When Needed Most

Allied invasion of Normandy
June 6, 1944
(U.S. Air Force Photo -Illustration/Dennis Rogers)


A Staggering Scale

At 10:00 pm on 5 June 1944, Allied troops began departing from British shores on the English Channel in launching a successful invasion of German-occupied western Europe.  Five assault groups set sail under darkness in an armada of nearly 7,000 vessels with 156,000 American, British and Canadian forces landing at Normandy on June 6, 1944, along a 50-mile stretch of heavily fortified coast.  Five beaches in northern France code-named Omaha, Utah, Juno, Sword and Gold were the main targets for the landing of this great magnitude of troops by sea.


U.S. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander,
talks with men of the 101st Airborne Division at the Royal Air Force base
Greenham Common, England
June 6, 1944, before joining the D-Day invasion. (U.S. ARMY)

A column of landing craft proceed to Utah Beach on D-day.
Credit: © IWM (HU 102348)

U.S. Soldiers departing LCVP landing craft approach Utah Beach
6 June 1944

After anchoring off the coast of France for a couple of hours, U.S. troops landed on Omaha and Utah beaches near 6:30 am.  About an hour later, Canadian forces landed at Juno, and British troops at Gold and Sword.

U.S. troops faced stiff German resistance at Omaha beach in particular and were pinned down for several hours, suffering heavy losses.

Some of the first assault troops to hit the beachhead hide behind enemy obstacles to fire on the Germans, others follow the first tanks plunging through water towards the Normandy shore
June 6, 1944

German obstacles on Omaha Beach, as vehicles land
D-Day, 6 June 1944

HMS Warspite shown shelling German invasion coast position in protecting landing troops
June 6, 1944
AP credit

Allied ships are attacked by German fighters as the largest massed assault of World War II begins to land men and supplies on the coast of northern France
June 6, 1944

German prisoners escorted along one of the Gold area beaches on D-Day.
Credit: © IWM (B 5257)


D-DAY Strategy

Despite involving a large number of troops, keeping D-day secret was vital to the success of the operation.  A disinformation campaign had led the Germans to believe that Operation Fortitude was the main plan for the allies to invade the continent, via a two-pronged attack involving Norway and Calais.  Even once the D-Day landings began, German commanders were convinced they were just a diversionary tactic before the real invasion.

The public had also been kept in the dark until the operation had begun. On D-Day, at 9:00 am, Gen Dwight Eisenhower issued a communique announcing the invasion had commenced. Winston Churchill addressed the House of Commons in London at noon: “So far, the commanders who are engaged, report that everything is proceeding according to plan.  And what a plan!”

At 9:00 pm, King George VI addressed the British public in a broadcast, describing the operation as a “fight to win the final victory for the good cause.”  By midnight the allied forces had full control of the beaches, and the push into occupied France was under way.


U.S. assault troops carrying equipment onto Utah Beach following
deployment from landing craft seen in the background
6 June 1944

US Army soldiers of the 16th Infantry Regiment, wounded while storming Omaha Beach,
wait by the chalk cliffs for evacuation to a field hospital for treatment.
D-Day, Normandy, France,
06 June 1944

Once on shore, Pointe du Hoc was a 100-foot cliff overlooking the English Channel and the highest p0int between the American sector landings at Utah Beach to the west and Omaha Beach to the east.  As part of the Atlantic wall fortifications, the prominent cliff top was heavily fortified by the Germans.  Assigned the task to scale and capture this highly strategic point during the early morning hours of D-Day, 6 June 1944 were the 2nd and 5th Ranger Battalions in their successful mission.

The careful and meticulous planning of the Normandy invasion determined that key missions required painstakingly accurate execution for the invasion to succeed as planned.  One of those was the capture of Pointe du Hoc which Allied planners named as one of the most dangerous German defensive positions on the Norman coast.

Not without great cost following their actions on Pointe du Hoc on 6-8 June 1944, the Rangers suffered a seventy percent casualty rate.  Less than 75 of the original 225 who came ashore on 6 June were fit for duty.  Of those who served in the 2nd Ranger Battalion on D-Day, seventy-seven were killed and 152 wounded.

U.S. 2nd Ranger Battalion scaling the critical Pointe du Hoc at Normandy landings on D-Day
6 June 1944

Just after midnight on 6 June, aerial bombardment of enemy positions on the Normandy coast had begun. That night, more than 5,300 tons of bombs were dropped.  Special operations troops were parachuted into the country to attack bridges and secure vital infrastructure targets before the landings.  13,100 American paratroopers of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions made night parachute drops early on D-Day, June 6, followed by 3,937 glider troops flown in by day.  Carrier pigeons were additionally used to transmit information about German positions.

American planes flying over Northern France on D-Day
June 6, 1944

From the air — US and allied paratroopers parachuted onto the beach and deep into enemy German territory on D-Day and in support of the massive military invasion by land, sea, and air. World War II combat photos.


Steep Casualties

U.S. soldiers waded through surf and German gunfire to secure a beachhead during the Allied Invasion, June 4, 1944, on the beaches of Normandy.  On the first day of Operation Overlord, around 4,300 Allied personnel lost their lives serving their country, with thousands more injured or missing, in what would be the largest amphibious invasion ever launched.

By the end of the day, the allies had disembarked more than 135,000 men and 10,000 vehicles on the beaches, and established bridgeheads of varying depths along the Normandy coastline.




WWII cemetery and memorial honoring American troops who died in Europe during WWII. Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy, France.


In Eternal Reverence and Gratitude


Sunrise on Omaha Beach at Normandy, France
June 6, 2014
(AP Photo/Thibault Camus)


For Your Sacrifice on Behalf of Freedom



June 6, 2020



About Karen Evans

Advocate For Honoring Military Service
This entry was posted in American History, American Veterans and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to When Needed Most

  1. GP Cox says:

    My word, Karen, that was an excellent post! A magnificent tribute to the so many lost in just one day.

  2. Karen Evans says:

    Thank you, GP. Their valor that day is beyond measure.

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