ending soon. When the yelling subsided, the announcer said: ‘We ask that you all rise for a minute of silent prayer.’ ”

The New York Times reported that millions of people had heard the report on as many as 500 stations nationwide. It would later be revealed that a pre-planned news flash had escaped when Joan Ellis, a young typist in the AP’s London bureau, accidently pressed the wrong button on her teletype transmitter. At 6:30 p.m. on June 3, less than two hours after the initial report, NBC’s Harold Fleming described the sequence of events on a radio program called The People’s War:

Though far more Americans heard the false D-Day report than tuned in to Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds broadcast, the erroneous news flash, and the public’s reaction to it, is now largely forgotten. Actual coverage of D-Day, starting three days later, wiped it from historical memory. This June marks the 70 th anniversary of D-Day, a remarkably historic broadcasting event, and the networks will no doubt commemorate their invasion coverage. Audio from the battle, recorded live using sophisticated new technologies, has been preserved and digitized. New generations of listeners can thrill to the voices of George Hicks, John MacVane, and Charles Collingwood, whose battlefield reports crackled across the ocean seven decades ago.

But we also should take a moment to remember the day that Allied Forces did not invade France. There’s some fascinating history here, and an important lesson about journalism that’s still relevant today.

In the 1940s, American broadcast journalism was hindered by a strange quirk: the network rule that all broadcasting on the national airwaves had to be live. Recorded programs had been strictly forbidden on stations affiliated with NBC and CBS since the late 1920s, when so-called transcription services threatened to kill commercial network radio in its infancy. The radio industry originally cut a deal with AT&T to exclusively rent telephone lines (and air live programming) in order to keep the telephone company out of commercial broadcasting. But when advertisers balked at the high toll charges, record companies sprang up to cut out the middlemen. In 1930, for example, Chevrolet built its own network to air the Chevrolet Chronicles, contracting with 170 stations and mailing them recordings. As historian Alex Russo notes, furious NBC and CBS executives countered by tightening their ban on the airing of recorded material by network affiliates.

Before World War II, the ban on prerecorded material was broken only in exceptional circumstances, such as the 1937 Hindenburg disaster. When war broke out, the ban frustrated American newscasters. “Time after time, [Fred] Bate, [Edward R.] Murrow, [Larry] LeSueur, and I went up to the BBC roof with our microphones,” remembered NBC’s John MacVane. “A few moments before the circuit opened to New York, it might sound as though the doors of hell were being blown off their hinges, but invariably, as soon as New York said, ‘Go ahead, London,’ a lull ensued for as long as we were broadcasting. … Nothing would be picked up.”

Meanwhile, battlefield recordings riveted English, Russian, and even German citizens. Perhaps the greatest battlefield team of all was the small group from the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. In 1943, CBC engineers constructed a small mobile recording studio in a van to capture the sounds of war. Recordings made during the invasion of Italy caused a sensation when picked up by American citizens living near the Canadian border. “The poor, government-financed CBC had bested the wealthy U.S. networks,” explained the CBC’s Peter Stursberg, calling it a “remarkable feat in itself, but not a very difficult one since the Americans had a rule. … There could be no recordings of news programs.” The rule, CBS’s William L. Shirer recalled, was “ridiculous.”

Because the CBC and BBC had canned recordings ready to go for D-Day, and because no competition existed on their airwaves, these governmental broadcasters were protected from the pressures facing their American counterparts. CBS, NBC, and Mutual executives, by contrast, hoped to scoop each other as the invasion neared. The war had already transformed news into the most profitable broadcasting genre, and being first to air with the invasion bulletin would be an unprecedented coup. No wonder CBS jumped when Ellis’ teletype transmitter buzzed into action.

The real D-Day did more to end the ban on recordings than any other news event. The only plausible way to cover the invasion was by capturing audio, so embedded reporters were outfitted with innovative recording devices. Once Americans heard sound from Normandy, the networks rarely handicapped breaking news coverage for purely anticompetitive reasons.

Today, the radio era can seem as distant as Gettysburg. Seventy years is a long time, but in March of this year Richard C. Hottelet, who covered D-Day for CBS News, spoke to a class at the University of Maryland. And the CBC recently celebrated the achievements of Peter Stursberg, their outstanding war correspondent, on the occasion of his 100 th birthday.

Another valuable World War II­­­–era resource is a column by Frank Sullivan titled “Tips for Historians in 2044.” Sullivan, a writer for PM, New York City’s daily liberal newspaper, chronicled small but important details he feared would be lost over the next century. His list included the nausea and seasickness plaguing the invading troops, the courage of nurses tending dying soldiers under fire, and the solemnity of the American people when they heard the (real) invasion news. And wondering what schoolchildren would be taught, Sullivan posed a question: “Will they read about Joan Ellis, the poor teletype lass who sent out the premature report of the invasion?”


The First Into France – Meet the Elite “Pathfinders” of the Normandy Invasion

IN HIS LANDMARK book D-Day: June 6, 1944, author Stephen E. Ambrose tells the story of Sgt. Elmo Jones of the 82nd Airborne Division. Moments after leaping out of a C-47 Dakota into the darkness above Normandy, the young paratrooper found himself standing alone in enemy territory.

“Damn,” he said to himself. “I just cracked the Atlantic Wall.”

Jones was a pathfinder – one of the specially trained elite fighting men who volunteered to be among the first Allied soldiers to parachute into Occupied France. Surrounded, outnumbered and deep behind Nazi lines, Jones and his squadmates were charged with a vital task: to secure the drop zones and illuminate them for the 20,000 other Allied paratroopers that would be arriving within the hour. Nearly 300 pathfinders took part in the pre-invasion. In honour of the 70th anniversary of D-Day, we thought we’d compile some fascinating facts about these remarkable trailblazers. (NOTE: Originally published June, 6, 2014)

The pathfinders parachuted into Normandy a full hour ahead of the main airborne assault and six hours before the amphibious troops hit the beaches. Once on the ground, their mission was to seize the drop zones and use special radio sets and signal lanterns to bring Allied aircraft onto the target areas. Pathfinders typically jumped in small sections or “sticks” of about 18 paratroopers: one dozen would assemble the beacons and lights and another six to provide security. Each pathfinder group was assigned its own landing zone to capture and mark. The American drop sites were located a few miles inland from Utah Beach in the west, while the British made their jumps east of Sword Beach.

One key piece of pathfinder gear was the top-secret “Eureka” radio transponder, an ingenious bit of technology developed in Great Britain in 1943 and then later manufactured in the U.S. The satchel-sized device was designed to emit a series of electronic pulses that could be picked up and measured by Allied aircraft. Using special receivers known as “Rebeccas,” pilots in the leading drop planes could zero in on the pathfinders’ transmissions and then calculate the distance to the objective. As the aircraft closed to visual range, the ground teams helped crews pinpoint the landing zones using special hand-held Holophane lanterns.

The first American pathfinder units were established in the wake of the botched night airdrops of the 1943 Sicily campaign — a full year before the Normandy invasion. Gen. James Gavin of the 82 nd Airborne is often credited for helping to pioneer the concept. He also trained volunteers in infiltration tactics, as well as the use of flares, smoke canisters, lanterns and radio beacons. The British established their own pathfinder group, the 21 st Independent Parachute Company, as early as 1942.

American pathfinders made their first combat jump on Sept. 13, 1943 — barely a week after being formed. The unit leaped into Italy just minutes ahead of the main Allied drop over Paestum and guided elements of 82 nd Airborne’s 504 th Parachute Infantry Regiment onto the target using lanterns and transponders. Following their combat debut, the American pathfinder teams were withdrawn from action and sent to a special training camp at RAF North Witham in Lincolnshire, England to hone their skills for the upcoming invasion of France.

The pathfinders would play a key role in the airborne phase of Operation Overlord. At about 9:30 p.m. local time on June 5, 20 American C-47s carrying more than 200 of the specially trained paratroopers lifted off from an airfield in Southern Britain. Just after midnight on June 6, the aircraft were over France and the pathfinders hit the silk. Dangerously low cloud cover forced some sticks to jump from only 300 feet. According to D-Day veterans, the planes were so close to the ground that the pathfinders’ chutes had scarcely opened when they were touching down. Once on earth, the teams shed their harnesses, gathered their gear and set about preparing the drop zones for the massive airborne assault that was set to arrive within minutes.

Despite their long months of training, pathfinder operations on D-Day were a disaster. Of the 18 Dakotas that made it to Normandy, only one managed to unload its paratroopers over the target. Thick clouds, poor visibility and heavy ground fire resulted in mostly missed drops. One unlucky group descended right onto a German position and another stick landed in the English Channel.

Of those that arrived within walking distance of their objectives, many were unable to locate their radio gear in time. Others had lost their signal lanterns during the jump and had to rely on pocket flashlights. Damaged equipment hampered the efforts of still more teams. Some that did manage to get their gear working transmitted from the wrong landing zones. [1] Because of the mix ups, most of the main Allied drops on D-Day were scattered across the countryside. Yet despite these considerable setbacks, the airborne portion of Overlord succeeded in sowing confusion among the German defenders.

Pathfinders would later take part in the August 1944 invasion of Southern France, dubbed Operation Dragoon, as well as the massive yet disastrous September daylight landings in Holland — Operation Market Garden. Pathfinders from the 101 st even jumped into Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge and used their beacons and lights to facilitate supply drops aimed at relieving the besieged city. Others would take part in Operation Varsity, the last major airborne mission of the war.


Juno Beach

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Juno Beach, the second beach from the east among the five landing areas of the Normandy Invasion of World War II. It was assaulted on June 6, 1944 (D-Day of the invasion), by units of the Canadian 3rd Infantry Division, who took heavy casualties in the first wave but by the end of the day succeeded in wresting control of the area from defending German troops.

The landing area code-named Juno Beach was approximately 10 km (6 miles) wide and stretched on either side of the small fishing port of Courseulles-sur-Mer. Two smaller villages, Bernières and Saint-Aubin, lay to the east of Courseulles. Smaller coastal villages lay behind the sand dunes and had been fortified by the occupying Germans with casemates and adjacent fighting positions.

The initial hazard for the invaders at Juno, however, was not the German obstacles but natural offshore reefs or shoals. These forced the assault waves to land later on D-Day morning than desired: H-Hour (the time that the first assault wave would hit the beach) was set for 0745 hours, so that the landing craft could clear the reef on the rising tide. (It was later discovered that some of the “shoals” were actually seaweed.) Elements of the German 716th Infantry Division, particularly the 736th Regiment, were responsible for defense of the area, and the seafront houses offered them excellent observation and firing positions.

Juno Beach was part of the invasion area assigned to the British Second Army, under Lieutenant General Miles Dempsey. The beach was divided by the Allied command into two designated assault sectors: Nan (comprising Red, White, and Green sections) to the east and Mike (made up of Red and White sections) to the west. It was to be assaulted by the Canadian 3rd Infantry Division, the 7th Brigade landing at Courseulles in Mike sector and the 8th Brigade landing at Bernières in Nan sector. The objectives of the 3rd Division on D-Day were to cut the Caen-Bayeux road, seize the Carpiquet airport west of Caen, and form a link between the two British beaches of Gold and Sword on either side of Juno Beach.

The first assault wave landed at 0755 hours, 10 minutes past H-Hour and fully three hours after the optimum rising tide. This delay presented the invading Canadians with a difficult situation. The beach obstacles were already partially submerged, and the engineers were unable to clear paths to the beach. The landing craft were therefore forced to feel their way in, and the mines took a heavy toll. Roughly 30 percent of the landing craft at Juno were destroyed or damaged.

As the troops waded ashore, there was little fire at first—mainly because the German gun positions did not aim out to sea but were set to enfilade the coastline. As the Canadian soldiers worked their way through the obstacles and came into the enfilading killing zones, the first wave took dreadful casualties. Company B of the Royal Winnipeg Rifles was cut down to one officer and 25 men as it moved to reach the seawall. In the assault teams, the chance of becoming a casualty in that first hour was almost 1 in 2. By mid-morning, hard fighting had brought the town of Bernières into Canadian hands, and later Saint-Aubin was occupied. Progress inland past the towns was good, and, as some armoured units arrived in later waves, they briefly interdicted the Caen-Bayeux road. One Troop of the 1st Hussar tank regiment was thus the only unit of the entire Allied invasion to reach its final objective on D-Day.

By evening the 3rd Division had linked up with the British 50th Division from Gold Beach to the west, but to the east the Canadians were unable to make contact with the British 3rd Division from Sword Beach—leaving a gap of 3 km (2 miles) into which elements of the German 21st Panzer Division counterattacked. The Canadians suffered 1,200 casualties out of 21,400 troops who landed at Juno that day—a casualty ratio of 1 out of 18.


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