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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In Eternal Reverence and Gratitude
For Your Sacrifice on Behalf of Freedom
June 6, 2020