D-Day, 1944

D-Day – WWII

6 June 1944

SUMMARY

Codenamed Operation Neptune, D-Day, was the first day of Operation Overlord—the Allied  invasion of Nazi occupied Normandy, France.  The Normandy landings were the largest seaborne invasion in history, with nearly 5,000 landing and assault craft, 289 escort vessels, and 277 minesweepers supporting 156,000 Allied troops.  Nazi defensive positions consisted of more than 50,350 troops, 170 artillery weapons that included 100mm, 210mm, and 320mm rocket launchers in heavily fortified bunkers.

German fortification at Normandy, Bundesarchiv_Bild_101I-291-1213-34, Public Domain

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BACKGROUND

Soviet leader Joseph Stalin urged the Allies to create a second front after the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941.  That plan was delayed as the Allies staged offensive operations in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations.  After the Soviet victory at Stalingrad and the Allied invasion of Italy in September 1943, the decision was made to create the second front at the Trident Conference and the Tehran Conference.  The beaches of Normandy were chosen for being a broad front that would permit simultaneous threats against the port of Cherbourg, coastal ports further west in Brittany, and an overland attack towards Paris and eventually into Germany.

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LOCATION

Normandy, France

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U.S. troops approaching Omaha beach, Photograph from the Army Signal Corps Collection in the U.S. National Archives, Public Domain

ALLIES

FIRST ARMY

Omaha Beach

V CORPS

1st Infantry Division

29th Infantry Division

Utah Beach

VII CORPS

4th Infantry Division

82nd Airborne

90th Infantry

101st Airborne

SECOND ARMY

Gold Beach

XXX CORPS

50th Infantry Division

Juno Beach

I CORPS

3rd Canadian Infantry Division

Sword Beach

I CORPS

3rd British Infantry Division

6th British Airborne

 

Led by

General Dwight D. Eisenhower

Eisenhower, 1947, Official Army photo, Public Domain

Field Marshal Sir Bernard Montgomery

Montgomery, 1943, Imperial War Museum, Public Domain

Lieutenant General Omar Bradley

Bradley, 1943, Official Army photo, Public Domain

General Sir Miles Dempsey

Dempsey, 1944, Imperial War Museum, Public Domain

Air Chief Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory

Leigh-Mallory, 1944, Imperial War Museum, Public Domain

Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay

Ramsay, 1943, Imperial War Museum, Public Domain

 Air Chief Marshal Arthur Tedder

Tedder, 1943, Imperial War Museum, Public Domain

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Supported by

LA RÉSISTANCE

NAVAL SUPPORT

1,213 Warships

(5 Battleships, 20 Cruisers, 65 Destroyers, and 2 Monitors)

4,126 Landing Craft

736 Ancillary Craft

864 Merchant Vessels

AIR SUPPORT

11,590 Aircraft

 

NAZI GERMANY

5. PANZERARMEE

South of Caen

21. Panzerdivision

7. ARMEE OBERKOMMANDO

Omaha Beach

352. Infanterie-Division

Utah Beach

91 .Luftlande Infanteriedivision

92. Statische Infanteriedivision

Gold, Juno, and Sword Beach

716. Statische Infanteriedivision

German sentinell at Normandy, Deutsches Bundesarchiv, Public Domain

 

Led by

Generalfeldmarschall Gerd von Rundstedt

Rundstedt, 1932, Allgemeiner Deutscher Nachrichtendienst – Zentralbild (Bild 183), Public Domain

Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel

Rommel, 1942, Deutsches Bundesarchiv, Public Domain

General der Panzertruppe Leo Geyr von Schweppenburg

Schweppenburg, date unknown, http://thirdreichpictures.blogspot.com/2015/11/geyr-von-schweppenburg.html, Public Domain

Generaloberst Friedrich Dollmann

Dollmann, date unknown, https://forum.valka.cz/topic/view/25991/Dollmann-Friedrich, Public Domain

Generaloberst Hans von Salmuth

Salmuth, 1943, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hans_von_Salmuth.jpg, Public Domain

Generalleutnant Wilhelm Falley (killed-in-action)

Falley, date unknown, Deutsches Bundesarchiv, Public Domain

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Supported by

NAVAL SUPPORT

3 Torpedo Boats

 29 Fast Attack Craft

 36 R Boats

36 Minesweepers and Patrol Boats

U-Boats

AIR SUPPORT

570 Aircraft

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RESULT

A decisive Allied victory

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D-Day, history.com, Public Domain

 

CONSEQUENCE

Allied figures for D-Day casualties are contradictory.  One estimate cites 4,900 Allied troops killed, missing, and wounded.  The First U.S. Army, accounting for the first twenty-four hours in Normandy, tabulated 1,465 killed, 1,928 missing, and 6,603 wounded.  The after-action report of U.S. VII Corps (ending 1 July) showed 22,119 casualties including 2,811 killed, 5,665 missing, 79 prisoners, and 13,564 wounded, including paratroopers.

Canadian forces at Juno Beach sustained 946 casualties, of whom 335 were listed as killed.

No British figures were published, but some estimates of 2,500 to 3,000 killed, wounded, and missing, including 650 from the Sixth Airborne Division.

German torpedo boats sank the Norwegian destroyer HNoMS Svenner; while the destroyer USS Corry and submarine chaser USS PC-1261 were sunk by mines.

USS Corry (DD-463) with nets over her side, rescuing survivors of German submarine U-801, 17 March 1944, Official Navy photo, Public Domain

11,590 Allied aircraft flew 14,674 sorties on D-Day. Of those, 127 planes were lost. Some 2,395 aircraft and 867 gliders delivered the airborne assault.

German sources vary between 4,000 and 9,000 D-Day casualties on 6 June. Field Marshal Erwin Rommel’s report for all of June cited killed, wounded, and missing of some 250,000 men, including 28 generals.

German prisoners of war are led away by Allied forces from Utah Beach, Official Army photo, Public Domain

The Allies failed to achieve any of their goals on the first day.  Carentan, St. Lô, and Bayeux remained in German hands, and Caen, a major objective, was not captured until 21 July.  Only 2 of the beaches (Juno and Gold) were linked on the first day, and all 5 beachheads were not connected until 12 June; however, the operation gained a foothold which the Allies gradually expanded over the coming months.

Color combat footage of the Invasion of Normandy

Combat footage

USS Texas (BB-35) firing at Omaha beach

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