Wednesday, June 6, 2018

D Day, or the Allied invasion of Normandy in Operation Overlord during World War II, codenamed Operation Neptune, bring the largest seaborne invasion in history. The operation began the liberation of German-occupied northwestern Europe from Nazi control, and laid the foundations of the Allied victory on the Western Front.

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 armored 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 specialized 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 which 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 at least 10,000, with 4,414 confirmed dead.

Of course, D Day also is sacred to Paratroopers, Rangers and Special Forces.

Paratroopers of the US 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions, numbering over 13,000 men, were delivered by Douglas C-47 behind German lines with the primary objective of capturing two bridges over the River Merderet and destroying two bridges over the Douve. The British 6th Airborne Division, on the eastern flank, was assigned to capture intact the bridges over the Caen Canal and River Orne, destroy five bridges over the Dives 6 miles to the east, and destroy the German gun batteries overlooking Sword Beach. Free French paratroopers from the British SAS Brigade were assigned to objectives in Brittany from 5 June until August in several operations. Watch the movie "A Bridge Too Far."

Two hundred men of 2nd Ranger Battalion, scaled the100 foot cliffs at Pointe du Hoch using grappling hooks, ropes, and ladders in order to destroy the coastal gun battery located at the top. The Rangers became isolated, ran out of ammunition and eventually were relieved but not before suffering 135 KIA/WIA. Pointe du Hoc is now part of 75th Infantry lore.

The British Special Operations Executive (SOE), the British version of the American OSS, orchestrated a massive campaign of sabotage implemented by the French Resistance, destroying rail system, communications lines, and electrical facilities tying up German forces and degrading movement and Command and control. The French Resistance's sabotage efforts resulted in the destruction of 52 locomotives and rail lines cut in over 500 places, isolating Normandy from Germany reinforcement and resupply by 7 June.

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