Today, June 6th, on the anniversary of the D-Day Invasion and Normandy Beach, we wanted to give you some interesting facts and details about the largest amphibious assault in history, and the single most important victory for the Allies in World War II.
Hopefully you’ve seen Saving Private Ryan or Band of Brothers which both give you a somewhat realistic account of what a nightmare the invasion looked like for some of the Allied forces, but there’s still a trove of fascinating information about Normandy, the invasion, and the ensuing battles that you might not know about.
Date: Sunday, June 6th, 1944
Time: 6:30 AM (first landings)
Location: Normandy Beaches, France (Utah Beach, Omaha Beach, Gold Beach, Juno Beach, Sword Beach)
Allied Forces: 156,000 troops landed, 6,939 vessels (Operation Neptune), 11,590 aircraft
Allied Casualties: At least 10,000, with 4,414 confirmed dead
Axis Casualties: Around 1,000 men
What Was D-Day?
Technically speaking, D-Day is actually repetitive, since “D” means “day.” From Wikipedia:
The terms D-Day and H-Hour are used for the day and hour on which a combat attack or operation is to be initiated. They designate the day and hour of the operation when the day and hour have not yet been determined, or where secrecy is essential. For a given operation, the same D-Day and H-Hour apply for all units participating in it. When used in combination with numbers, and plus or minus signs, these terms indicate the point of time preceding or following a specific action… Planning papers for large-scale operations are made up in detail long before specific dates are set. Thus, orders are issued for the various steps to be carried out on the D-Day or H-Hour minus or plus a certain number of days, hours, or minutes. At the appropriate time, a subsequent order is issued that states the actual day and times.
The Invasion of Normandy began on June 6th and wouldn’t be finished until nearly two months after–mostly in part because of the Allies’ extremely unfavorable terrain they had to secure.
Why Normandy Beach? The invasion’s code name was Operation Overlord. Officers in command decided the invasion should take place at Normandy Beach because for the following reasons (/u/TheGuinaPig21):
- Normandy involved an assault of beaches, not heavily fortified ports. An earlier assault of French port of Dieppe had resulted in heavy Allied losses.
- Normandy was within fighter range of southern England.
- Normandy wasn’t located on a peninsula like Cotentin or Brittany, which presented the possibility of the beachhead being sealed off by German forces.
- Normandy was closer to the Seine and Germany than possible locations on the Bay of Biscay, presenting better strategic opportunities to cut off German forces in western France and move more quickly to Germany.
Operation Quicksilver: In order to ensure success at Normandy, the Allies needed to find a way to keep German Panzer tanks out of the battle. To do this, the Allies placed Lieutenant George S. Patton in charge of an entirely fake force, called the First US Army Group (FUSAG). This force consisted of inflatable tanks in visible areas, massive (and fake) tent cities, and hundreds of thousands of fake radio conversations that posted the at closest point in England to France: Pas de Calais.
The Allies needed to ensure that Germany would think that’s where the massive attack would come from, which explains why they’d use Lt. Patton–a leader the Germans had the utmost respect for. What they didn’t know was that a particular “slapping incident” had put Patton in a somewhat humiliated position.
The trick worked like a charm and Operation Quicksilver’s success (which you can read in great detail) was a big reason why the allies achieved victory at Normandy.
German Preparedness For Normandy: The truth of the matter is that with as much preparation the Allies had done for Normandy, Operation Overlord would have been a much bloodier battle if the German forces had been ready for Normandy.
We’ve already told you about Operation Quicksilver’s success, but the remaining German forces at Normandy were ill-prepared for what was to come. From TIME Magazine:
Not only did Rommel spend D-Day speeding through the countryside, not only had the Luftwaffe withdrawn all the planes that were needed in Normandy, but the armored regiments that should have been thrown into the defense of Omaha Beach could not move without direct orders from Hitler, and Hitler’s aides refused to wake him before 9:30 a.m.
The Only Photos That Survived
The only photos that survived of the Normandy Invasion are eleven negatives. While photographer Robert Capa (wgi was with the second wave of American troops on Omaha Beach) took a total of 106 photos, all but eleven were destroyed in a lab accident back in London.
These negatives are now known as “The Magnificent Eleven.”