D-Day, 6th June 1944 – Part One Introduction and Allied Plan
This post is dedicated to the memory of those who died on Tuesday 6 June 1944 in pursuit of freedom. It is through their sacrifice that we enjoy the freedoms we have today.
In this the first part of the story of D-Day, 6 June 1944 we concentrate on the build-up to the invasion.
Operation OVERLORD, as the invasion of Northwest Europe is known, was the largest amphibious assault to have ever taken place and involved almost three million Allied troops from twelve participating Allied nations. It took more than two and a half years to plan and prepare and culminated in the capture of Paris 80 days after the Allied forces landed on the coast of France.
It began in the early hours of Tuesday 6 June 1944 when three Allied Airborne Divisions were dropped by parachute and reinforced by gliders to secure the flanks of the invasion area. These airborne landings were followed up by a massive air and naval bombardment of the German coastal defences in preparation for the early morning amphibious assault.
At 06.35 hrs the seaborne landings commenced with the amphibious assaults in the American sector at UTAH and OMAHA Beaches, which were followed fifty minutes later by the amphibious assault in the British sector at GOLD, JUNO and SWORD Beaches.
The following 80 days saw the Allies consolidate and breakout from their lodgement area, capture the vital deep-sea port of Cherbourg, fight their way across the Normandy Bocage to capture Saint-Lô and Caen. These 80 days are now collectively known as the Battle of Normandy which finally culminated in the encirclement of the German forces in the Falaise pocket and the liberation of Paris on Wednesday 25 August 1944.
Tuesday 6 June 1944 or D-Day as it is now known marked the beginning of the end of Hitler's Nazi German state. It has gone down in history as one of those days that changed the face of the world.
The Invasion Plan
The Allied invasion plan was (west to east): -
The US 82nd ‘All American’ Airborne Division was to be dropped by parachute and reinforced by gliders in the area of Sainte-Mère-Église to protect the right flank of the invasion area.
The US 101st ‘Screaming Eagles’ Airborne Division was to be dropped by parachute and reinforced by gliders in the area of Vierville to secure the four beach exits and support the US VII Corps landing at UTAH Beach.
The US VII Corps was to land one Division up on UTAH Beach in the area from Les Dunes de Varreville to Pouppeville, with the US 4th Infantry Division leading.
The US 2nd and 5th Ranger Battalions were to assault the German Coastal Artillery Battery at Pointe du Hoc in order to silence the guns.
The US V Corps was to land with a reinforced Division up on OMAHA Beach between Sainte-Honorine-des-Pertes to Vierville-sur-Mer, with the US 1st Infantry Division and 116th Regimental Combat Team from the US 29th Infantry Division leading.
The British No 47 (Royal Marine) Commando was to come ashore to seize the small fishing village of Port-en-Bessin on the West flank of GOLD Beach.
The British XXX Corps and 8th Armoured Brigade were to come ashore on GOLD Beach between La Rivière to Arromanches, with the British 50th (Northumbrian) Division leading.
The British I Corps with the British 2nd Armoured Brigade and No 48 (Royal Marine) Commando were to come ashore at JUNO Beach between Saint-Aubin-sur-Mer to La Rivière-Saint-Sauveur, with the Canadian 3rd Infantry Division leading.
The British I Corps and the 27th Armoured Brigade were to come ashore at SWORD Beach between Ouistreham to Lion-sur-Mer, with the British 3rd Infantry Division leading.
The British 1st Special Service Brigade comprising No 3, No 4, No 6 and No 45 (Royal Marine) Commandos were to land at Ouistreham on the ‘QUEEN RED’ sector (left) of SWORD Beach. No 4 Commando were to be augmented by 1 Troop and 8 Troop (both French) of No 10 (Inter Allied) Commando.
British 6th Airborne Division, comprising 3rd and 5th Parachute Brigades and the 6th Airlanding Brigade, was to be airlifted and delivered by parachute and glider to the area between the River Orne and River Dives to protect the left flank.
The Maquis, French Resistance, were to mount operations to disrupt the German lines of communication and hinder the movement of reinforcements to the invasion area.
The objectives for the first 40 days were to: -
• Create a beachhead that would include the cities of Caen and Cherbourg (especially Cherbourg for its deep-water port).
• Break out from the beachhead to liberate Brittany and its Atlantic ports and to advance to a line roughly 125 miles to the southwest of Paris, from Le Havre through Le Mans to Tours.
The three-month objective was to control a zone bounded by the River Loire in the south and River Seine in the northeast.
Ian R Gumm