D-Day was one of the most significant days in World History. June 6th 1944 saw one of the most carefully planned and executed acts of Allied cooperation ever experienced. It marked a huge step forward in bringing the conflict of World War II to an end, and it saw significant cooperation and planning between the Allied Forces.
The numbers are huge. More than 5,000 Allied troops landed on the Normandy beaches on 6th June 1944. By the time that the invasion had finished it is estimated that 875,000 troops had landed on the shores of Northern France. It marked a significant turning point in World War II and paved the way to the end of the conflict. The action was not without significant sacrifice. It is confirmed that 4414 men of the combined Allied forces lost their lives on D-Day.
D-Day was a true example of the Allies joining forces in the common aim of ending World War II. The Allied forces consisted of troops from Britain, the United States, Canada, Australia, France, Greece, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Norway, the Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand and Poland.
There were 5 beaches involved in the Normandy landings and they were all given code names. The American beaches were Omaha and Utah, the others were Gold Beach, Sword and Juno.
Plans for the Normandy landings began in 1943. It required large scale planning of meticulous detail. The weather conditions on June 6th were not idea, but it was decided that it had to go ahead on that day. The weather, tide and the full moon had to be aligned for the attack to have the maximum chance of success.
The first stage of the attack was the air bombardment which began just after midnight. By this stage of the War, the German air force was heavily depleted. The British and the Americans deployed 2,200 aircraft whilst the Germans only had 570 aircraft in Normandy, and only an additional 964 in the rest of Germany. Weather conditions were bad, and bombers were afraid of hitting their own troops, so the air deployment was not as successful as it had been hoped.
The next stage was the minesweepers. The Germans had been anticipating an attack and had heavily fortified the coastal areas, particularly around Northern France. The minesweepers mission was successful and they were able to finish at sunrise without encountering German opposition.
The American beaches of Omaha and Utah were the first to be attacked at 6.30 am. Ahead of this the naval bombardment stated at 5.45, when it was still dark.
The amphibious craft were extremely vulnerable to attack, and as soon as the troops stepped on the beach the dangers multiplied.
The Utah Beach landings were the first to be ordered, and they were a great success. 21,000 troops landed with 197 casualties. This was partly as the weather had made them drift off target – that was unexpected, but fortuitous.
At Point du Hoc 135 men of the Allied forces were killed, Gold Beach 1,000, Juno Beach 961, Sword Beach more than 1,000 were lost.
Omaha Beach was a different story. Strong winds forced the craft off target, and many of the troops had to wade through the water to reach the land. There were 2,000 causalities on this very heavily defended beach. Around 600 mean were able to reach the higher ground.
D-Day was a hugely significant turning point in the battle for the Allies to bring about the end of World War II. The meticulous planning and execution of the mission was the beginning of the end of the War in Europe.