Posted on Jun 6, 2018
LTC Stephen F.
Operation Overlord was the operation to bring the WWII War to the European mainland on western Europe by breaking through the multiple defense lines and capabilities prepared by Field Marshal Erwin Rommel known as the Atlantic Wall.

Operation Overlord and supporting operations 6 Jun 1944 - 24 Jul 1944 from WWII DB
With Germans fortified along the entire French coast, Hitler's highly boasted "Fortress Europe" seemed to be difficult to crack. While they fought side-by-side as comrades, the United Kingdom and the United States offered polar opposite views toward plans for Europe. While the British favored jabbing at the far reaches of the Axis Empire such as North Africa and Italy while bombing Germany into submission, the bolder Americans argued for a direct assault on Western Europe. In the earlier stages of the war the Americans settled with the British, landing in North Africa in Nov 1942 and Sicily in Jul 1943. In Nov 1943, Franklin Roosevelt, Joseph Stalin, and Winston Churchill met at Tehran, Iran; Stalin requested a landing in France to open up a second front against Germany, and Churchill reluctantly agreed.
Site Selection and Invasion Planning
The Allied planners had long been studying the possible landing points on the French coast. By May 1943, four potential landing sites were being considered: Normandy in the Bay of the Seine between Cotentin Peninsula and the estuary of the River Orne, Pas-de-Calais, eastern and western coasts of the Contentin Peninsula, and the northern coast of Brittany. Brittany was ruled out rather quickly despite it possessing several excellent ports due to the distance the transports would have to travel and the potential ease for German forces to seal Allied forces on the Brittany peninsula. Pas-de-Calais was the closest point between the United Kingdom and France, thus it was an obvious choice evident with the strong German defenses in that region; the idea was abandoned as well (though a deceptive campaign continued to force the Germans to maintain a strong presence there). It was decided that Normandy would be the site of the invasion, and the western-most landing force would secure the Cotentin Peninsula. The original plans called for the landing of three divisions onto the beaches on the first wave, then two more divisions in the second wave to drive into the city of Caen; the second wave would be supported by paratroopers and glider troopers dropped in hours before the invasion. Later, the final first wave landing party grew to five divisions, two American, two British, and one Canadian. A carefully coordinated aerial and naval bombardment was also called for, while warships would bombard both known troop concentrations behind the beaches and beach defenses. Other aerial forces would also be employed to disrupt German lines of communications and transportation behind the beaches and to disable German air capabilities.
While preparing the landing, the planners also called for facilities to aid the subsequent logistical operations, code named "Gooseberries" and "Mulberries", which would be critical before a port city, such as Cherbourg, could be secured. Gooseberry was to consist of a line of sunken ships, placed stern to stern, to allow smaller ships to sail within the Gooseberry lines safely. Mulberry was preconstructed harbor modules towed in from Britain to Normandy. The design and deployment of such harbors were absolute engineering marvels.
While the planners were busy in the war rooms, soldiers prepared for the invasion as well. Thousands of American troops were placed into the Assault Training Center at Woolacombe, while American airborne troops trained at Camp Toccoa in Georgia, United States. On the British side, General Percy Hobart's "Funnies" tanks were studied closely to determine what types would be best to support a beach landing party (these tanks would make the British and Canadian landings just a bit easier at Sword, Gold, and Juno beaches). Four major practice landings were conducted by the troops at Slapton Sands on the Devon coast to familiarize the troops with the feel of rushing out of a Higgins landing craft. One of such practice landings would be attacked by lurking German E-boats, which would sink two LSTs and damage a third, resulting in the death of 639 American soldiers.
Commanders and Troops
American President Roosevelt favored General Dwight Eisenhower as the commander of Operation Overlord, who eventually got the job much to British Field Marshall Alan Brooke's disappointment; American General George Marshall was said to have wanted the position as well, but Marshall and Eisenhower both insisted that Marshall was happy to see Eisenhower's appointment. Many Allied leaders were worried that Eisenhower did not possess as much tactical battlefield experience as other front runners for the job, but his political capabilities made him a far more attractive candidate to lead a force consisted of many Allied nations. With an American in the role of the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces, British commanders were chosen to lead the air, sea, and land forces. Air Chief Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh Mallory was made Allied Expeditionary Air Force Commander, Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay was made the Allied naval commander, and General Sir Bernard Montgomery was named the commander of the 21st Army Group consisted of British, Canadian, and American troops.
While the Normandy operation was decidedly Anglo-American, Eisenhower felt gathering French support was important. Roosevelt, however, opposed the notion of giving French General Charles de Gaulle any kind of recognition as a French leader, for that he seized that title for himself without any democratic process among the French people. Nevertheless, Eisenhower approached him. De Gaulle, however, felt ridiculed that he was asked to support a landing operation led by an American. He refused to publicly announce his support for Overlord, and would not comply with any Allied request for his support.
Besides de Gaulle, another wartime leader gave Eisenhower headaches. Prime Minister Churchill, a veteran of WW1, requested to accompany the landing operations; the request was naturally denied immediately by Eisenhower. Churchill responded with his intent to overrule Eisenhower. "Since this is true it is not part of your responsibility, my dear General, to determine the exact composition of any ship's company in His Majesty's Fleet", he said to Eisenhower, "by shipping myself as a bona fide member of a ship's complement it would be beyond your authority to prevent my going." Eisenhower expressed that this would unnecessarily add to his personal burden, but the Prime Minister refused to budge. When King George VI heard of it, he cleverly noted that if Churchill felt compelled to accompany the landing force, then he, as the King of the United Kingdom, should share equal duty and privilege of leading the British and Commonwealth troops as well. After the King's comments were made known to Churchill, he withdrew his request to personally lead the landing forces.
With the exception of the US 1st Division, most American troops involved in the invasion were conscripts with little or no experience, but the lack of experience was to be made up by the high levels of mobility in American infantry doctrine. The British troops had more experience fighting in, for example, North Africa. British command structure was both a blessing and a curse: decisions were often made at the battalion level or below, therefore cooperation between units, even those in the same division, left something to be desired. The independent nature of command, however, gave low level junior officers in the field the ability to call in artillery to aid with taking down German defensive positions without having to wade through the divisional bureaucracy.
On the German side, Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt was the commander-in-chief of the West. Under him, Field Marshal Hugo Sperrle headed the air forces of Luftflotte 3 (including III Flak Corps and paratroopers) and Admiral Theodor Krancke commanded the Navy Group West, though Allied air superiority made air and naval forces insignificant in terms of defending against the coming invasion. Rundstedt's ground forces were led by local generals or local military governors, and beach defenses were largely built by men of the Organization Todt, which was a para-military group that answered to armament minister Albert Speer. A significant percentage of Rundstedt's troops in the region were either older (average age around mid-30s) or captured Soviet troops (with little loyalty for Germany). Furthermore, some of the troops had to take on construction duties for fortifications as Organization Todt could not handle the workload alone, which deprived valuable training time. In Oct 1943, Rundstedt sent a special report to Adolf Hitler as an attempt to raise alarm, and as a direct result, Field Marshall Erwin Rommel was assigned to France on 3 Nov 1943 to lead the Army Group for Special Employment, which later became Army Group B. Instead of placing Rommel's forces under Rundstedt, however, the new army group remained directly under Berlin's control, which resulted in some redundancy of responsibility between Rommel and Rundstedt. In Mar 1944, Rommel requested total command of all German forces in the region under him, but Hitler refused, instead only granting him control of three armored divisions while retaining the control the other three armored division in the area to the German High Command in Berlin.
The German ground forces in the Normandy and Cotentin Peninsula region belonged to Colonel General Friedrich Dollman's 7th Army. The Normandy sector, in particular, fell under the control of General (der Artillerie) Erich Marcks. On paper the Germans fielded a large number of divisions in France, but the combination of the lack of mobility and the poor quality of certain units made the actual strength lower than appeared. Paratrooper Lieutenant Colonel Friedrich von der Heydte once commented after an inspection that the troops for a defense against an Allied landing were not comparable to those committed in Russia. Their morale was low; the majority of the enlisted men and noncommissioned officers lacked combat experience; and the officers were in the main those who, because of lack of qualification or on account of wounds or illness were no longer fit for service on the Eastern Front.

The Start of the Invasion

Due to bad weather, the original invasion date of 5 Jun was passed on by Eisenhower. He worried that if weather did not clear up in the next several days, the invasion would be delayed until 18 June when the right tide condition was to be seen again. However, reports indicated that the weather would be relatively good on Tuesday, 6 Jun 1944. Eisenhower gave the order to launch the operation with a simple "Okay, let's go" after spending 45 minutes to with his senior staff.

Naturally, the Germans took notice of the weather, too. Seeing the weather turning bad, they thought that even heavy aerial bombardments were unlikely, and a chance of invasion slim to none, thus a significant number of officers were sent to Rennes in Brittany for a map exercise. Rommel, too, was absent from the region; thinking that the Allies would not make any moves during such foul weather, he departed for Germany to see Hitler once more to make another argument for more men and resources; it was also his wife's birthday, and Rommel looked forward to time with her.

As the Allied transports sailed from ports across southern England, 822 C-47 transport aircraft carried over 13,000 paratroopers across the English Channel. These spearheads would secure key crossroads behind enemy lines and silence artillery guns. The use of airborne troops was a big unknown to Eisenhower, who feared the projected high casualty rates among the airborne would not be worth the potential successes. He feared that he "would carry to [his] grave the unbearable burden of a conscience justly accusing [him] of the stupid, blind sacrifice of thousands of flower of our youth", he noted in his memoirs. He finally gave the go-ahead for the airborne operation when he realized that without the operations behind enemy lines, the Utah and Omaha beach landings might be jeopardized.

Operation Neptune
6-30 Jun 1944

The naval side of the matter, including both transporting the amphibious forces and warship escorts, fell under the jurisdiction of Ramsay of the British Royal Navy. The Allies assembled a fleet of 1,213 various ships under Ramsay's command, including 4,000 landing craft. The eastern elements of the naval forces were assigned under the command of British Rear Admiral Sir Philip Vian, while the Western Task Force was under the American Rear Admiral Alan Kirk. Before the armada was a fleet of 287 minesweepers, which began clearing paths across the English Channel at 0030 hours on 6 Jun.

Operation Neptune's contribution after the landing operations was equally as important. In post-war interviews, Rundstedt spoke of the difficulties of moving men and supplies to the front because of the constant danger from naval bombardment. American infantry officer Lieutenant Charles Scheffel who arrived in Normandy three days after the initial landing witnessed some of the bombardment that frustrated Rundstedt.

At day break, we looked directly south [from a transport ship] at a coastline that curved around us to the eastern horizon. Ships were everywhere. Through my field glasses I watched a battleship firing toward shore. Its huge guns belched flames and reddish smoke that rushed downwind.
ww2dbaseCloser to us, some destroyers and cruisers poured smaller shells inland. I could see no flashes of explosions on the beaches, but a deep rumbling came from wherever the shells were landing.
ww2dbaseWhen Operation Neptune officially ended by the end of Jun 1944, the ships, mostly British, ferried a massive amount of supplies onto continental Europe: 850,279 men, 148,803 vehicles, and 570,505 tons of various supplies.

Utah Beach
6 Jun 1944

The German defenses in what the Allies designated Utah Beach were placed under Lieutenant General Karl Wilhelm von Schlieben, who held the position of the commander of the 709th Infantry Division since Dec 1943. Immediately to the west on the Cotentin Peninsula, the 243rd Infantry Division under Lieutenant General Heinz Hellmich and the newly arrived 91st Luftlande Division under Lieutenant General Wilhelm Falley were in relative proximity. Two of the three commanding officers, however, were at the war games at Rennes on the day of the Allied invasion, thus creating a vulnerability. Furthermore, German troops in this area were not of the highest caliber; over 2,000 German soldiers in this area were foreign troops (333 Georgian volunteers and 1,784 Soviet prisoners of war), who were expected to be less-than-effective under pressure, while the average age of German troops was 36 (ie., those not deemed fit for service on the demanding Eastern Front). Finally, German heavy equipment such as artillery pieces and anti-tank guns tend to be obsolete models or captured Czech, French, and Russian weapons of varied effectiveness. Despite all the disadvantages listed, however, the Germans had one thing on their side: many of the officers and non-commissioned officers were battle-hardened veterans from the Eastern Front, and their leadership would later prove worthy.

At Cherbourg, German Admiral Theodor Krancke had 16 S-boats in two torpedo flotillas, but Allied control of air and rough seas due to the storm made his force rather useless.

The first troops to invade Utah Beach actually arrived three days before D-Day. In the early hours of 3 Jun 1944, six mixed British-American teams were sent by the Office of Strategic Services to France. Their tasks were to mark airborne drop zones for the arriving airborne troops of the US 82nd Airborne Division under Major General Matthew Ridgway and the US 101st Airborne Division under Major General Maxwell Taylor, who arrived via 821 C-47 and C-54 transport aircraft in the night of 5 Jun. The pathfinder teams arrived first, with the tasks of dropping the first airborne troops into Normandy, who then would also mark drop zones for the remaining paratrooper transports. Due to unexpected clouds, many of the pathfinders were dropped away from the intended areas. When the main wave arrived, the dropping was further disrupted by heavy anti-aircraft fire; with the transports weaving to avoid being hit, it made a concentrated drop impossible. Many of the paratroopers were scattered, and with the tall hedgerows, some units were not able to gather until the beachhead had already been secured; by estimation, only about 10% of the paratroopers landed in the planned drop zones, and only 25% within a mile of the planned drop zones. Those who were able to gather, however, played their part well. Taking advantage of the surprise, units such as that led by Staff Sergeant Harrison Summers, for example, were able to very quickly kill or capture 150 German troops before the Germans figured out how to react. Ultimately, however, the paratroopers were not able to achieve their main objectives due to the inability to gather a strong force after landing.

German forces, not on high alert due to the bad weather and were without their divisional commanders, were first warned of a potential Allied operation around 2300-2400 hours on 5 Jun when aircraft warning stations at Cherbourg picked up the Allied transports. Paradrops were reported by 1030 hours on 6 Jun, and by 0300 towns such as Ste-Mère-Église were reporting enemy attacks. General Falley, the only divisional commander in the area, attempted to reach his headquarters, but his vehicle ran into paratroopers, and he was killed in the ensuing firefight near Picauville. Now truly without any top level officers, the German troops lost valuable time to react to the Allied attack. Although several counterattacks were made at various locations, the Allied airborne troops were largely able to achieve what they were sent to do.

From the sea, Major General Raymond Barton's US 4th Infantry Division arrived with armored support from the US 70th Tank Battalion, veterans of North Africa and Sicily. The first combat action at the beach began at 0505 hours when German coastal batteries fired on Allied ships as they were sighted on the horizon; most of these batteries remain active until later that afternoon. Allied naval bombardment began at 0550, aided by aerial bombardment by IX Bomber Command. Unlike the aerial bombardment at Omaha Beach, that at Utah Beach was much more effective, hitting costal batteries, bunkers, and other defenses. Actual German casualties inflicted by the naval and aerial bombardments were low, but the defending troops were stunned by the display of firepower. The landing troops quickly made a temporary beachhead, and soon after they were met with 28 (out of 32) duplex-drive tanks, which led them to breach the seawall. The landers actually were delivered to the wrong beach, which was to south of where the planned invasion site was located, but luckily this section of the beach had weaker defenses which made the landing easier. The second wave of 32 LCVP landing craft followed, which contained demolition parties to clear beach obstacles. The third wave that followed 15 minutes after the initial landing arrived with additional M4 Sherman tanks, dozer tanks, and other heavy equipment. The first senior level officer on the beach was General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., son of the former president of the United States and fifth cousin of the current president. He went ashore with the first wave of landing troops, personally overseeing landing operations and contributed to adjusting the invasion plans to suit the new landing site. He later earned a Medal of Honor for his gallantry.

American troops reached Turqueville, north of the beach, by the evening without meeting serious resistance, while another regiment moved west and eliminated a platoon of German 75-millimeter anti-tank gun troops. A defensive perimeter was formed westward from St-Germain-de-Varreville toward Ste-Mère-Église while troops made contact with the airborne troops, whose rank continued to grow as gliders brought in more men and heavy weapons through out the day; the first glider wave alone consisted of 54 Horsa and 22 CG-4A gliders that delivered 437 men, 64 vehicles, 13 57-millimeter anti-tank guns, and 24 tons of various supplies. By midnight, Utah Beach was considered secure. The US 4th Infantry Division had achieved its primary objectives at a cost of only 197 casualties, which was much lighter when compared to the much higher 2,000 casualties at the neighboring and much more heavily defended Omaha Beach.

On 7 Jun, German forces in the immediate Utah Beach area were largely contained in pockets such as the one south of Ste-Mère-Église. Part of the German troops there were the 795th Georgian Battalion, which were easily convinced to surrender. The Germans there, however, put up a stronger defense, holding a ridge that covered the access road to Ste-Mère-Église while two battalions fought their way into the town, supported by StuG III assault guns. The German threat there was not eliminated in the Ste-Mère-Église area until the end of 7 Jun when the Germans withdrawn. Meanwhile, two regiments of the US 4th Infantry Division moved north up the Cotentin Peninsula and met German resistance at coastal gun positions near Azeville and Crisbecq. With naval gunfire support, the troops slowly moved along the coast up the Cotentin Peninsula.

Omaha Beach
6 Jun 1944

At 0100 hours on 6 Jun 1944, German LXXXIV Corps were alerted to the airborne attacks. These paratroopers were not meant to be dropped behind Omaha Beach, the four-mile stretch of sand between Pointe du Hoc and the town of Ste-Honorine-des-Petres; rather, they were dropped there due to the confusion of the night, further disrupted by intense German anti-aircraft fire. At 0300 hours, the Allied Task Force O arrived 25,000 yards off of Omaha Beach. Shortly after that, at about 0310, General Marcks ordered the corps reserve, Kampfgruppe Meyer, to start marching toward Montmartin-Deville to counter the paratropers; in retrospect this was a bad maneuver as later in the day these troops would be much needed in the east, the opposite direction. Some time around 0320 to 0340 hours, several German artillery positions behind the beaches came under attack by American paratroopers. At 0330 hours, Allied invasion troops were readied aboard their ships, and at 0415 they were loaded onto their landing craft. It was not until 0502 that German command received reports of Allied naval activity off Omaha Beach, and by 0520 visual contacts were made by German scouting looking over the horizon. At 0545, the naval bombardment from large warships began, lasting until 0625; some surprised German troops, clueless, reported them as aerial bombardments. Shortly after, the large warships switched their guns to target beach fortifications. At 0610, smaller ships such as LCG(L) craft added their firepower to the bombardment. A few moments before the landing craft dashed for the beaches, nine LCT(R) craft fired 9,000 rockets at German defensive positions, making a wonderful spectacle but ultimately useless as nearly all of them missed their intended targets.

By this stage, aside from the waste of 9,000 rockets, things seemed to be going well for the Allies. Part of it was due to luck. Noticing the foul weather, Colonel General Dollman lowered the alert status of the defenses of what Allies would call Omaha Beach, thinking that nothing would happen in the stormy weather. This lucky break allowed the airborne attack to be done in greater surprise, as well as some safe passage as the landing craft approached the beaches. However, the Allies made several great mistakes during the preparations, which would soon haunt them. One of the failures was that the Allied intelligence failed to detect the presence of German 352nd Division, thus grossly underestimating the defensive strength.

The first wave of landers consisted of 1,450 men in eight infantry companies. They reached the beach at 0631 hours. As soon as the ramps dropped, the landing craft were under intense machine gun and rifle fire. This gave light to the second mistake the Allies committed for the Omaha Beach operations. American did not think highly of British General Hobart's "funnies", which were modified tanks used for some of the other beaches on this day to provide additional cover, which were now realized as badly needed. The American did deploy tanks, in the form of duplex-drive tanks (DD tanks), but most of them were released too far out to sea that most of them sank in the choppy waters; only 5 out of the 32 DD tanks made it to land. The American soldiers on the beach could only find refuge behind German beach obstructions such as concrete cones and welded steel rails; they were promised craters made by aerial bombs immediately before the landing, but the bomber crews, fearful that they would hit friendly ships, delayed the bomb release by 30 seconds, so their bombs fell far inland (hitting American paratroopers in few instances), leaving the beach crater-less and coverless.

What resulted was a bloody scene central to so many Hollywood movies such as Saving Private Ryan. Troops waded in water while machine guns, rifles, mortars, and artillery shells from further inland cut them down. Several landing craft were unlucky enough to be hit directly by mortar fire, exploding and in some cases killing all men aboard. A few units lost all of their officers and non-commissioned officers, leaving the men confused and scared behind the beach obstructions; the 1/116 Infantry, for example, lost three of its four company commanders and 16 junior officers before most of the men even reached land. As the first wave of landing troops bogged down on the beach, the second landing wave which arrived shortly after 0700 hours found itself stuck in a great traffic jam, vulnerable to enemy fire. By this time, the ocean tide turned, and the rising water drowned many wounded men who were unable to move themselves inland. At one point, General Omar Bradley was so distressed that he considered withdrawing the Omaha landers, and instead moving his forces to Utah Beach. US Navy destroyer McCook's captain Lieutenant Commander Ralph Ramey, seeing the dangerous situation, ordered his ship against battle plans to sail closer to shore and bombard enemy defenses. As other destroyers followed suit, the naval fire was able to alleviate the pressure for landing troops. The destroyers' 5-inch guns destroyed several German gun emplacements and allowed the landing troops to advance.

At 0720 hours, the Americans made significant progress as a platoon-sized group of men breached German defenses while a M4A1 Sherman tank of the 741st Tank Battalion knocked out a 88-mm gun casemate that had been so deadly thus far. At about 0745, another M4A1 Sherman tank knocked out another casemate. A few American officers made their courage known during this time, such as Colonel George Taylor, who ran up and down the beach rallying the men, leaving the legacy of quotes such as "[t]wo kinds of people are staying on the beach, the dead and those who are going to die - now let's get the hell out of here!" At 0750, Kampfgruppe Meyer was ordered to reverse their march, but they were already so far west that they would not reach Omaha sector until the afternoon; had they been kept in place, they would have reached Omaha sector as early as 0930 hours. As more Americans landed and more German fortifications destroyed or disabled, the German defensive line was clearly faltering. German positions began falling at a rapid rate starting at 0900, with a great number of positions captured between 0930 and 1000 hours. With imperfect information that German defenses were still holding, plus the situation at Gold Beach was considered more dire, the local officer in command Lieutenant General Dietrich Kraiss of the 352nd Infantry Division decided to move his reserves toward that direction, thus sealing Omaha sector's doom.

Meanwhile, three companies of the US 2nd Rangers under Lieutenant Colonel James Rudder landed at Pointe-du-Hoc, a rocky promontory, in an area of Omaha Beach that was far from the main combat action. A navigational error caused a 40 minute delay in the landing schedule and exposed the landing craft to unnecessary fire (two landing craft were sunk as they tried to return to the correct path), but shell fire from battleship USS Texas and destroyer Satterlee provided some cover fire for the Rangers. Within 5 minutes of their landing, they began scaling the cliffs with rocket-propelled grappling hooks, reaching the top very quickly. Their mission was to capture the large coastal guns deployed at the promontory, but to their disappointment, when they reached the top and captured the positions, they found either empty casemates or casemates with dummy guns made of timber. They continued to move southward, reaching the highway at about 0800 hours, and stumbled upon some of the guns they were originally sent out to destroy in an apple orchard 600 yards south of Pointe-du-Hoc in Criqueville-en-Bessin. The Rangers destroyed them with thermite grenades, possibly saving many of their comrades' lives on Utah Beach, as the guns were trained in that direction, with ammunition ready near the guns. The Rangers were isolated in the Pointe-du-Hoc area for most of the day, holding back German attempts to drive them back into the sea but at the cost of many casualties.

By the afternoon, American troops were reaching the villages behind the beaches. American control of the air played a critical role at this stage, as German reinforcements were harassed constantly. The 12 75-mm Marder III tank destroyers that Kraiss sent forth, for example, were detected from the onset, and the observation aircraft gave their coordinates for the naval guns to rain destruction on the German vehicles, destroying or disabling most of them before they reached American lines. At 2230 that night, more than 30,000 American troops had reached the beach. Omaha Beach was declared secure after the United States lost more than 2,000 men.

Gold Beach
6 Jun 1944

Gold Beach was situated in the center of the Allied attack on Normandy. The UK 50th Division, veteran of Gazala and El Alamein battles in North Africa in 1942, was placed in charge of the assault; the division was commanded by Major General Douglas Graham, a veteran of the Italian campaign in 1943. Defending Gold Beach was part of Major General Wilhelm Richter's German 716th Infantry Division, supported by units made up of Eastern Europeans. Behind Gold, Juno, and Sword Beaches was the city of Caen, which was a major objective for all three beaches.

At 0535 on 6 Jun, HMS Bulolo with naval operations commanding officer Commodore Douglas-Pennant dropped anchor 7 miles off of the beach, thus marking the start of the operation. Undetected, the Gold beach invasion achieved surprise, and the troops were able to board their landing craft without disruptions. As the sun rose, Allied aircraft and warships bombarded the coastline. Duplex-drive Sherman tanks aboard tank landing craft spearheaded the actual landing, followed by those carrying infantry. At 0730, the landing began as DD Sherman tanks were launched 5,000 yards from the beach. Shortly after, the landing operation became rather disorganized as the landing craft arrived all about the same time instead of being staggered, and they threatened to run in to each other as they maneuvered to avoid German fire and naval mines. Despite the spectacular aerial and naval bombardment, much of the German defenses were still in tact.

At the Jig Green sector of the beach, the British 231st Brigade waded ashore into a field of machine gun fire coming from the village of Le Hamel. Lacking armor protection as many of its tanks were slowed or turned back due to rough seas, the brigade became pinned down between the sea and a minefield. The most formidable obstacle in front of them was a concrete fortification housing a number of machine gun and mortar nests and a concrete casement with a 75-millimeter gun, which had already knocked out several tanks and landing craft by this time. Major Warren of the 1st Hampshires concluded that it was impossible to attack the fortification head-on, and he began the lead his men around it in search for a possible attack from the rear. Meanwhile, the Dorsets landed to the left of the 1st Hampshires; the Dorsets bypassed Le Hamel in favor of attacking German positions at Buhot and Puits d'Hérode. At 0815, the 2nd Devons landed under fire similar to those who landed before them; one company of the 2nd Devons joined the 1st Hampshires in attempt to take out the 75-millimeter gun, while the others moved toward the village of Ryes 2 miles inland. The 47 Royal Marine Commando landed next. After landing, the commandos moved toward the harbor of Port-en-Bessin in attempt to link up with the Americans landing at Omaha Beach; taking a wide detour around Le Hamel and running into several German strongpoints, it took them until the evening to reach Port-en-Bessin, losing many men en route.

At King Red sector, the UK 69th Brigade landed at 0730 hours, under fire from a concrete casemate-protected 88-millimeter gun. In this sector, the 5th East Yorks faced the toughest defensive fire, pinned down along the seawall for what it seemed to them like eternity until an AVRE vehicle could get close and fire at point blank range into the casemate, destroying the 88-millimeter gun. The 5th East Yorks spent that morning clearing out the town of La Rivière immediately behind the fortification. To the west, the 6th Green Howards had a slightly easier time with their landing, facing heavy machine gun and small arms fire, but spared of shelling. With the aid of AVRE vehicles, the 6th Green Howards directly assaulted the German machine gun positions and the concrete strongpoint beyond. With most of the beach defenses wiped out, the 6th Green Howards were joined by tanks of the 4th/7th Dragoon Guards in the assault on a four-gun battery at Mont Fleury. The battery's defenders were already demoralized from the earlier bombardment by Allied aircraft and by the HMS Belfast, the battery had been relatively silent, and was taken by the British troops with relative ease. At 0815, the 7th Green Howards landed, completing the landings of the UK 69th Brigade. The troops of the 7th Green Howards attacked the German gun battery at Ver-sur-Mer first, and found its occupants to be demoralized, surrendering rather quickly.

By the end of the morning, the beach area had largely been secured with the exception of the Le Hamel fortification. A new attempt at assaulting this strongpoint began at 1345 hours, where infantrymen spent an hour to move to a rendezvous point south of the German fortification, and at 1500 moved in toward the fortification. As they were about to be halted by intense small arms fire, they found luck on their side as an AVRE vehicle traveled nearby. They persuaded the crew to help them attack the fortification, and the AVRE fired several rounds of petard charges, stopping the machine gun fire long enough for the troops to rush in. Through fierce hand-to-hand fighting, the Germans were slowly pushed out of the fortification and the surrounding village. The 75-millimeter gun was destroyed by a petard charge fired through the rear door of the blockhouse. By 1600, Le Hamel was secured.

While the Le Hamel attack was underway, British troops moved west along the coast and cleared several German strongpoints and captured the German radar station on the cliffs to the east of the Arromanches. On the high ground opposite of the Arromanches, German troops were gathering, and naval gunfire was called in to prevent the Germans from staging a counter attack. Meanwhile, the Dorsets, having just cleared Ryes, moved toward a large gun battery at Longues, whose 152-millimeter coastal defense guns had been firing at Allied warships since the invasion began. Three out of its four guns had already been silenced by naval bombardment, but the fourth gun remained defiant, firing intermittently through the entire day. At 1900 hours, the gun fell silent, and the 184-men garrison surrendered peacefully the next morning to the 2nd Dorsets.

Overall, German response to the attack on Gold Beach was weak. The few attempts at concentrating troops in preparation for counter attacks were effectively disrupted by Allied naval gunfire and aerial attacks. By mid-day, the Germans knew the beach could not be defended, and tried to fall back to the town of Bayeux, which guarded the road to Caen.

Juno Beach
6 Jun 1944

uno Beach was attacked by 15,000 men of the Canadian 3rd Infantry Division, supported by 9,000 British troops. Canadian commanding officer Major General Rodney Keller took charge of this assault. Defending the 5.5-mile stretch of beach between La Rivière and St Aubin was part of Major General Wilhelm Richter's German 716th Infantry Division, supported by units made up of Eastern Europeans. Most of the German defense in the Juno Beach area was concentrated around the small port of Courseulles on the estuary of the River Seulles, located roughly in the center of Juno Beach. Behind Gold, Juno, and Sword Beaches was the city of Caen, which was a major objective for all three beaches.

Due to the need for higher tide at Juno Beach to clear the offshore reef, the invasion began slightly later than Gold and Sword Beaches that flanked Juno Beach on either side. The first wave of attack landed at 0745 with Brigadier H. W. Foster's Canadian 7th Brigade landing on both sides of River Seulles. Previous aerial and naval bombardments failed to neutralize German coastal positions, thus the Canadians found themselves landing in a killing zone, and the lack of armor at the opening moments of the landing made matters worse. B Company of the Winnipegs, one of the two assault companies, landed at Mike Green sector and was immediately pinned down by heavy machine gun fire from concrete pillboxes and accurate fire from snipers and other infantrymen. The other assault company, D Company, landed on the left, and was forced to fight through a maze of concealed machine gun nests and Tobruk emplacements (underground concrete structures each with a small opening on top that was usually camouflaged). Great casualties were incurred to overtake these defensive structures, and once that was achieved, the Canadians charged inland at a region where the River Seulles curved. Men of the B Company crossed the river on a small bridge and spearheaded this part of the assault, while men of D Company crossed the minefield near La Vallette and advanced toward the village of Graye-sur-Mer. To the west, also at Mike Green sector, C Company of the Canadian Scottish Rifles, attached to the Winnipegs, landed with less opposition; their objective was a concrete casemate housing a 75-millimeter gun, which had already been knocked out by naval gunfire before the landing.

At about 0805, reserve companies landed on Juno Beach. They were spared of the worst of the direct-fire from German defensive structures, but they still had to land amidst mortar and artillery fire. With the incoming tide, the beach narrowed, and the small strip of land soon became crowded, particularly with all the combat vehicles arriving later than planned, and none of the beach exits had been cleared. At 0830 hours, the beach was less than 100 yards deep. Specialized Hobart's Funnies tanks, Crab vehicles, were dispatched to clear one of the exits. The first two struck mines and became disabled, but the third Crab vehicle was able to clear a single track 150 yards inland before being bogged down in a flooded area, and the Churchill AVRE that came to the rescue also became stuck, thus the crews had to abandon the vehicles, incurring three deaths and three injuries from small arms fire. Shortly after, a bridge was laid over the flooded area, using the two stuck vehicles as support. This exit was cleared by 0915. The other exit was cleared with less drama, and was open to traffic at about 0930 hours.

on the other side of the mouth of the River Seulles, the Regina Rifle Regiment landed at Nan Green sector near the town of Courseulles. A Company landed right in front of a German 75-millimeter gun and a 88-millimeter gun, both in concrete casemates, fired on them, supported by machine gun nests and four Tobruk emplacements; B Company landed further to the east; C Company landed right in front of Courseulles. The beached offered little cover, thus all the troops dashed for the base of the German defensive fortifications as soon as they reached land, while a few DD Sherman tanks were on hand to provide some cover fire. The 75-millimeter gun fired about 200 shells before an armor piercing tank shell penetrated the gun shield and killed the crew, and the 88-millimeter gun was likewise disabled by close-range tank gun fire. By the time the Hobart's Funnies vehicles arrived at the Nan Green sector, 40 minutes behind schedule, the Canadian troops had already cleared German defenses in the immediate beach area. The flail tanks, bulldozers, and bridge layers cleared up two lanes inland by 0900 hours. Meanwhile, men of the C Company rushed into the town of Courseulles and performed house-to-house fighting to clear the beach town of German defenders. While the troops cleared each house, sniper fire from neighboring buildings and mortar and machine gun fire from a nearby German strongpoint with height advantage made the task extremely difficult. It took until the early afternoon for Courseulles to become secured, and the strongpoint near the town was taken shortly after.

To the west, the 8th Brigade of the Canadian 3rd Division landed between Bernières and St Aubin, supported by Canadian and British duplex-drive Sherman tanks. The Queen's Own Rifles of Canada landed at Nan White sector at 0755 hours and had a tough time establishing their positions for the first 15 minutes of the landing, especially with the tanks arriving later than expected. B Company of Queen's Own Rifles of Canada landed directly in front of a German strongpoint, suffering 65 casualties in the opening few minutes of the landing, but the men slowly worked from pillbox to pillbox to silence the machine guns. To the right, A Company men were able to dash across the beach, but were soon held down by machine gun and mortar fire in the field immediately beyond the beach. The arrival of tanks and shortly after the reserve companies alleviated the situation. Between 0910 and 0930, self-propelled guns of the 14th and 19th Field Regiments of the Royal Canadian Artillery landed onto a narrow, crowded, and chaotic beach. Once the beach defenses were knocked out, the troops gathered to take their first objective, the village of Bény-sur-Mer, but it was not until noon they received the order to advance toward the village, and it would not be taken until mid-afternoon.

The Canadian North Shore (New Brunswick) Regiment landed at Nan Red sector at 0800 hours, west of St Aubin. The men of A Company faced relatively light opposition, but the B Company men landed right in front of a strongpoint with a 50-millimeter gun, which knocked out the first two duplex-drive Sherman tanks with ease, followed by the first two AVRE vehicles. It would take the B Company men until 1115 hours to silence the strongpoint with two duplex-drive Sherman tank guns, one AVRE gun, and many petard charges launched by another AVRE vehicle. C and D Companies landed a short while after A and B Companies landed; C Company men took the village of Tailleville, two miles away from St Aubin, in the late afternoon.

In the Nan Red sector, British marines of the 48 Royal Marine Commando landed after suffering great casualties from destroyed landing craft on the way to the beach and heavy small arms fire after making landfall. They were supposed to capture the strongpoint at Langrune and then link up with marines from the 41 Royal Marine Commando from Sword Beach, but they achieve neither on D-Day as Langrune proved to be much more difficult to conquer than originally thought. Two concrete emplacements, one housing a 75-millimeter gun and the other a 50-millimeter anti-tank gun, held up the British marines' advance; their concrete walls were so well constructed that tanks shells essentially bounced off of them. By the end of the first day of the Normandy invasion, the 48 Royal Marine Commando suffered 50% casualties without taking Langrune.

Sword Beach
6 Jun 1944
Situated around the estuary of the River Orne, the 21-mile wide area that the Allies designated as Sword and Juno Beaches was defended by the German 716th Infantry Division commanded by artillery officer Major General Wilhelm Richter, an officer since WW1 and a veteran of campaigns in Poland, Belgium, and Russia in the European War. The German 716th Infantry Division was raised in Münster, Germany, and consisted mainly of older men from Rhineland and Westphalia regions; they had been stationed in Normandy, France since Jun 1942 and had been trained specifically for coastal defense and occupation duties. Some of the division's strength was syphoned away as replacements for losses on the Russian front; about 1,000 soldiers from occupied Soviet territories were sent in to replace some of the men transferred away. Several miles inland, about 20 miles southeast of Caen, was the German 21st Panzer Division commanded by Major General Edgar Feuchtinger, who reported to Rommel's Army Group B. Feuchtinger was not a respected commander; though a veteran of many campaigns, he was promoted to a high rank largely because of political connections in the Nazi Party, thus he was not respected by all of his peers. Additionally, some units of the 21st Panzer Division were consisted of men previously rejected by other units; in fact, it was the only panzer division to be rejected for the campaign in Russia in early 1944. Behind the beach's formidable fortifications were artillery pieces not unlike other invasion beaches; heavy guns of 150 to 381-millimeter calibers were deployed as far east as Le Havre, and closer to the beach at Merville, Ouistreham, Riva Bella, and Colleville were smaller guns with calibers of 104 to 150-millimeters.

The Allies commander for invading Sword Beach was Major General Tom Rennie of the UK 3rd Division, supported behind enemy lines by Major General Richard Gale's airborne troopers of the UK 6th Airborne Division. Also in assistance of the UK 3rd Division was the 5th Assault Regiment from Major General Percy Hobart's UK 79th Armored Division, which operated specialized tanks, "Hobart's Funnies", to counter beach obstacles. The troops of the 3rd Division were trained since Dec 1943 for the specific purpose of the cross-Channel invasion. Rear Admiral A. G. Talbot of the Royal Navy was placed in charge for the seaborne element of the Sword Beach assault, operating British and Commonwealth ships under his command.

The invasion of Sword Beach launched at 2256 hours in the night of 5 Jun 1944 when six Horsa gliders were pulled airborne at Tarrant Rushton airfield in England, United Kingdom. These glider troops of the 6th Airlanding Brigade of the UK 6th Airborne Division landed in landing Zone X close by the bridges at Orne at about 0015 hours on 6 Jun. Within minutes, 90 glider troops gathered within 100 yards of the bridges, which were their primary objectives. Lieutenant Den Brotheridge and his platoon dashed across the first bridge, Pegasus Bridge, killing one sentry (the other had ran away at the first sight of the troops), but not before he sounded the alarm. Brotheridge dashed toward a nearby machine gun pit, throwing a grenade into it as he ran, but unfortunately for him, the grenade did not take out the crew, and he was cut down by the machine gun. Troops following Brotheridge silenced the gun pit. On the other side of the bridge, Lieutenant Wood and his platoon had already taken out several defenses, including a machine gun position and a anti-tunk gun crew. The two platoon quickly took control of the first bridge. The second bridge, several hundred yards to the east, were attacked by two platoons of glider troopers.

FYI LTC Bill Koski CW5 (Join to see) MSG Brad Sand SGM Steve Wettstein SSG James J. Palmer IV aka "JP4" PO1 William "Chip" Nagel PO1 John Miller SP5 Robert Ruck SPC (Join to see) PO3 Steven Sherrill MAJ Dale E. Wilson, Ph.D. Maj Bill Smith, Ph.D. CWO3 Dennis M. SSG Franklin Briant LTC Greg Henning SSG Bill McCoy LTC D. Wayne Gregory, OFS MSG Andrew White
3. US Army map of the landing beaches at Utah Beach, Normandy, France, 6 Jun 1944.
4. Map of the Omaha beachhead, Normandy, France, showing movements of the US Army V Corps, 6 Jun 1944.
Posted in these groups: Wwii logo WWIIF3af5240 Military History6c6f69ba D-Day
Edited 7 mo ago
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LTC Stephen F.
I have been studying and researching WWII since the 1960s. It is my position that each supporting operation from the beach assaults to naval gunfire and ferrying of forces and sustaining the beachhead and later breakout as well as the airborne operations and glider assaults all worked together to be successful.
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SFC Ralph E Kelley
Crossing the Channel
LTC Stephen F.
LTC Stephen F.
>1 y
Thanks for weighing in SFC Ralph E Kelley
LTC Stephen F.
LTC Stephen F.
>1 y
The Kriegsmarine was ineffectual by this point in the war but submarines and high speed E-boats were still operating. GySgt John Olson
1. Operation Tiger. "Slapton Sands in Lyme Bay was once the scene of terrible carnage in the run up to D-Day.
Below are edited extracts from
The first large-scale rehearsal was codenamed Exercise Tiger. Each assault team for the rehearsal comprised 30 men, heavily armed with mortars, machine guns, bazookas and flamethrowers.
The idea of "Tiger" was to amass landing craft in the Channel from Plymouth and Brixham, then stage a landing as much like D-Day as possible.
The Allied commander General Dwight D Eisenhower wanted the rehearsal to be as secret as possible - and as lifelike.
The troops and equipment embarked on the same ships and for the most part from the same ports from which they would later leave for France.
It was meant to feel, look and smell like the real thing. The plan was for the men to experience seasickness, sodden clothing, clumsy life vests and carefully direct live shells on to the shore they were to take.
The week-long dummy "invasion" went well until April 27 when the last convoy set off for Slapton Sands. This flotilla of several landing craft (LSTs) contained troops, amphibious trucks, jeeps, heavy equipment and hundreds of men.
That night, however, German torpedo boats hunting off the Devon coast picked up on Allied radio traffic and spotted eight boats sailing in a line in Lyme Bay. They made an inviting target.
The nine German E-boats had in turn been spotted by the flotilla's only escort, a Royal Navy corvette HMS Azalea."
2. The English channel can be very rough. The bad weather almost postponed the operation which required good enough weather for both the air drops/glider operations and the massive sea operation.
3. The Atlantic Wall was a defense-in-depth construction overseen by Field Marshal Rommel with fixed undersea obstacles at all potential beach landing sites.
What do you think? COL Mikel J. Burroughs LTC Stephen C. LTC (Join to see) Capt Seid Waddell Capt Tom Brown CW5 (Join to see) SGM David W. Carr LOM, DMSM MP SGT MSG Andrew White SFC William Farrell SSgt Robert Marx SSgt (Join to see) TSgt Joe C. SGT John " Mac " McConnell SP5 Mark Kuzinski SPC (Join to see) Cpl Joshua Caldwell SFC (Join to see)
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CSM Chuck Stafford
OPSEC leading up to the operation.
LTC Stephen F.
LTC Stephen F.
>1 y
Thank you for responding CSM Chuck Stafford. News blackouts and deception on massive scale. Can you imagine a news blackout attempt this century :-)
SSG Bill McCoy
SSG Bill McCoy
10 mo
LTC Stephen F. - These days, as demonstrated in the recent Middle East actions, we seem to tell the enemy our game plans. Our ROE is used to their advantage; we tell them WHEN we will draw down and do other things to help them even if inadvertently. The imbedded "reporters'" live coverage is no doubt watched by their commanders or operatives who relay the unfolding events in near real time.
Getting our media to keep quiet about anything these days is, well, it's just not done anymore.
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