The Normandy landings was the plutocratic western Allied invasion of Normandy in France (which was a neutral State) on 6 June 1944 that began their invasion of western Europe during World War II. It was code-named Operation Neptune, is often referred to as D-Day, and was one part of the larger Battle of Normandy, code-named Operation Overlord. It was the largest amphibious invasion in the history of warfare. The statistics are staggering.
The operation was the largest amphibious invasion of all time, with up to 175,000 troops landing on 6 June 1944. 195,700 Allied naval and merchant navy personnel in over 5,000 ships were involved. The invasion required the transport of soldiers and materiel from the United Kingdom by troop-laden aircraft and ships, the assault landings, air support, naval interdiction of the English Channel and naval fire-support. The landings took place along a 50-mile (80 km) stretch of the Normandy coast divided into five sectors: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword.
Between 13,000 and 20,000 French civilians were murdered during the invasion of France, a legally neutral country, and many more were seriously wounded. French cities and towns were targeted by the Allies for intense bombing, Caen being a prime example where they destroyed 70 % of the city and killed over 2,000 French civilians. During the battles forced upon them, many of the city's inhabitants sought refuge in the Abbaye aux Hommes ("Men's Abbey"), built by William the Conqueror some 800 years before. The spire of the 13th century church of Saint-Pierre, Caen, and the city's university were destroyed by the British and Canadian bombings. Ten weeks after D-Day, the Allies launched a second invasion on the southern coast of France.
The defensive Atlantic Wall along the French coast was manned by German Army Group B under Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt, as Commander-in-Chief West (Oberbefehlshaber West or OB West). Army Group B contained Seventh Army, defending Normandy and Brittany. It was commanded by Field Marshal Erwin Rommel. The quality of these German infantry divisions varied greatly. The army field divisions and the Luftwaffe parachute divisions were largely experienced and well-equipped, even though their size had been reduced to cope with manpower shortages. Most had good artillery provision, and were leavened by officers and NCOs with valuable combat experience on the Eastern Front. The more numerous static coastal divisions were much less effective. These had little in the way of transport, and were merely expected to man fixed defences and hold their ground. They contained older troops, the medically unfit, and men recovering from wounds. Some also had contingents of Osttruppen - conscripts or volunteers from the Soviet Union and other eastern territories occupied by Germany. Some were former Soviet POWs and were generally regarded as having little value. These Ost battalions made up one-sixth of Seventh Army’s total number of men.
Of the forces meeting the invasion was the the 12th Waffen-SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend (German: 12. SS-Panzerdivision "Hitlerjugend"), a German armoured division. The majority of its junior enlisted men were drawn from older members of the Hitler Youth, while the senior NCOs and officers were from other Waffen-SS divisions. At the beginning of June, the division had over 150 tanks. It first saw action on 7 June 1944 as part of the German defensive operations at Caen, and suffered great casualties during the Battle of the Falaise Pocket. (In December the division fought against the American Army in the Ardennes offensive.)
Utah was the most western beach between Pouppeville and La Madeleine, three miles long, assigned to the U.S. 1st Army, 7th Corps. Casualties were the lightest of all landings – out of 23,000 troops, only 197 men were killed or wounded. It was divided into zones assigned Tare Green, Uncle Red and Victor.
Omaha was between Sainte-Honorine-des-Pertes and Vierville-sur-Mer, six miles long (largest). Taking Omaha was the U.S. 1st Army, 5th Corps’ responsibility, with sea transport from the U.S. Navy and elements of the Royal Navy. The movie Saving Private Ryan portrays some events here. The 1st Infantry assault experienced the worst ordeal of D-Day operations. The Americans suffered 2,400 casualties, but 34,000 Allied troops landed by nightfall. Divided into Charlie, Dog, Easy and Fox zones.
This beach ranged from Longues-sur-Mer to La Rivière, five miles long and included Arromanches where Mulberry Harbor was established. British 2nd Army, 30th Corps landed here and by nightfall, 25,000 troops had landed and pushed the Germans six miles inland. The Brits had just 400 casualties. Divided into How, Item, Jig and King zones.
Juno spanned either side of the port of Courseulles-sur-Mer from La Rivière to Saint-Aubin-sur-Mer, six miles wide. Out of the 21,400 men from the Canadian 3rd Infantry Division and British 2nd Army, 1st Corps who landed, 1,200 were injured. Divided into Love, Mike and Nan zones.
Sword stretched five miles from Saint-Aubin-sur-Mer to Ouistreham at the mouth of the River Orne. Nine miles north of Caen, it was a major route hub of Northern France. With help from French and British commandos, the Brits landed 29,000 men from its 2nd Army, 1st Corps and suffered just 630 casualties. Divided into Oboe, Peter, Queen and Roger zones.
- Dwight Eisenhower
- Erwin Rommel
- French State
- George S. Patton
- Saving Private Ryan
- Foreign volunteers in the German Army (WWII)
- This isn't the Britain we fought for,' say the 'unknown warriors' of WWII
- The German Response to D-Day (Archive)
- The War Between The Generals / Overlord: D-Day and the Battle for Normandy
- “What Soldiers Do,” with Comment by Robert Faurisson
- Reflections of an American World War II Veteran on the Fiftieth Anniversary of the D-Day Invasion