D-Day refers to the invasion of Normandy during World War II by over 150,000 Allied Troops. The origin of the name is a subject of debate, but it is generally believed to refer to the standard terminology for the start of an operation which was then in use by the Army (the hour of an operation start was called H-Hour).
The code name for the overall invasion in all its component parts was “Operation Overlord”. Almost 2 million sailors, airmen and soldiers were involved in the operation, including forces from Britain, Canada and the United States. These forces were supposed to fight after the beachheads were secured.
The invasion was to have taken place on June 5, 1944; however, bad weather necessitated delaying the assault by a day. D-Day occurred on June 6, 1944.
The locations of the landings were kept a secret until the last minute—while en route not even the units tasked with making the initial assaults on beachheads knew their destinations.
The landings covered 61 miles of Normandy beaches divided into 5 “sectors” named: Omaha, Juno, Sword, Gold and Utah.
The elements of surprise and secrecy were necessary; Hitler had 55 divisions of German troops in France at the time of the invasion. Allied forces could manage to transport no more than 8 divisions on the day of the landing.
It took over 5000 ships to transport 150,000 men and 30,000 vehicles across the English Channel for the D-Day invasion.
The coast of Normandy was bombed by 300 planes immediately preceding the beach landings.
800 planes dropped 13,000 paratroopers into Normandy as part of the invasion.
Over 7500 missions were flown over the English Channel on June 6, 1944.
127 planes were lost on D-Day. These were in addition to the 2,000 planes lost in missions that took place from April 1, 1944 to June 5, 1944. Over 12,000 men were lost in 14,000 missions that were flown during that time period. At the conclusion of the Normandy campaign more than 28,000 airmen had lost their lives.
The worst of the fighting occurred on Omaha Beach, which also presented the worst challenges to beach landings. Many men drowned in the surf before they could reach the beach due to problems in navigation. German resistance was strongest here; their largest force was in place at the Omaha Beach landing.
Warships numbering 1200 and 15 hospital ships were part of a 6939 naval vessel force in support of the ground assault. Over 195,000 naval personnel were on those vessels. This phase of the invasion was codenamed “Operation Neptune”.
100,000 troops made it to the beaches alive. At the end of fighting on D-Day, Allied casualties numbered at over 9000 dead and wounded.
Operation PLUTO (Pipeline Under The Ocean) remains one of the most astonishing and noteworthy feats of military engineering in history. A joint effort involving British scientists, oil companies and the allied forces, Operation PLUTO resulted in the laying of a pipeline across the English Channel between Britain and France to provide fuel to the invasion force. Over a million gallons of oil were fed through the pipeline daily.
Hitler was asleep on the morning of the invasion. His generals did not dare to order re-enforcements to Normandy without gaining his permission and not one was brave enough to wake him to ask for it. As a result many hours that were vital to German success in the battle were lost.
In the approximately six months between D-Day and the last day of 1944, 30,000 German soldiers were captured. They were sent to American Prisoner of War camps, many of which were located in the Continental U.S. Texas alone housed over 33 detention camps.
21,500 German soldiers were killed; they were interred in LaCambe, France.
Canadian troops killed in the invasion numbered 946
American graves numbering 9386 are interred at the American cemetery in the town of Colleville-sur-Mer; 307 of these graves hold the remains of unknown soldiers. The graves all face to the west, towards the United States.
A “Garden of the Missing” lists 1557 names of American soldiers whose remains were never found.
British dead numbered 4868 and were buried at Bayeux Cemetery, additional the names of 1837 British soldiers whose remains were never found are listed at the cemetery at Bayeux.
The Normandy beachheads were secured by June 11, 1944. By that date more than 326,000 troops had crossed into France with more than 100,000 tons of materiel.
In spite of their superiority in numbers, the Germans were unable to repel the invasion. Paris was liberated August 25th and by the end of August 1944 all of France was under Allied control. D-Day was the beginning of the end of the German war effort; Hitler was forced to fight on two fronts, the Allies in the West, the Russians in the East. The war ended May 8, 1945.
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