By TNS Staff
Without the brilliant planning and heroic sacrifices of theÂ D-Day invasion, the Allies may have never defeated the Nazi forces in Europe. On June 6, 1944, more than 156,000 American, British and Canadian troops stormed 50 miles of Normandy’s fiercely defended beaches in northern France in an operation that proved to be aÂ critical turning pointÂ inÂ World War II. Below are key facts on the planning and execution of the epic Allied invasion.
D-Day took years to plan:
Allied leadersÂ Franklin RooseveltÂ andÂ Winston ChurchillÂ knewÂ from the start of the warÂ thatÂ a massive invasion of mainland Europe would be criticalÂ to relieve pressure from the Soviet army fighting the Nazis in the east. Initially, a plan called â€œOperation Sledgehammerâ€ called for an Allied invasion of ports in northwest France as early as 1943, but Roosevelt and Churchill decided to invade Northern Africa first and attack Europeâ€™s â€œsoft underbellyâ€ through Italy.
It was the biggest amphibious assault/landing in the history of the world (and remains so):
According to theÂ D-Day Center, the invasion, officially called “Operation Overlord,” combined the forces of 156,115 U.S., British and Canadian troops, 6,939 ships and landing vessels, and 2,395 aircraft and 867 gliders that delivered airborne troops.
The Allies used deception and a feint to fool Nazi Germany into where the assault would take place:
The idea behind the ruse was to trick the Nazis into thinking that the invasion would occur at Pas-de-Calais, the closest French coastline to England. The Allies used fake radio transmissions, double agents, and even a â€œphantom army,â€ commanded by American General George Patton, to throw Germany off the scent.
There was a dress rehearsal for D-Day and it turned out to be very deadly:
Two months before D-Day, Allied forces conducted aÂ disastrous dress rehearsalÂ of the Normandy invasion on an evacuated English beach called Slapton Sands. Known as â€œExercise Tiger,â€ 749 U.S. troops lost their lives after a fleet of German E-boats caught wind of the mock invasion and torpedoed American tank landing ships. Survivors described the Exercise Tiger fiasco as more terrifying than the D-Day landing on Omaha Beach.
— Hitler charged Field Marshal Erwin Rommel with defending ‘Fortress Europe.’ He built a 2,400-mile line of bunkers, landmines and beach and water obstacles; it’s estimated that German forces planted 4 million landmines.
— In preparation for the invasion, the U.S. shipped 7 million tons of supplies to the staging area, including 450,000 tons of ammunition.
— The invasion was initially set for May 1944 but constant bad weather delayed it again and again. Per History.net, “On June 5, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander in charge of Operation Overlord, decided that the invasion would happen the next day, in part because the weather was still rough and Nazi planes were grounded.”
— The Allies landed American, British, and Canadian troops on five beachheads codenamed â€œUtah,â€ â€œOmaha,â€ â€œGold,â€ â€œJunoâ€ and â€œSword.â€
— The D-Day invasion began in the pre-dawn hours of June 6 withÂ thousands of paratroopersÂ landing inland on the Utah and Sword beaches in an attempt to cut off exits and destroy bridges to slow Nazi reinforcements. Many died near Utah beach as they drowned in heavy gear in marshland flooded by the German forces.
— “In wave after wave of thousands of landing ships, more than 156,000 Allied infantrymen stormed the five beaches.Â Facing them were aroundÂ 50,000Â Germans troops.Â Stormy seas made the landings incredibly difficult, with many regiments coming ashore far from their target destinations. At Omaha Beach, only two of the 29 amphibious tanks evenÂ made it to landÂ on their own power (three were later transported to the beach).”
— Omaha beach proved to be the toughest battle as scores of U.S. infantrymen were cut down by accurate and pre-determined German machine fire. “But U.S. forces persisted through the day-long slog, pushing forward to a fortified seawall and then up steep bluffs to take out the Nazi artillery posts by nightfall. All told, around 2,400 American troops were killed, wounded or unaccounted for after the fighting at Omaha Beach.”
— Canadian forces also suffered heavy casualties at Juno Beach, but they also captured the most territory on the first day of the invasion. “Canadian troops were gunned down en masse by Nazi artilleryâ€”estimates put the initial casualty rate at 50 percentâ€”before pushing beyond the beachfront and chasing the Germans inland.”
— After establishing a beachhead and pushing the Germans back into France, the Allies established two massive harbors. “All told, the AlliesÂ unloaded approximately 2,500,000 men, 500,000 vehicles and 4,000,000 tons of supplies at the temporary harbors over the remaining course of the war.”
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