|Battle of Normandy|
|Part of World War II|
Assault landing one of the first waves at Omaha Beach as photographed by Robert F. Sargent. The U.S. Coast Guard caption identifies the unit as Company E, 16th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division.
| United States
| Dwight Eisenhower
(Supreme Allied Commander)
Bernard Montgomery (land)
22px Bertram Ramsay (sea)
22px Trafford Leigh-Mallory (air)
22px Omar Bradley (U.S. 1st Army)
22px Miles Dempsey (UK 2nd Army)
Harry Crerar (Canadian 1st Army)
| Gerd von Rundstedt (OB WEST)
22px Erwin Rommel (Heeresgruppe B)
22px Friedrich Dollmann (7.Armee Oberkommando)
|155,000||380,000 (by July 23)
casualties: United States: 29,000 dead, 106,000 wounded or missing;
|Nazi Germany: 23,019 dead, 67,060 wounded,
198,616 missing or captured
The Battle of Normandy, codenamed Operation Overlord was the Allied invasion of Normandy, part of the Normandy Campaign. It began on June 6, 1944 (commonly known as D-Day), and is held to end on June 30, 1944, with Operation Cobra. Operation Neptune was the codename given to the initial naval assault phase of Operation Overlord; its mission, to gain a foothold on the continent. It involved over 156,000 troops crossing the English Channel from England to Normandy.
Allied land forces that saw combat in Normandy on D-Day itself came from Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Substantial Free French and Polish forces also participated in the battle after the assault phase, and there were also contingents from Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Greece, the Netherlands, and Norway. Other Allied nations participated in the naval and air forces.
The Normandy invasion began with overnight parachute and glider landings, massive air attacks, naval bombardments, and an early morning amphibious phase began on June 6. The "D-Day" forces deployed from bases along the south coast of England, the most important of these being Portsmouth.
The Battle of Normandy was one of the most important events in modern history as the Allied Forces broke the back of the Nazi army, hastening the destruction of Nazi Germany, securing the victory of democracy over totalitarianism.
|Battle of Normandy|
|Neptune – Airborne landings – Tonga – Pegasus Bridge – Albany – Boston – Chicago – Detroit – Elmira – Sword – Juno – Gold – Omaha – Utah – Pointe du Hoc – Brécourt Manor – La Caine – Carentan – Villers-Bocage – Cherbourg – Epsom – Goodwood – Atlantic – Spring – Cobra – Bluecoat – Lüttich – Totalise – Tractable – Falaise – Brest – Paris|
|West European Campaign
|Normandy - Dragoon - Siegfried Line - Ardennes Offensive - Invasion of Germany - German capitulation|
(World War II)
|France - The Netherlands - Dunkirk - Britain - Dieppe - Villefranche-de-Rouergue - Normandy - Dragoon - Siegfried Line - Market Garden - Aintree - Scheldt - Hurtgen Forest - Aachen - Bulge - Colmar Pocket - Plunder|
The objective of the operation was to create a lodgement that would be anchored in the city of Caen (and later Cherbourg when its deep-water port would be captured). As long as Normandy could be secured, the Western European campaign and the downfall of Nazi Germany could begin. About 6,900 vessels would be involved in the invasion, under the command of Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay (who had been directly involved in the North African and Italian landings), including 4,100 landing craft. A total of 12,000 aircraft under Air Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory were to support the landings, including 1,000 transports to fly in the parachute troops; 10,000 tons of bombs would be dropped against the German defenses, and 14,000 attack sorties would be flown.
Some of the more unusual Allied preparations included armored vehicles specially adapted for the assault. Developed under the leadership of Maj. Gen. Percy Hobart (Montgomery’s brother-in-law), these vehicles (called Hobart’s Funnies) included "swimming" Duplex Drive Sherman tanks, the Churchill Crocodile flame throwing tank, mine-clearing tanks, bridge-laying tanks and road-laying tanks and the Armored Vehicle, Royal Engineers (AVRE)–equipped with a large-caliber mortar for destroying concrete emplacements. Some prior testing of these vehicles had been undertaken at Kirkham Priory in Yorkshire, England. The majority would be operated by small teams of the British 79th Armoured Division attached to the various formations.
Allied forces rehearsed their roles for D-Day months before the invasion. On April 28, 1944, in south Devon on the English coast, 749 U.S. soldiers and sailors were killed when German torpedo boats surprised one of these landing exercises, Exercise Tiger.
In the months leading up to the invasion, the Allies conducted a deception operation, Operation Bodyguard. The Allies prepared a massive deception plan, called Operation Fortitude.
There were several leaks prior to or on D-Day. Through the Cicero affair, the Germans obtained documents containing references to Overlord, but these documents lacked all detail. Double Cross agents, such as Juan Pujol (code named Garbo), played an important role in convincing the German High Command that Normandy was at best a diversionary attack. Another such leak was Gen. Charles de Gaulle's radio message after D-Day. He, unlike all the other leaders, stated that this invasion was the real invasion. This had the potential to ruin the Allied deceptions Fortitude North and Fortitude South. For example, Gen. Eisenhower referred to the landings as the initial invasion. The Germans did not believe de Gaulle and waited too long to move in extra units against the Allies.
The order of battle was approximately as follows, east to west:
Overall, the British contingent would consist of 83,115 troops (61,715 of them British).
In total, the Americans contributed 73,000 men (15,500 were airborne).
The Invasion Fleet was drawn from eight different navies, comprising 6,939 vessels: 1,213 warships, 4,126 transport vessels (landing ships and landing craft), and 736 ancilliary craft and 864 merchant vessels.
The overall commander of the Allied Naval Expeditionary Force, providing close protection and bombardment at the beaches, was Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay. The Allied Naval Expeditionary Force was divided into two Naval Task Forces: Western (Rear-Admiral Alan G. Kirk) and Eastern (Rear-Admiral Sir Philip Vian).
The warships provided cover for the transports against the enemy—whether in the form of surface warships, submarines, or as an aerial attack—and gave support to the landings through shore bombardment. These ships included the Allied Task Force "O."
The number of military forces at the disposal of Nazi Germany, reached its peak during 1944, tanks on the east front peaked at 5,202 in November 1944, total aircraft in the Luftwaffe inventory peaked at 5,041 in December 1944. By D-Day 157 German divisions were stationed in the Soviet Union, 6 in Finland, 12 in Norway, 6 in Denmark, 9 in Germany, 21 in the Balkans, 26 in Italy and 59 in France, Belgium and the Netherlands. However, these statistics are somewhat misleading since a significant number of the divisions in the east were depleted; German records indicate that the average personnel complement was at about 50 percent in the spring of 1944.
Standing in the way of the Allies was the English Channel, a crossing which had eluded the Spanish Armada and Napoleon Bonaparte's Navy. Compounding the invasion efforts was the extensive Atlantic Wall, ordered by Hitler as part of Directive 51. Believing that any forthcoming landings would be timed for high tide (this caused the landings to be timed for low tide), Rommel had the entire wall fortified with tank top turrets and extensive barbed wire, and laying a million mines to deter landing craft. The sector which was attacked was guarded by four divisions.
Other divisions occupied the areas around the landing zones, including:
Rommel's defensive measures were also frustrated by a dispute over armored doctrine. In addition to his two army groups, von Rundstedt also commanded the headquarters of Panzer Group West under General Leo Geyr von Schweppenburg (usually referred to as von Geyr). This formation was nominally an administrative HQ for von Rundstedt's armored and mobile formations, but it was later to be renamed Fifth Panzer Army and brought into the line in Normandy. Von Geyr and Rommel disagreed over the deployment and use of the vital Panzer divisions.
Rommel recognized that the Allies would possess air superiority and would be able to harass his movements from the air. He therefore proposed that the armored formations be deployed close to the invasion beaches. In his words, it was better to have one Panzer division facing the invaders on the first day, than three Panzer divisions three days later when the Allies would already have established a firm beachhead. Von Geyr argued for the standard doctrine that the Panzer formations should be concentrated in a central position around Paris and Rouen, and deployed en masse against the main Allied beachhead when this had been identified.
The argument was eventually brought before Hitler for arbitration. He characteristically imposed an unworkable compromise solution. Only three Panzer divisions were given to Rommel, too few to cover all the threatened sectors. The remainder, nominally under Von Geyr's control, were actually designated as being in "OKW Reserve." Only three of these were deployed close enough to intervene immediately against any invasion of Northern France, the other four were dispersed in southern France and the Netherlands. Hitler reserved to himself the authority to move the divisions in OKW Reserve, or commit them to action. On June 6, many Panzer division commanders were unable to move because Hitler had not given the necessary authorization, and his staff refused to wake him upon news of the invasion.
The other two armored divisions over which Rommel had operational control, the 2nd Panzer Division and 116th Panzer Division, were deployed near the Pas de Calais in accordance with German views about the likely Allied landing sites. Neither was moved from the Pas de Calais for at least 14 days after the invasion.
The other mechanized divisions capable of intervening in Normandy were retained under the direct control of the German Armed Forces HQ (OKW) and were initially denied to Rommel:
Four divisions were deployed to Normandy within seven days of the invasion:
Three other divisions (the 2nd SS Division Das Reich, which had been refitting at Montauban in Southern France, and the 9th SS Panzer Division Hohenstaufen and 10th SS Panzer Division Frundsberg which had been in transit from the Eastern Front on June 6), were committed to battle in Normandy around 21 days after the first landings.
One more armored division (the 9th Panzer Division) saw action only after the American breakout from the beachhead. Two other armored divisions which had been in the west on June 6 (the 11th Panzer Division and 19th Panzer Division) did not see action in Normandy.
Just prior to the invasion, General Eisenhower transmitted a now-historic message to all members of the Allied Expeditionary Force. It read, in part, "You are about to embark upon a great crusade, toward which we have striven these many months." In his pocket was an unused statement to be read in case the invasion failed.
The final factor in determining the date of the landing was the anticipated weather. By this stage of the war, the German U-Boats had largely been driven from the Atlantic, and their weather stations in Greenland had been closed down. The Allies possessed an advantage in knowledge of conditions in the Atlantic, which was to prove decisive.
A full moon was required both for light for the aircraft pilots and for the spring tide, effectively limiting the window of opportunity for mounting the invasion to only a few days in each month. Eisenhower had tentatively selected June 5 as the date for the assault. Most of May had fine weather, but this deteriorated in early June. On June 4, conditions were clearly unsuitable for a landing; wind and high seas would make it impossible to launch landing craft, and low clouds would prevent aircraft finding their targets. The Allied troop convoys already at sea were forced to take shelter in bays and inlets on the south coast of Britain.
It seemed possible that everything would have to be canceled, and the troops returned to their camps (a vast undertaking, because the enormous movement of follow-up formations was already proceeding). The next full moon period would be nearly a month away. At a vital meeting on June 5, Eisenhower's chief meteorologist (Group Captain J.M. Stagg) forecast a brief improvement for June 6. Montgomery and Eisenhower's Chief of Staff General Walter Bedell Smith wished to proceed with the invasion. Leigh Mallory was doubtful, but Admiral Ramsay believed that conditions would be marginally favorable. On the strength of Stagg's forecast, Eisenhower ordered the invasion to proceed.
The Germans meanwhile took comfort from the existing poor conditions and believed no invasion would be possible for several days. Some troops stood down, and many senior officers were absent. Rommel, for example, took a few days' leave with his wife and family, while dozens of division, regimental, and battalion commanders were away from their posts at war games.
The various factions and circuits of the French Resistance were included in the plan for Overlord. Through a London-based headquarters which supposedly embraced all resistance groups, Etat-major des Forces Françaises de l'Interieur or EMFFI, the British Special Operations Executive orchestrated a massive campaign of sabotage tasking the various Groups with attacking railway lines, ambushing roads, or destroying telephone exchanges or electrical substations. The resistance was alerted to carry out these tasks by means of the messages personnels, transmitted by the BBC in its French service from London. Several hundred of these were regularly transmitted, masking the few of them that were really significant.
Among the stream of apparently meaningless messages broadcast by the BBC at 21:00 CET on June 5, were coded instructions such as Les carottes sont cuites (The carrots are cooked) and Les dés sont jetés (The dice have been thrown).
One famous pair of these messages is often mistakenly stated to be a general call to arms by the Resistance. A few days before D-Day, the (slightly misquoted) first line of Verlaine's poem, "Chanson d'Automne," was transmitted. "Les sanglots longs des violons de l'automne"(Long sobs of autumn violins) alerted the resistance of the "Ventriloquist" network in the Orléans region to attack rail targets within the next few days. The second line, "Bercent mon coeur d'une langueur monotone" (soothes my heart with a monotonous languor), transmitted late on June 5, meant that the attack was to be mounted immediately.
Josef Götz, the head of the signals section of the German intelligence service (the SD) in Paris, had discovered the meaning of the second line of Verlaine's poem, and no less than 14 other executive orders they heard late on June 5. His section rightly interpreted them to mean that invasion was imminent or underway, and they alerted their superiors and all Army commanders in France. However, they had issued a similar warning a month before, when the Allies had begun invasion preparations and alerted the Resistance, but then stood down because of a forecast of bad weather. The SD having given this false alarm, their genuine alarm was ignored or treated as merely routine. Fifteenth Army HQ passed the information on to its units; Seventh Army ignored it.
In addition to the tasks given to the Resistance as part of the invasion effort, the Special Operations Executive planned to reinforce the Resistance with three-man liaison parties, under Operation Jedburgh. The Jedburgh parties would coordinate and arrange supply drops to the Maquis groups in the German rear areas. Also operating far behind German lines and frequently working closely with the Resistance, although not under SOE, were larger parties from the British, French and Belgian units of the Special Air Service brigade.
The success of the amphibious landings depended on the establishment of a secure lodgment from which to expand the beachhead to allow the build up of a well-supplied force capable of breaking out. The amphibious forces were especially vulnerable to strong enemy counterattacks before the buildup of sufficient forces in the beachhead could be accomplished. To slow or eliminate the enemy's ability to organize and launch counterattacks during this critical period, airborne operations were utilized to seize key objectives, such as bridges, road crossings, and terrain features, particularly on the eastern and western flanks of the landing areas. The airborne landings some distance behind the beaches were also intended to ease the egress of the amphibious forces off the beaches, and in some cases to neutralize German coastal defense batteries and more quickly expand the area of the beachhead. The U.S. 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions were assigned to objectives west of Utah Beach. The British 6th Airborne Division was assigned to similar objectives on the eastern flank.
East of the landing area, the open, flat, floodplain between the Orne and Dives Rivers was ideal for counterattacks by German armor. However, the landing area and floodplain were separated by the Orne River, which flowed northeast from Caen into the bay of the Seine. The only crossing of the Orne River north of Caen was 7 kilometres (4.5 mi) from the coast, near Bénouville and Ranville. For the Germans, the crossing provided the only route for a flanking attack on the beaches from the east. For the Allies, the crossing also was vital for any attack on Caen from the east.
The tactical objectives of the British 6th Airborne Division were (a) to capture intact the bridges of the Bénouville-Ranville crossing, (b) to defend the crossing against the inevitable armored counter-attacks, (c) to destroy German artillery at the Merville battery, which threatened Sword Beach, and (d) to destroy five bridges over the Dives River to further restrict movement of ground forces from the east.
Airborne troops, mostly paratroopers of the 3rd and 5th Parachute Brigades, including the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion, began landing after midnight, June 6 and immediately encountered elements of the German 716th Infantry Division. At dawn, the Battle Group von Luck of the 21st Panzer Division counterattacked from the south on both sides of the Orne River. By this time the paratroopers had established a defensive perimeter surrounding the bridgehead. Casualties were heavy on both sides, but the airborne troops held. Shortly after noon, they were reinforced by commandos of the 1st Special Service Brigade. By the end of D-Day, 6th Airborne had accomplished each of its objectives. For several days, both British and German forces took heavy casualties as they struggled for positions around the Orne bridgehead. For example, the German 346th Infantry Division broke through the eastern edge of the defensive line on June 10. Finally, British paratroopers overwhelmed entrenched panzergrenadiers in the Battle of Bréville on June 12. The Germans did not seriously threaten the bridgehead again. 6th Airborne remained on the line until it was evacuated in early September.
The U.S. 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions, numbering 13,000 paratroopers, were delivered by 12 troop carrier groups of the IX Troop Carrier Command, were less fortunate in quickly completing their main objectives. To achieve surprise, the drops were routed to approach Normandy from the west. Numerous factors affected their performance, but the primary one was the decision to make a massive parachute drop at night (a tactic not used again for the rest of the war). As a result, 45% of units were widely scattered and unable to rally. Efforts of the early wave of pathfinder teams to mark the landing zones were largely ineffective, and the Rebecca/Eureka transponding radar beacons used to guide in the waves of C-47 Skytrains to the drop zones were a flawed system.
Three regiments of 101st Airborne paratroopers were dropped first, between 00:48 and 01:40, followed by the 82nd Airborne's drops between 01:51 and 02:42. Each operation involved approximately 400 C-47 aircraft. Two pre-dawn glider landings brought in anti-tank guns and support troops for each division. On the evening of D-Day two additional glider landings brought in 2 battalions of artillery and 24 howitzers to the 82nd Airborne. Additional glider operations on June 7 delivered the 325th Glider Infantry Regiment to the 82nd Airborne, and two large supply parachute drops that date were ineffective.
After 24 hours, only 2,500 troops of the 101st and 2,000 of the 82nd were under the control of their divisions, approximating a third of the force dropped. The dispersal of the American airborne troops, however, had the effect of confusing the Germans and fragmenting their response. In addition, the Germans' defensive flooding, in the early stages, also helped to protect the Americans' southern flank.
Paratroopers continued to roam and fight behind enemy lines for days. Many consolidated into small groups, rallied with NCOs or junior officers, and usually were a hodgepodge of men from different companies, battalions, regiments, or even divisions. The 82nd occupied the town of Sainte-Mère-Église early in the morning of June 6, giving it the claim of the first town liberated in the invasion.
The assault on Sword Beach began at about 03:00 with an aerial bombardment of the German coastal defenses and artillery sites. The naval bombardment began a few hours later. At 07:30, the first units reached the beach. These were the DD tanks of 13th/18th Hussars followed closely by the infantry of 8th Brigade.
On Sword Beach, the regular British infantry came ashore with light casualties. They had advanced about 8 kilometers (5 mi) by the end of the day but failed to make some of the deliberately ambitious targets set by Montgomery. In particular, Caen, a major objective, was still in German hands by the end of D-Day, and would remain so until the Battle for Caen, August 8.
1st Special Service Brigade, under the command of Brigadier The Lord Lovat DSO and MC, went ashore in the second wave led by No.4 Commando with the two French Troops first, as agreed among themselves. The 1st Special Service Brigade's landing is famous for having been led by Piper Bill Millin. The British and French of No.4 Commando had separate targets in Ouistreham: the French a blockhouse and the Casino, and the British two batteries which overlooked the beach. The blockhouse proved too strong for the Commandos' PIAT (Projector Infantry Anti Tank) weapons, but the Casino was taken with the aid of a Centaur tank. The British Commandos achieved both battery objectives only to find the gun mounts empty and the guns removed. Leaving the mopping-up procedure to the infantry, the Commandos withdrew from Ouistreham to join the other units of their brigade (Nos.3, 6 and 45), moving inland to join-up with the 6th Airborne Division.
The Canadian forces that landed on Juno Beach faced 11 heavy batteries of 155 mm guns and 9 medium batteries of 75 mm guns, as well as machine-gun nests, pillboxes, other concrete fortifications, and a seawall twice the height of the one at Omaha Beach. The first wave suffered 50 percent casualties, the second highest of the five D-Day beachheads. The use of armor was successful at Juno, in some instances actually landing ahead of the infantry as intended and helping clear a path inland.
Despite the obstacles, the Canadians were off the beach within hours and beginning their advance inland. The 6th Canadian Armored Regiment (1st Hussars) and the Queen's Own Rifles of Canada achieved their June 6 objectives, when they crossed the Caen–Bayeux highway over 15 kilometers (9 mi) inland. The Canadians were the only units to reach their D-Day objectives, although most units fell back a few kilometers to stronger defensive positions. In particular, the Douvres Radar Station was still in German hands, and no link had been established with Sword Beach.
By the end of D-Day, 15,000 Canadians had been successfully landed, and the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division had penetrated further into France than any other Allied force, despite having faced strong resistance at the water's edge and later counterattacks on the beachhead by elements of the German 21st and 12th SS Hitlerjugend Panzer divisions on June 7 and June 8.
At Gold Beach, the casualties were also quite heavy, partly because the swimming Sherman DD tanks were delayed, and the Germans had strongly fortified a village on the beach. However, the 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division overcame these difficulties and advanced almost to the outskirts of Bayeux by the end of the day. With the exception of the Canadians at Juno Beach, no division came closer to its objectives than the 50th.
No.47 (RM) Commando was the last British Commando unit to land and came ashore on Gold east of Le Hamel. Their task was to proceed inland then turn right (west) and make a 16-kilometer (10 mi) march through enemy territory to attack the coastal harbor of Port en Bessin from the rear. This small port, on the British extreme right, was well sheltered in the chalk cliffs and significant in that it was to be a prime early harbor for supplies to be brought in including fuel by underwater pipe from tankers moored offshore.
Elements of the 1st Infantry Division and 29th Infantry Division faced the veteran German 352nd Infantry Division, one of the best trained on the beaches. Allied intelligence failed to realize that the relatively low-quality 716th Infantry Division (static) had been replaced by the 352nd the previous March. Omaha was also the most heavily fortified beach, with high bluffs defended by funneled mortars, machine guns, and artillery, and the pre-landing aerial and naval bombardment of the bunkers proved to be ineffective. Difficulties in navigation caused the majority of landings to drift eastwards, missing their assigned sectors, and the initial assault waves of tanks, infantry and engineers took heavy casualties. The official record stated that "within 10 minutes of the ramps being lowered, [the leading] company had become inert, leaderless and almost incapable of action. Every officer and sergeant had been killed or wounded […] It had become a struggle for survival and rescue." Only a few gaps were blown in the beach obstacles, resulting in problems for subsequent landings. The heavily defended draws, the only vehicular routes off the beach, could not be taken and two hours after the first assault the beach was closed for all but infantry landings. Commanders considered abandoning the beachhead, but small units of infantry, often forming ad hoc groups, supported by naval artillery and the surviving tanks, eventually infiltrated the coastal defenses by scaling the bluffs between strongpoints. Further infantry landings were able to exploit the initial penetrations and by the end of the day two isolated footholds had been established. American casualties at Omaha on D-Day numbered around 3,000 out of 34,000 men, most in the first few hours, whilst the defending forces suffered 1,200 killed, wounded or missing. The tenuous beachhead was expanded over the following days, and the original D-Day objectives were accomplished by D+3.
The massive concrete cliff-top gun emplacement at Pointe du Hoc was the target of the 2nd Ranger battalion, commanded by James Earl Rudder. The task was to scale the 30 meter (100 ft) cliffs under enemy fire with ropes and ladders, and then attack and destroy the guns, which were thought to command the Omaha and Utah landing areas. The Ranger commanders did not know that the guns had been moved prior to the attack, and they had to press farther inland to find them but eventually destroyed them. However, the beach fortifications themselves were still vital targets since a single artillery forward observer based there could have called down accurate fire on the U.S. beaches. The Rangers were eventually successful, and captured the fortifications. They then had to fight for 2 days to hold the location, losing more than 60% of their men.
Casualties on Utah Beach, the westernmost landing zone, were the lightest of any beach, with 197 out of the roughly 23,000 troops that landed. The 4th Infantry Division troops landing at Utah Beach found themselves in the wrong positions because of a current that pushed their landing craft to the southeast. Instead of landing at Tare Green and Uncle Red sectors, they came ashore at Victor sector, which was lightly defended, and as a result, relatively little German opposition was encountered. The 4th Infantry Division was able to press inland relatively easily over beach exits that had been seized from the inland side by the 502nd and 506th Parachute Infantry Regiments of the 101st Airborne Division. This was partially by accident, because their planned landing was further down the beach (Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt Jr, the Asst. Commander of 4th Division, upon discovering the landings were off course, was famous for stating "We will start the war from right here."). By early afternoon, the 4th Infantry Division had succeeded in linking up with elements of the 101st. American casualties were light, and the troops were able to press inward much faster than expected, making it a near-complete success.
Once the beachhead was established, two artificial Mulberry harbors were towed across the English Channel in segments and made operational around D+3 (June 9). One was constructed at Arromanches by British forces, the other at Omaha Beach by American forces. By June 19, when severe storms interrupted the landing of supplies for several days and destroyed the Omaha harbor, the British had landed 314,547 men, 54,000 vehicles, and 102,000 tons of supplies, while the Americans put ashore 314,504 men, 41,000 vehicles, and 116,000 tons of supplies. Around 9,000 tons of materiel were landed daily at the Arromanches harbor until the end of August 1944, by which time the port of Cherbourg had been secured by the Allies and had begun to return to service.
The Allied invasion plans had called for the capture of Carentan, Saint-Lô, Caen, and Bayeux on the first day, with all the beaches linked except Utah, and Sword (the last linked with paratroopers) and a front line 10 to 16 kilometers (6–10 mi) from the beaches. In practice none of these had been achieved. However, overall the casualties had not been as heavy as some had feared (around 10,000 compared to the 20,000 Churchill had estimated), and the bridgeheads had withstood the expected counterattacks.
The German 12th SS (Hitler Youth) Panzer division assaulted the Canadians on June 7 and June 8 and inflicted heavy losses but was unable to break through. Meanwhile, the beaches were being linked: Sword on June 7, Omaha June 10, Utah by June 13. The Allies were reinforcing the front faster than the Germans were. Although the Allies had to land all their supplies on the beaches, Allied air superiority and the destruction of the French rail system made every German troop movement slow and dangerous.
The resulting disposition of Allied forces within the bridgehead was then the U.S. First Army in the west, and the British Second Army in the east.
In the western part of the lodgement, U.S. troops were able to capture the deep water port of Cherbourg. Behind Utah and Omaha beaches were a series of bocage, up to three metres (10 ft) thick. Before surrendering however, von Schlieben had most of the facilities destroyed, making the harbor inoperable until the middle of August.
Caen, a D-Day target, was still in German hands by the end of June. It was severely bombed and then occupied north of the River Orne in Operation Charnwood from July 7. Operation Goodwood was the operation to capture the remainder of Caen and the high ground to the south.
Operation Cobra, was launched on July 24 by the U.S. First Army and was extremely successful with the advance guard of VIII Corps entering Coutances at the western end of the Cotentin Peninsula, on July 28, after a penetration through the German lines.
The Normandy landings were the first successful opposed landings across the English Channel for nine centuries. They were costly in terms of men, but the defeat inflicted on the Germans was one of the largest of the war. Strategically, the campaign led to the loss of the German position in most of France and the secure establishment of a new major front. Allied material weight told heavily in Normandy, as did intelligence and deception plans. The general Allied concept of the battle was sound, drawing on the strengths of both Britain and the United States. German dispositions and leadership were often faulty, despite a credible showing on the ground by many German units. In larger context the Normandy landings helped the Soviets on the Eastern front, who were facing the bulk of the German forces and, to a certain extent, contributed to the shortening of the conflict there.
Although there was a shortage of artillery ammunition, at no time were the Allies critically short of any necessity. This was a remarkable achievement considering they did not hold a port until Cherbourg fell. By the time of the breakout the Allies also enjoyed a considerable superiority in numbers of troops (approximately 3.5:1) and armored vehicles (approximately 4:1) which helped overcome the natural advantages the terrain gave to the German defenders.
Allied intelligence and counterintelligence efforts were successful beyond expectations. The Operation Fortitude deception before the invasion kept German attention focused on the Pas de Calais, and indeed high-quality German forces were kept in this area, away from Normandy, until July. Prior to the invasion, few German reconnaissance flights took place over Britain, and those that did saw only the dummy staging areas. Ultra decrypts of German communications had been helpful as well, exposing German dispositions and revealing their plans such as the Mortain counterattack.
Allied air operations also contributed significantly to the invasion, via close tactical support, interdiction of German lines of communication (preventing timely movement of supplies and reinforcements—particularly the critical Panzer units), and rendering the Luftwaffe as practically useless in Normandy. Although the impact upon armored vehicles was less than expected, air activity intimidated these units and cut their supplies.
Despite initial heavy losses in the assault phase, Allied morale remained high. Casualty rates among all the armies were tremendous, and the Commonwealth forces had to create a new category—Double Intense—to be able to describe them.
German commanders at all levels failed to react to the assault phase in a timely manner. Communications problems exacerbated the difficulties caused by Allied air and naval firepower. Local commanders also seemed unequal to the task of fighting an aggressive defense on the beach, as Rommel envisioned. For example, the commander of the German 352nd Infantry Division failed to capitalize on American difficulty at Omaha, committing his reserves elsewhere when they might have been more profitably used against the American beachhead.
The German High Command remained fixated on the Calais area, and von Rundstedt was not permitted to commit the armored reserve. When it was finally released late in the day, any chance of success was immeasurably more difficult. Overall, despite considerable Allied material superiority, the Germans kept the Allies bottled up in a small bridgehead for nearly two months, aided immeasureably by terrain factors.
Although there were several well-known disputes among the Allied commanders, their tactics and strategy were essentially determined by agreement between the main commanders. By contrast, the German leaders were bullied and their decisions interfered with by Hitler, controlling the battle from a distance with little knowledge of local conditions. Field Marshals von Rundstedt and Rommel repeatedly asked Hitler for more discretion but were refused. Von Rundstedt was removed from his command on June 29 after he bluntly told the Chief of Staff at Hitler's Armed Forces HQ (Field Marshal Keitel) to "Make peace, you idiots!" Rommel was severely injured by Allied aircraft on July 16.
The German commanders also suffered in the quality of the available troops; 60,000 of the 850,000 in Rundstedt's command were raised from the many prisoners of war captured on the east front. These "Ost" units had volunteered to fight against Stalin, but when instead unwisely used to defend France against the Western Allies, ended up being unreliable. Many surrendered or deserted at the first available opportunity.
Given the Soviets' later domination of Eastern Europe, if the Normandy invasion had not occurred there might conceivably have been a complete occupation of northern and western Europe by communist forces, a contention which is supported by Stalin's statement that the Allies introduced their social system as far as their armies could reach. Alternately, Hitler might have deployed more forces to the Eastern Front, conceivably delaying Soviet advance beyond their pre-war border. In practice though, German troops remained in the West even in the absence of an invasion.
The beaches at Normandy are still referred to on maps and signposts by their invasion codenames. There are several vast cemeteries in the area. The American cemetery, in Colleville-sur-Mer, contains row upon row of identical white crosses and Stars of David, immaculately kept, commemorating the American dead. Commonwealth graves, in many locations, use white headstones engraved with the person's religious symbol and their unit insignia. The largest cemetery in Normandy is the La Cambe German war cemetery, which features granite stones almost flush with the ground and groups of low-set crosses. There is also a Polish cemetery.
Streets near the beaches are still named after the units that fought there, and occasional markers commemorate notable incidents. At significant points, such as Pointe du Hoc and Pegasus Bridge, there are plaques, memorials or small museums. The Mulberry harbor still sits in the sea at Arromanches. In Sainte-Mère-Église, a dummy paratrooper hangs from the church spire. On Juno Beach, the Canadian government has built the Juno Beach Information Center, commemorating one of the most significant events in Canadian military history. In Caen is a large Museum for Peace, which is dedicated to peace generally, rather than only to the battle.
They produced three volumes on the event. All have been reprinted by the Center of Military History. Classified as the American Forces in Action series, they include:
The British Government following the war also issued an official history of the British involvement in the war to be researched and published, the final result being the massive series known as History of the Second World War. The following cover the Normandy Campaign:
All links retrieved September 26, 2013.
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Principal co-belligerents in italics.
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Civilian impact and atrocities
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