June 6, 1944

Even before America's entry into the war, Britain was forging plans to return to the Continent, if only as a contingency.  With America's entry into the war, planning was accelerated.  Operation Torch, the landing in North Africa, diverted Anglo-American attention to the Mediterranean.  With North Africa captured, the Allies landed on Sicily, then southern Italy, dashing American hopes for a landing in France in 1943.  Although German defenses in 1943 were poorly developed, whether or not the US Army was ready for a large scale campaign in northwestern Europe is open to doubt.

With the spring of 1944 now scheduled for the landing, and Normandy the location, great intelligence operations code named Bodyguard and Fortitude deceived the Germans into thinking that the Allied landing would be in other locations, specifically near Calais.  Plans for a landing in May were delayed until June, which allowed for the addition of Utah Beach, which was intended to facilitate a quick capture of the port of Cherbourg.  A port, then many ports, would be needed to support the invasion, but to supplement natural ports, the British designed and built an artificial harbor to help supply the invasion.  This harbor, code named Mulberry, allowed the Allies to land at Normandy, away from the heavily defended Calais area, but still within range of air support.

The date was set for a full moon to aid the night-time airborne landing coinciding with low tide in the early morning.  The intent was to avoid beach obstacles and to achieve surprise in the low light of early morning.  Bad weather on June 5th lead to a postponement to June 6th, when an opening in the weather was forecast.  Two airborne divisions, the American 82nd and 101st were dropped behind Utah Beach at night to help open up the causeways from the beach and the mainland - but also to protect this isolated beach from counterattack.  The American 4th Infantry Division was landed on Utah beach.  In the most intense fighting, the 1st and 29th Infantry Divisions were landed on Omaha Beach.  On the British, or eastern, end of the invasion, the 6th Airborne Division was dropped, including glider troops to capture a bridge over the Orne, protecting that flank from German counterattack.  Two British divisions and one Canadian division were landed on Gold, Juno, and Sword Beaches.  It would be the largest amphibious invasion in history.       


Beach Obstacles and Invasion Craft

Pegasus Bridge

British and Canadian Beaches

Grand Bunker

Longues Battery

Omaha Beach

    Vierville Draw
    Les Moulins and St Laurent Draws
    Colleville Draw
    Cabourg Draw

Normandy American Cemetery

Pointe du Hoc

Utah Beach

St Mere Eglise


Mulberry Harbor, Arromanches

Copyright 2010-11, John Hamill

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