In the year 1066, William I, set off from the beaches of Normandy to invade England, greatly influencing English culture and class structures to this day. Nearly a millennium later, the roles were reversed and an invasion was launched from the other side of the channel. June 6, 1944 – D-Day (Deployment Day) of “Operation Overlord“, marked the beginning of the largest invasion in history.
Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Forces: 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 oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world… ”
The Liberation of Europe
The allied plan was to land its invasion forces at five beaches along a fifty-mile stretch of the northern coastline of France in Normandy. British and Canadian forces were allocated the three eastern beachheads codenamed Sword, Gold and Juno while the Americans were assigned the 2 westernmost beaches Utah and Omaha.
None of the landings were a cakewalk, but all went more smoothly than anticipated with the exception of Omaha which nearly failed for a variety of reasons. Strong natural defensive positions, rough seas, loss of most supporting tanks and artillery, too-short of a naval bombardment and an ineffective aerial bombardment were factors. By the end of the first day, raw recruits of the 29th Infantry Division and Rangers of the experienced 1st Infantry Division had advanced only one mile inland at the cost of 10,000 casualties.
Movies such as “The Longest Day” and “Saving Private Ryan” inaccurately depict the Bangalore Torpedo (devised by sappers of the British Indian Army in 1912) as the breaker of the stalemate on the beach, where US Navy Destroyers led by the USS McCook, floated nearer to the shore with the incoming tide (nearly running aground), effectively using its guns to take out German positions as directed by units ashore.Steve D.