D-Day: A Very Brief History

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D-Day: A Very Brief History

Table of contents :
Copyright
1. The World’s Largest Amphibious Invasion
2. Background to D-Day
3. Planning for an Invasion
4. Deception Plans
5. Use of Double Agents
6. The Fortitude Operations
7. Build-up to the Assault
8. D-Day Arrives
9. The Aftermath

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D-DAY A Very Brief History Mark Black All Rights Reserved © Very Brief History

The Very Brief History Series Want to learn more about history, but don’t think you have the time? Think again. The Very Brief History series is intended to give the reader a short, concise account of the most important events in world history. Each book provides the reader with the essential facts concerning a particular event or person; no distractions, just the essential facts, allowing the reader to master the subject in the shortest time possible. With The Very Brief History series, anyone can become a history expert!

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Table of Contents The Very Brief History Series 1. The World’s Largest Amphibious Invasion 2. Background to D-Day 3. Planning for an Invasion 4. Deception Plans 5. Use of Double Agents 6. The Fortitude Operations 7. Build-up to the Assault 8. D-Day Arrives 9. The Aftermath Disclaimer

1. The World’s Largest Amphibious Invasion D-Day was the code name given to the first day of the invasion of Normandy, an invasion that signaled the beginning of the end of the Second World War. The code name was Operation Overlord, and it aimed to dislodge Hitler and his army, who had built a stronghold on Normandy’s shorelines to repel enemy forces. Several nations participated in what was dubbed the largest amphibious invasion the world had known, and its success was in no small measure due to a detailed series of measures implemented to ensure that Hitler was fooled into thinking that the invasion would occur elsewhere on the French coast. The campaign was led by the Americans, in close coordination with the British, Canadian and Free French Forces. Poland, Netherlands, Free Belgian Forces, Greece and Free Czechoslovakia Forces also provided invaluable support. The Royal Norwegian Navy, the Royal New Zealand Air Force and the Royal Australian Air Force were also major players in Operation Overlord. The planning for the invasion and liberation of Normandy, France was a massive significant. It took several months of preparation, with several codes developed and assigned to each step of the operation, complete with a huge deception plan to mislead the Germans.

2. Background to D-Day World War II began in 1939. It was described as human history’s deadliest global conflict with fatalities that reached about 73 million. The two opposing forces in World War II were the Axis and the Allies. Germany was the instigator of the war, invading Poland in 1939 and forming an Axis alliance with Italy. Eventually France and Great Britain declared war on Germany, while on the other side of the world Imperial Japan wanted to be the dominant force in East Asia. The country was already at war with the Chinese Republic as early as 1937. Continental Europe was being divided by Germany and the Soviet Union. Members of the British Commonwealth and the United Kingdom were the only Allied forces that were fighting against the Axis at that time, which had already reached North Africa and the Atlantic regions. The Axis Alliance invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, and by December of that year Japan had become a member of the Axis. The Japanese attacked the United States in Pearl Harbor and conquered a large portion of Western Pacific by invading the European territories, starting with Malaya (Kota Bharu), located in the Pacific Ocean. By 1942, the tide started to turn against the Axis forces. They were defeated in North Africa and Stalingrad. Japan lost in many naval battles and Germany was suffering numerous defeats in Eastern Europe. The Allied Forces were able to invade Italy and the Americans were also victorious in their defense of the Western Pacific territories. With the Axis losing ground, the Allies regrouped and focused their efforts in strategic locations. France was invaded by the Western Allies in 1944 and the Soviet Union regained their lost territories. It was in the midst of the Allied campaigns in WWII that the strategic plan to invade Normandy and D-Day occurred.

3. Planning for an Invasion The Allies semi-officially tested Germany’s defenses in August 1942, when they made a test landing at Dieppe in Northern France. Officially it was to open a second front by installing a beachhead in Europe’s western section. The Canadians were the major participant in what was a disastrous “test,” although the lessons learned there were incorporated in the plans for the Normandy invasion later. While it was unfortunate that the “test attack” was casualty-heavy, there were many invaluable lessons learned in the ill-fated exercise that made the plans for Operation Overlord a great one. 1. It made them realize that a frontal attack was not possible and they needed to look for alternative sites to make the landing. 2. There should be an easily reachable major port and the site should be within range of the fighter aircraft coming from the southern section of England. 3. They should have a good network of roads for backing up and exits. The landing beaches must be able to hold numerous support operations without being compromised, with the beach defenses capable of withstanding naval bombings. 4, It was decided that the coast of Normandy provided all the ideal requirements for the operation. Lieutenant General Sir Frederick Morgan of Britain was appointed as the Chief of Staff to the Supreme Allied Commander, and his assignment was to prepare the plans for the invasion. 5. The ultimate goal was to destruct Germany’s forces and ultimately defeat Germany. Why Normandy? The Germans viewed Normandy as the most unlikely place for the Allies to launch their attack for several reasons. The Germans believed that a counterattack was imminent on the Northern Coast of France. Adolf Hitler gave Erwin Rommel the momentous task of leading the defensive operations

in the general area where they thought it likely for the Allies to mount their invasion. That was the reason why Rommel was put in charge of finishing up the Atlantic Wall. Stretching from Norway up to Spain, it was a 2,400-mile fortification, surrounded by obstacles on the water and on the beach, where landmines were buried and several bunkers were built. The Germans thought that Normandy was an unlikely place for the attacks. On the coastline of northern France, Normandy and the Port of Caen are two of the furthest points from Britain and it would take time to cross the channel. They thought that if the Allies were to launch an attack, they would choose a location that is closest to Britain and one where the landing forces could be brought in as quickly as possible. The location would have to be one where fresh food and medical supplies could be brought in immediately, which meant that a place with a huge port, like Pas de Calais, would be the likely location. Pas de Calais is also closer to Britain. The Allies, on the other hand thought Normandy was the ideal spot to launch their secret attack. The coast of Brittany in western France was too far out. The current on the coasts of Belgium were too treacherous. Holland was usually flooded and a beachhead could not be installed. Because of its distance from Britain, the defense set up in Normandy was weaker than the other areas. The beaches of Normandy were similar to the beaches in Western England, sandy and with rollers in some places. Soldiers were able to train in England and test their tanks. Although there was no port in Normandy, the Allies worked around the problem by building temporary and artificial harbors, which they named the Mulberry Harbors. These were towed from the coast of England in the south. They were like pieces of giant jigsaw puzzles, created from flexible steel that floated on water with concrete or steel supports. The temporary harbors were strong enough to support the combined weight of about 7,000 tons of goods and vehicles transferred every day. Mulberry A was assembled at Omaha Beach while Mulberry B, also called Port Winston, was assembled at Arromanches, a beach close to Gold Beach. The invasion plan of Normandy was carried out in phases, and the planners of the invasion of Normandy created several codes for each phase, and the officers in charge of the operation. The officers were given the code name Bigot. The word was derived from ‘To Gibraltar’, the words stamped on the

passports of the officers that went to war in North Africa, shortened to ‘To Gib’ and jumbled to ‘bigot’. Operation Overlord was the code name for the whole operation, the landing and invasion of Normandy. D-Day was the code for the exact day when the operation was supposed to start. Although there was no special meaning in the letter ‘D’, it was common in the military to shorten words, therefore it was equivalent to saying ‘the day’ just like the letter ‘H’ represents ‘hour’. D-Day became the term used when the Normandy landings and invasion are being discussed, symbolizing the day that started the end of the war.

4. Deception Plans Operation Bodyguard was the code for the massive deception plans that planners employed to confuse the Germans as to where the actual invasion was to take place. There were five deceptions plans within Operation Bodyguard, including Ferdinand and Vendetta that involved fake invasions of parts of the Western Mediterranean; the invasion of France from the Bay of Biscay that was code named Ironside; the fake Balkans invasion code named Zeppelin, as well as Operation Fortitude South and Operation Fortitude North. The two branches of Operation Fortitude were used as the decoys employed to create fake field armies that were supposed to be based in South England and in Edinburgh. Fortitude North was the “threat” to Norway, while Fortitude South was a “threat” to Pas de Calais. These operations were used to divert the attention of the Axis forces from the actual target, Normandy. There were put in place to provide diversion on D-Day, as well as to delay the arrival of reinforcements that the Axis forces would need when the actual Operation Overload was underway. The deception plans that were devised and employed by the planners of the Allied Forces were very thorough, engaging a wide network of spies and double spies and several decoy operations, including fake targets, phantom armies, fake equipment, and radio transmissions that were fallacious. These elaborate deception plans gave Operation Overload its success. The whole deception operation was a huge success. One of the major elements of Operation Bodyguard were the Fortitude operations. The two branches, Fortitude North and Fortitude South, were aimed at preventing the Germans from placing additional troops in Normandy by creating believable decoy scenarios diverting attention from the real attack. Once Operation Overlord was underway, Operation Bodyguard would switch to ensuring that the Germans would be delayed in deploying their reserves to Normandy. Operation Bodyguard also had to prevent at all costs a counter attack by the Germans, which could prove disastrous.

Part of Operation Fortitude was its two airborne operations, Operation Glimmer and Operation Taxable. This required the use of heavy bombers that flew very low in the sky to drop pieces of aluminum foil in varying sizes. On radar screens the aluminum foil called “chaff,” or its code name “Window,” looked like invasion aircraft that were traveling at high speed. The foil pieces also masked the bombers, fooling with the radar frequencies. The flying patterns were precise. Glimmer was implemented by the 218 Squadron, which flew towards Boulogne. Taxable was handled by the 617 Squadron, and flew towards Dieppe. Complementing the aerial operations was Operation Moonshine. It consisted of four reserve launches and a small flotilla. These carried 28 balloons that were radar-reflective. The balloons were equipped with “Moonshine,” a small electronic device that was able to return and multiply on the radar screen, thus making it appear that a huge fleet of invading ships was on their way. The balloons were tethered to floats about ten miles off the French coast. Loudspeakers on board the floats played recordings of the activities associated with dropping the ships’ anchors. London Controlling Section, a secret group set up by the Allies to manage the deception plans, was the group responsible for Operation Fortitude's planning. The execution of each deception plan, however, was the responsibility of several area or theater commanders. Operation Fortitude was under General Dwight D. Eisenhower of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force, or SHAEF. Within the SHAEF, a special section was established to manage the deception operation and Fortitude. Called Ops B., The London Controlling Section or the LCS was responsible for the management of Special Means, that is using and managing double agents and some diplomatic channels. While the plans for Operation Overlord were a heavily guarded secret, it was surprising that a crossword puzzle appeared on the May 2, 1944 issue of London Daily Telegraph. The answer to one of the clues was “Utah.” A British officer was the first one to notice this abnormality, if it could be called that. Upon further inspection, it was learned that earlier issues that dated a few months back had clues for “Juno,” “Sword,” and “Gold.” It nearly caused a panic because these were code names for the target beaches in Operation Neptune on D-Day. In following issues there were also clues for “Overlord,”

“Neptune” and “Omaha.” MI5 detained the crossword compiler, who was a schoolmaster from Surrey named Leonard Dawe. However, he knew nothing about the secret project upon interrogation. The U.S government later declared that it was pure coincidence. In 1985, Ronald French, a former pupil of Leonard Dawe revealed that he was a 14-year old schoolboy in 1944 and he heard those words from American and Canadian soldiers that were camped near his old school. He thought those words would be good clues for the crossword puzzles that his teacher created. Initially, five channels were projected to occur during the deception phase of Operation Overload, which included the following: 1. Mislead the Germans by physical deception involving nonexistent units by using bogus equipment and infrastructure, such as decoy lighting, dummy airfields and dummy landing craft. 2. Imitate actual units by creating wireless traffic. 3. Employ the Double Cross System by using German agents that were controlled by the Allies, to provide false information to the intelligence services of the Germans. 4. Utilize controlled information leakage using diplomatic connections that could, in all probability, be passed to the Germans through neutral countries. 5. Publicly announce the presence of prominent staff linked to phantom groups, such as the First U.S. Army Group that was to be led by General George S. Patton of the U.S. Army. It should be noted though, that inflatable tanks, as well as other decoy equipment were not used in Operation Fortitude. The operation did use dummy aircraft and dummy landing craft. During the tactical and operational deceptions, artillery, trucks and inflatable tanks were utilized on the continent for credibility. While Operation Fortitude was being carried out however, German aerial reconnaissance was almost absent. What proved most useful and significant to the success of Fortitude were the German double agents and the pseudowireless traffic. These two special means were so effective and credible that Hitler never wavered from his belief that that attack would not be in

Normandy, but elsewhere, and he kept the German Panzer units stationed in the locations where the Germans thought the attacks would be mounted.

5. Use of Double Agents MI5, the intelligence arm of the British military had created a deception and anti-espionage operation called the Double Cross System, or XX System, during the Second World War. At that time, there were about 50 Nazi double agents in Britain. Britain used them for their disinformation campaign against their controllers, and they proved to be very effective during Fortitude. The recruited double agents were given carefully and cleverly composed pieces of information that were released via close coordination of the planners and handlers. During Operation Fortitude, the Double Cross System allowed double agents to report minor details such as unit markings on military vehicles and soldiers’ uniform insignia. Others were allowed to give accurate information about the presence of the military units on the south central areas. Their trust was further heightened when they were able to verify the reports sent by the double agents. They met Allied units bearing those insignias. These were the real invasion forces that were gathering in those particular areas. Some were instructed to report few sightings of troops, contrary to the actual number, particularly from the southwest part of England. From the southeast, the reports were real, as the forces for Operation Quicksilver were there. According to the very credible “mis-information” campaign of the Allies, the military planners of the German forces were very much convinced that the invasion would be staged initially at the point nearest to the intended target. Working on the reports that they received from the double agents, the Germans were able to put together an “assumed” order of battle for the Allies, with Pas de Calais as the main target. The location was the nearest to England. With the reliable information that they received, 15 reserve divisions of the German forces were kept in the area even when the actual invasion of Normandy was already underway, because they believed that the Normandy invasion was the decoy. Such was the strength of the Germans’ belief in the reliability of their field intelligence reports gathered from double agents. Some double agents even awarded the Iron Cross for exemplary service to their country and were informed of this through radio messages emanating from Germany.

Operation Fortitude brought to world attention three double agents whose efforts impacted the successful execution of the operation. One was Joan Pujol Garcia, who went by the name Garbo. He was a Spaniard. He worked to be recruited by the German intelligence operatives by sending them plenty of fake, but convincing, information. His work paved the way for the Allies to accept him, and he became employed by British intelligence. He was able to create a complex of 27 nonexistent sub-agents during Fortitude, with the Germans paying him regularly with a huge amount of cash. He was indeed very credible and very valuable, for he received an Iron Cross from the Germans as well as a MBE from the British. Brutus was the code name of Roman Czerniawski, an officer from Poland. He was captured by the Germans and given the option to be a spy but on his arrival in England, he swiftly announced himself to MI5. Dušan "Duško" Popov used the code name Tricycle as his name with the British intelligence, while he used Ivan as his German code name. His international import-export business made it easy for him to travel to Portugal, which was a neutral country where he released the information given to him by British intelligence. He was paid highly by both sides. A German spy became quite notorious for selling classified information that would have been potentially damaging to WWII actions as well as to Operation Overlord. His name was Elyesa Bazna, an Albanian. He was the British ambassador Sir Hughe Knatchbull-Hugessen’s valet, assigned to Ankara, Turkey. He started taking photographs of classified documents, taken from the ambassador’s safe or his diplomatic dispatch box on October 21, 1943. He initially had 56 documents that he offered to German attaché to Ankara, Ludwig Carl Moyzisch for £20,000. Bazna was finally recruited to be a German spy, and received regular pay. He was given the code name Cicero. Bazna was bold and active in his spying activities and was able to sell many authentic documents, including the conferences of the three major leaders for Operation Overlord and other Allied activities prior to the Normandy invasion. Had the German authorities properly acted on the information sold by Cicero, the results of the war and the Normandy invasion plans would have been different. Luckily, there was conflict within their bureau and the classified information was not acted upon. Hitler also firmly believed that the attacks, although he knew that there would

an invasion, would be elsewhere in the Balkans, closer to Britain, and that they also needed to protect Bulgaria, Romania, and Hungary, for fear that, like Italy, these countries would align with the Allied Forces. Although at that time, the British were already employing the Double Cross System, therefore, some of the documents that Bazna got a hold off might be part of the massive disinformation campaign that had been launched. It should be noted, too that some of the predicted actions, with predicted time and place shown on some of the documents passed off by Bazna, actually occurred, thereby sealing the trust of the Germans on the authenticity of the documents he illegally acquired. What was ironic was that while the Germans showed trust in Bazna, and Bazna was relishing his increased reputation and the related wealth and other promises, such as a villa from Hitler after the war, he was also a victim of Nazi duplicity. Bazna was paid by the Nazis with counterfeit money.

6. The Fortitude Operations Fortitude North was designed to make the Germans believe that the invasion would take place in Norway. They hoped that this plan would delay or prevent the buildup of German reinforcement in France after the launch of the invasion. They simulated the activities of political contact with Sweden and the building up of forces in the north of England. Fortitude North relied on fake radio traffic and “special means” for their deception activities because they knew that German reconnaissance planes could not fly over Scotland without resistance. Double agents code named “Jeff” and “Mutt” were used. The British media cooperated by announcing fabricated information, including the presence of nonexistent troops, fake wedding announcements and football scores. It was a successful operation for Fortitude North, as it was able to convince Hitler to increase the troops in Norway to 13 divisions. To aid the deception, British commandos attacked Norwegian power structures, military outposts and shipping districts. Simulated radio traffic was code named Operation Skye. It involved four fictional divisions of the Fourth Army, created through a program spearheaded by Colonel R. M. MacLeod. It was started on March 22, 1944 and became fully operational by April 6, 1944. The fictional divisions were Skye I representing the Fourth Army Headquarters and Skye II for the British II Corps. The American XV Corps, which was actually a genuine division, but created fictional units was called Skye III, while the British VII Corps was code named Skye IV. Another component of Fortitude North was Operation Graffham that involved putting economic and political pressure on Sweden, a neutral country. Negotiations were held by British diplomats to request for some concessions from Sweden, including the use of their airfield as refueling stations during emergency landings and the right to fly Allied plans for reconnaissance. They issued threats such as economic blacklisting, all for the purpose of preventing Sweden, which had economic ties to Germany from supplying ball bearings, a vital material for the manufacture of war material. Sweden succumbed to the pressure and eventually stopped the supply of ball bearings and restricted the German military traffic in the country.

Fortitude South created the illusion that the Pas de Calais would be the target of Allied invasion. It was supposed to be led by a fictitious military group, the First U.S. Army Group, or FUSAG. With France as the center of Operation Bodyguard, the likely choice of locale was the Pas de Calais area that was the nearest to Britain with the shortest distance when crossing the English Channel. The region also provided the fastest route to enter Germany. Pas de Calais would allow the quickest turnaround for air cover as well as military ships. Three large harbors are in the area, Calais, Beulogne and Dunkirk. Erwin Johannes Eugen Rommel, the German Field Marshal fortified the coastline of Pas de Calais. Operation Fortitude South’s key deception element was Operation Quicksilver, which was designed to let the Germans think that the Allied had two army groups. The fictitious one was supposed to be headed by the flamboyant General George Patton, and the actual Normandy invasion force, the 21st Army Group, was under the command of Bernard Montgomery, Ground Forces Commander in Chief. These two supposed army groups were positioned in Britain across Pas de Calais. The stage was set for the deception by putting up new buildings, while dummy landing craft and dummy vehicles were positioned at key embarkation points. Dummy vehicles were moved around to ensure that German spies would be able to take photographs of them, to support the notion that more war vehicles are being positioned. Sussex and Kent were occupied, and nonexistent 14th, 108th and 119th Infantry Divisions (Ghost Divisions) were populated by a small group of American soldiers. These soldiers were given identities, war stories (for field experience), and medals. They were even issued unique shoulder patches, the same as the patches issued to other units stationed in England, to give the illusion of a massive and widespread military contingent. Double agents were also extensively used in Fortitude South to complete the disinformation campaign. The plan was so comprehensive that they built oil storage depots and airfields. The airfields were lit at night and they went to the extreme of frenzied outpost activities by putting vehicle tracks on the soil for spies and reconnaissance planes to see. All of these deception tactics were aimed at presenting a large force to the German army.

7. Build-up to the Assault After the conclusion of the conference in Tehran between Eisenhower (U.S.), Churchill (England), and Stalin (Russia), and the agreement that the invasion would have to be implemented by crossing the English Channel, commanders and leaders were appointed to spearhead and oversee the plans. Lieutenant General Frederick Morgan of Britain was appointed as the Chief of Staff to the Supreme Allied Commander (COSSAC) in January of 1943. He was the one that planned for the invasion to take place in Normandy between the Cotentin Peninsula and Caen. His plan involved the use of three divisions and air dropping two brigades. Eleven divisions would land on the first two weeks of the invasion using two artificial harbors, later code named Mulberry A and B. These would be towed from across the English Channel. Afterwards, one hundred divisions, most of them coming directly from the United States aboard naval ships, would land in France for the final assault. In January 1944, Dwight Eisenhower of the United States was designated as the Supreme Allied Commander. The COSSAC was renamed the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF), while the command included both American and English officers. Bernard Law Montgomery was named the ground invasion forces commander. Walter Beddel Smith (U.S.) was the chief of staff of Eisenhower. Under the Montgomery plan the U.S. First Army was headed by Major General Omar Bradley, while the British and Canadian combined forces with the British Second Army came under the command of General Miles Dempsey. Logistical preparations were handled by Lieutenant General John Clifford Hodges Lee, of the United States. Germany had been aware of an impending invasion by the Allies, wanted France to be reinforced, and appointed Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, who at that time was the German Army Group B commander for the coast of the English Channel. Rommel was the former Afrika Korps commander. He reported to Gerd von Rundstedt, Commander in Chief West. Rommel’s Army Group B was divided into the Seventh Army headed by Friedrich Dollman.

They were stationed in Brittany and Normandy. The Fifteenth Army, stationed at Pas de Calais and the eastward sections of France was under Hans von Salmuth’s command. The Panzer Group West, the German reserve tank forces were headed by Leo Geyr von Schweppenburg under the direct command of Gerd von Rundstedt. Relevance? General Morgan’s initial battle plans were revised by Commander Montgomery. He demanded five infantry divisions for the landing on Normandy and the establishment of the landing area to include the base of the Cotentin Peninsula and the estuary of the Orne River. The infantry divisions were composed of one Canadian, two British, and two infantry divisions from the United States. The beaches were given the code names Utah and Omaha for the U.S. divisions, Juno for the Canadians, while Gold and Sword were for the British. During the first day of the D-Day invasion, the airborne divisions from the U.S. would land behind the western end of the target area while a British division would land on the eastern end. An amphibious armor would then swim towards the shore using the leading waves to propel them forward. D-Day landed 156,000 men in Normandy, complemented by an armada that consisted of 50,000 vehicles, 11,000 planes and 5,000 landing craft and ships. During the subsequent days of the operation, more troops and materials were landed. On the fifth day of Operation Neptune, 104,428 tons of supplies, 326,547 troops, and 54,186 vehicles had landed in Normandy. By the 25th day, June 30, which was the end of Operation Neptune, the number of troops increased to 850,000. There were 570,000 tons of supplies and 148,000 vehicles. By July 4, about one million troops had already landed in Normandy. Thorough preparation and numerous rehearsals were needed to make any military actions a success. It was the same for Operation Overlord and the preparations for D-Day. On November 17, 1943, the 225 residents of the tiny village of Tyneham, on the Isle of Purbeck in the county of Dorset, were told to evacuate before December 19, 1943. The area was to be the training ground for landing exercises, code named Exercise Smash, in preparation for D-Day. Studland Beach, a beach closely resembling the beach conditions of

Normandy, was used for the exercise six weeks before the planned day of attack. It was cleared of mines and other items that could prove disastrous to the troops. The King of England, George IV, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Prime Minister Winston Churchill were present during the rehearsals. They watched the exercises conducted by the joint forces from Canada, England, and the United States from Fort Henry, the observation post and bunker that was constructed in 1943. Live ammunition was used for real practice runs. The use of live ammunition for Exercise Smash was the world’s largest wartime real ammunition practice. Assault landing operations and bombing practice were seen by the VIPs from a safe distance. The test for a new type of tank ended in tragedy, however. The tank, called Valentine DD (duplex drive), was a floating unit that would carry the soldiers from the naval ships closer to the shore and provide them with ground cover. However the tank’s canvas skirts proved to be a hindrance because of its vulnerability to shrapnel, strong waves, and sharp stones, which could send the tank down. During Exercise Smash, four or five of these tanks sank and six soldiers drowned. In spite of this tragedy during Exercise Smash, the Valentine DD tanks proved quite useful during the actual invasion. Salisbury Plain in the central southern section of England and the village of Imber were also used as training ground for American soldiers prior to DDay. All the 155 residents of the area were told that they had 47 days from November 1, 1943 to evacuate, as the War Office needed the area by December 17. Operation Tiger, also called Exercise Tiger, was conducted at the beaches of South Devon. This was one of the most disastrous pre-D-Day training exercises, where ten times more soldiers were killed than the number of soldiers who lost their lives at Utah Beach. With the zero hour closely looming, large scale exercises were conducted. The beaches of Lyme Bay and Slapton Sands were the closest to the beach conditions in Utah Beach, and this was where the American soldiers conducted their training from April 22-30 in 1943. Thousands of American soldiers participated in the exercise. The landing ships were headed by two destroyers, and a small flotilla escorted the naval ships. The first actual and successful landing occurred on April 27, 1943.

During the early hours of April 28th, tragedy struck. The German Kriegsmarine had a flotilla of S-boats, called E-boats by the British. These were located in Cherbourg and Boulogne, as well as in Guernsey. The S-boats were equipped with to 20mm guns, were very maneuverable and capable of running at high speeds of up to 40 knots. These were kept by Germans to patrol the English Channel. On April 27, 1943, they left Plymouth for Slapton Sands. Nine S-boats spotted the landing operations of eight ships in Lyme Bay in the early morning of April 28. HMS Azalea, a Royal Navy corvette, also spotted the S-boats, although the captain incorrectly assumed that the landing ships also saw the S-boats and did not inform them. The S-boats attacked at 1:33 a.m.. The ships in the American convoy were told not to return fire so that their positions would not be given away, as the darkness still provided some protection. Even with the darkness surrounding them, three landing ships were hit by the attackers. LST-507 was abandoned after it caught fire. LST289 also caught fire but managed to reach the shore. LST-531 immediately sank after being hit. It was only at 2:18 a.m. when the convoy was given the order to break up their formation and make their way towards their target landing area independently. Although the attack had tragic results, the Allies learned several valuable lessons. 1. They learned that the landing craft and the British naval headquarters had different radio frequencies. 2. Soldiers were able to survive the heavy attack, but the soldiers lacked the knowledge on how to put on the life vests. The kapok life jackets could only be worn one way and most of the soldiers who drowned were still in full combat gear, were unable to put the vests on properly. 3. Soldiers should also be taught to loosen their military boots if they were to abandon ship to facilitate removing them when in the water. 4. Communication problems would have to be addressed. HMS Azalea and HMS Scimitar, both Royal Navy ships, were supposed to escort the landing ships. The Americans were not told that HMS Scimitar returned to Plymouth due to some needed repairs. While HMS Saladin was sent as a replacement, it

was dispatched four minutes after the S-boat attacks started. 5. The shore defense under the British saw the S-boats, but they were ordered not to fire to keep the Germans from learning of the heavy defense mounted on the shoreline. 6. In the confusion, soldiers who were still alive and coming to the shore, were killed by friendly fire from HMS Hawkins, thinking that that was part of the exercise. It was said that 946 men died on land and at sea, though historians believed that the number of casualties was actually much higher. No reports were made of the tragic incident and members of the medical staff were sworn to secrecy when they treated the wounded. It was kept as a highly classified secret. On May 5, 1943, Rear Admiral John Hall reported about the incident and apologized to the Americans, but maintained that the blame should be put on the escalating pressure of the heightened preparations for DDay. Operation Neptune Operation Neptune was the code name for the cross of the English Channel that would occur on D-Day. According to the plans drawn up by Admiral Bertrand Ramsey, Operation Neptune would need 6,000 ships. He was also the spearhead for the towing and construction of the Mulberry harbors. Such a huge number posed so many questions that included: It was assumed that the vast sky power of the Allied forces would provide cover for the naval force. A flotilla consisting of 287 mine sweepers to clear the way for the other ships would spearhead the armada. Following the minesweepers would be 138 warships to take care of the beach defenses set up by the Germans in Normandy. Corvettes and frigates would escort the 4,000 landing crafts that would carry the troops from the ports in the southern part of England. The minesweepers used in Operation Neptune were mostly Bangor class ships that were able to carry a 60-man crew. These Bangor class ships weighed 672 tons, with a maximum speed of 16 knots. On board were four .303-inch machine guns, one 3-inch gun and one 40mm gun. The landing ships were Liberty class and could be built in five days. These ships weighed about 10,000 tons. Armed salvage tugs were used for towing the Mulberry

Harbor parts across the English Channel. These were also used to help the landing ships, as the waters of the English Channel were notoriously dangerous. Salvage tugs weighed about 700 tons and carried a crew of 30 men. Their maximum speed was 13 knots and they were equipped with two .303-inch machine guns two 20mm guns and one 3-inch gun. Hundreds of armed salvage tugs were deployed to help the Neptune team, acting as escorts for the convoys and in marshaling and shepherding the transport and landing ships. Some were equipped with depth charges to act as anti-submarine vessels. Also put into use were the Air and Sea rescue launch boats of the Royal Air Force to aid distressed ships and help in rescue operations. Twenty-three small airstrips were built for D-Day support. These were called advanced landing grounds, or ALGs. These were designed for small fighter and bomber planes such as the Spitfires, Hurricanes and the Mosquito. The original plan was to build 72 ALGs, but some of the land that was chosen to build on was farm land, and when land disputes ensued, some of the areas were not well drained and this hampered construction. The Airfield Construction Groups of the Royal Engineers and the Airfield Construction Groups of the Royal Air Force built the ALGs. The original ALGs used Sommerfeld runways that were made of heavy steel netting anchored by deeply buried metal pins. These were soon worn out from constant use and replaced by Square Mesh Track created by the British Reinforced Engineering Co. Ltd., while American Pierced Steel Planks were used by the Americans for their ALGs. The huge contribution of these ALGs to the success of the whole Operation Overlord could not be discounted. These were of immense help to soften the resistance of enemy targets, and they provided excellent air cover for the troop-carrying ships. The success of building these ALGs was duplicated when the Allied forces were in Northern France to finish the liberation and invade Germany. Once the success of the landings in Normandy was assured, the land where the ALGs were built was returned to the rightful owners. The British used X-boats on D-Day to escort the British landing troops. These are midget submarines with crews composed of the Combined Pilotage and Reconnaissance Parties' elite commandos. These were formed upon Lord Louis Mountbatten’s orders, so as not to repeat the disaster in Dieppe. The invaluable help of the crew of the X-boats led to the successful landing of the

British troops at Sword Beach with minimal casualties. Many people were involved in the success of Operation Neptune and Operation Overlord as a whole. The cooperation of the French Resistance before and after the D-Day invasion was of vital importance as well. They executed four plans that greatly helped the Allies. Plan Green or Plan Vert would sabotage the railways before the landings began. Plan Bleu would target electrical facilities in France, teams in Plan Violet were to cut the communication cables located underground, and Plan Turtle or Plan Tortue aimed to delay the arrival of German reinforcements after the landings in Normandy. Media facilities were used to broadcast secret messages. The French Language service of the BBC broadcasted simple to complex coded alerts directed at the French Resistance for them to start executing their plans. The coded messages from the BBC were their call to action, and before June 6, 1944, they were able to destroy 52 trains as well as cut railway tracks in over 500 locations all over France. Their plans effectively isolated the Germans stationed at Normandy and caused a 2-week delay in the arrival of German reinforcement units. They also provided crucial intelligence reports to the Allies and did exemplary work in disrupting the communication and supply lines of the Germans in France.

8. D-Day Arrives D-Day was originally scheduled to be the morning of June 5, 1944, as there was only a brief window of a few days when crossing the English Channel would not be too hazardous. But because of inclement weather, the plan was postponed. At the end of May, five days before the date originally planned as the day of attack, two British X-boats with a crew of five sailed from Hayling Island in Hampshire towards Sword Beach. Their mission was to guide the landing craft and make sure the landing craft was on course, as there were huge rocks around the target landing area. The boats made such a arrival and were not spotted by the enemies. The elite commandos waited for the opportune time to arrive, watching German soldiers play football on the beach through their periscope. They had to surface at 10 p.m. on June 4th to listen to the BBC news, as the station would be sending a coded message to inform them if the operation would be a go. They learned that the operation must be delayed for one day and they feared that they would not have enough oxygen to last them that extra day. The fear was unfounded, but they still surfaced from time to time to allow the crew to breathe fresh air and have a walk around to stretch their muscles. During the BBC broadcast at 10:00 p.m. on June 5th, they were informed that the following morning would be D-Day, starting at 4:00 a.m. They were on alert before the designated hour and knew the landings had started by the sound of the bombers flying over the French coastline to bomb the German positions. Soon the British landing crafts arrived, homing in on their beacon, and the two X-boats safely guided them to shore. D-Day involved comprehensive and well-coordinated air and water assaults coming from the landing troops on the coded beaches, Omaha, Utah, Gold, Sword, and Juno. The landing troops were comprised of 73,000 Americans, 21,400 Canadians and 61,715 British troops. The first assault groups were the Americans from the U.S. First Division. They were called The Big Red One and their target was Omaha Beach. The 6th Airborne Division of the British Army led the assaults from the air.

Omaha Beach Omaha was the largest of the five beaches chosen for the D-Day invasion. It was six miles wide and was the scene of the intense fighting between the Germans and the American forces. Cliffs surrounded the beach, and the German defense in the area was formidable. Resistance posts were built at strategic locations on the cliffs and the beachhead was heavily mined. A network of trenches was also dug for personnel movement and guns were placed strategically to cover the whole beach. Commander Omar Bradley led the troops of the U.S. First Army and their attack was to commence at 6:30 in the morning of June 6, 1944. It was a difficult mission for the Americans, especially since they lost 29 armored amphibious Sherman DD tanks. These were due to miscalculation, with the tanks being released too far from the beach causing them to be immediately filled with water. The rest of the troops could do nothing to save the tanks and the crews inside. It therefore became apparent that the troops that had landed on the beach would be without their expected cover from the armored vehicles. They were also faced with the fact that the other units landed in the wrong locations because of the winds and strong wave swells, and still many troops were not able to land. The Germans defended fiercely, aided by their well-placed armament and their position. The U.S. Rangers led the way to scale the cliffs,leaving the beach and avoiding the bullets. Eventually, small naval crafts were able to get close enough to the beach to attack, and by noon, the German resistance was lessened considerably. Even though the Americans suffered 2,400 casualties at Omaha, they held the beach and the immediate surrounding area. 34,000 more troops were able to land at Omaha Beach at the end of the day. Utah Beach Utah Beach was also assigned to the American troops and their attack was to begin at 6:30 a.m. on June 6. Utah was the farthest of the five beaches, situated at Cotentin Peninsula’s base. It was selected to enable the Allies to capture the Cherbourg port that would be vital in the transport of equipment and personnel during the initial stages of the war. The target area was only three miles wide and the German fortifications were weak because locks behind the beach could be used to flood the region if there was a need, and this would hamper the movement of vehicles. Southwest of the beach was the

nearest town, Carentan, where a main road ran to the east towards Bayeux, which would lead the Allies to the troops that landed on the other beaches. The same road also ran northwest to Valognes, 13 miles away from Cherbourg. The U.S. landing force came from the 14th Infantry Division. There would be airborne drops from the 101st Airborne Division as well as the 82nd Airborne Division and they were to link up with the troops that landed on the beach. The paratroopers were dropped at 1:30 a.m. under the cover of darkness, and this confused the Germans as to whether they were part of the main attack force or were just decoys. The airborne drop went well but the troops landing on the beach had to battle with the forces of nature. They were able to land on the beach but were taken 2,000 meters away from the intended target by the strong currents. Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt was the most senior American commander at Utah Beach, and he told his troops to advance. With the weak reinforcement they were able to link up with the paratroopers by midday, and by the end of the day were about six miles from Carentan. On that first day, 1,700 military vehicles and 20,000 men were able to land at Utah Beach. The number of casualties was less than 300. Sword Beach Towards the east, Sword Beach was the farthest among the five beaches. It was located about nine miles from Caen, where all the region’s main roads ran through. Therefore it was vital to secure the area and the Germans knew it. Despite its strategic position, defense at Sword Beach was light compared to Omaha, although artillery defense five miles from Sword Beach was heavy, equipped with 75mm, 155mm and 88mm guns. The British 2nd Army landing troops were headed by Lieutenant General Miles Dempsey. The attack at Sword Beach began at 7:05 on the morning of June 6, with British and French commandos coming from the beach, paratroopers from the 3rd and 5th Parachute Brigades and the British First Corps. With very little resistance they were able to secure most of the beach by 8:00 in the morning. It was here that the Germans staged a counter attack, using their 21st Panzer Division, as the British troops were unable to meet the Canadian troops coming from Juno. Around eight in the evening, the 192nd Panzer Grenadier Regiment reached the area, but they were immediately destroyed by aerial assault of the Allied tanks and fighter planes. At the end of the day, 29,000

soldiers had landed at Sword, and there were only 630 casualties. Gold Beach Gold Beach was the center of the five beaches targeted for the Normandy landings on D-Day. It was only five miles wide. At the western end of Gold Beach was the Mulberry Harbor at Arromanches. The head of the invading troop was Lieutenant General Miles Dempsey. Assault unit was from the British Second Army’s 50th Infantry Division together with the 47th Royal Marine Commandos. German units stationed here belonged to the 716th Division and some units from the 352nd Division. There was a German observation post at the cliffs at Longues but it was taken out by HMS Ajax. The rest of the defensive units were vulnerable and exposed to the combined naval and aerial attack launched by the Allies. The time of the attack at Gold Beach was to commence at 7:25 in the morning, but the landing troops were hampered by high tide, and their intelligence reports stated that anti-tank mines littered the beach. With the high tide, the engineers were unable to disarm the mines. The first landing craft carried military vehicles, and 20 armored vehicles were destroyed. It was fortunate that accurate aerial bombings and gunfire from naval ships were able to neutralize the German defense, and by noon a large part of the beach was in British hands. By nightfall, 25,000 from the 50th Division had landed and had lined with the Canadian forces from Juno Beach. The casualty count for the Allies reached 400. Juno Beach The capture of Juno Beach was assigned to Canadian troops. The six-mile wide beach was heavily fortified by the Germans. Assault at Juno Beach was timed for 7:45 in the morning. The Canadian 3rd Infantry Division was under the command of Lieutenant General Miles Dempsey and they were tasked with moving the troops inward to secure the Caen-Bayeaux Road and link up with the troops coming from Sword and Gold beaches. Once again, the troops had to contend with nature. There wanted to land at the beach at low tide to expose the mines laid out by the Germans, but the low tide occurred three hours earlier than their scheduled assault. They had to

wait until the tide rose high enough to cover the mines that the engineers had been unable to destroy. About30% of the landing crafts were either destroyed or damaged as a result. Canadian soldiers had to wade towards the beach to prevent further damage. Although they were not fired at by the Germans while still at sea, they met heavy gunfire once they reached the beach. While they were successful in repelling the Germans, and the troops belonging to the 1st Hussar Tank regiment reached the target road crossing at the end of the day, the Canadian casualty count was high. Out of the 21,400 soldiers who landed at Juno Beach, 1,200 died. However, they were able to expose the weakness in the German defense once they had moved inland. Pegasus Bridge Pegasus Bridge was an important installation and its capture was a major triumph for the Allies. The all-important bridge was the sentinel of the main road leading to Ouistreham and the other beaches towards the west. With the control of the bridge and the road, the Allied troops were able to supply critical equipment to the 6th Airborne Division that dropped on the eastern part of Caen. The confusion of the German defenders was enhanced by the fact that the Allies landed behind the German line. The first British troops to reach Normandy on June 6, 1944 belonged to the D Company, the Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, and the 2nd Oxfordshire Light Infantry. They landed in Normandy during the early hours of D-Day and captured the Caen Canal Bridge, the former name of Pegasus Bridge. Even though the bridge was guarded by machine guns, the use of gliders surprised the Germans and it only took the British about 10 minutes to secure the bridge. They were already set up for the German counter attack that came two hours after they have landed. Even with the counter attack launched by the 21st Panzer Division of the Germans, the British were able to resist. Control of the Orne Bridge and the Pegasus Bridge, and the taking of the five target beaches, ensured the D-Day success and the protection of the eastern flank. At the day’s end on D-Day, it was estimated that about 156,000 Allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy, with the casualty count reaching 4,000. Thousands more went missing or were wounded. However, by the fifth day,

on June 11, all five beaches had been fully secured. 100,000 tons of equipment, 50,000 vehicles and a total of 326,000 troops were already in Normandy. By the end of June, the Allied forces had taken control of the Cherbourg port, had brought in 150,000 military vehicles, and 850,000 men and were on their way towards the rest of France.

9. The Aftermath The planning of the Normandy landings and invasion came at a huge cost, in both financial/material terms, and lives. However, it was still a resounding victory for the Allies. It showed that careful planning and preparation, careful analysis of all facets that came into the picture, including the most minute the employment of all possible warfare tactics at all fronts, and the concerted and coordinated efforts by all the parties involved in the planning and staging of D-Day, brought about its success. It showed that even the most difficult of odds could work if you are prepared to weather the risks. Casualties are a part of every war, and the Battle of Normandy had plenty on record. Total casualties for the United States, which was the highest among the major participating nation, were 6,603. England had 2,700 casualties, while Canada suffered 1,074 casualties. That was just from the major participants. The record would be much higher if the support troops from other Allied nations are taken into consideration. According to reports, the casualties that Germany suffered ranged between 4,000 and 9,000. Some of the major innovations during the Normandy landings were the development of the artificial harbors, termed the Mulberry Harbors, the creation of PLUTO, the Pipe Line Under the Ocean, to supply the vehicles with fuel. The underwater pipeline ran from England to Normandy, prevented from being easy target of the Germans by being underwater. The Duplex Drive (DD) amphibious tanks also were developed and played a huge role in the providing armored support to the landing troops. The actual Battle of Normandy started on D-Day, June 6, 1944, although years and months of planning contributed greatly to its successful conclusion. Effectively, the battle ended on August 1944, with the liberation of Paris. The Allied forces had reached the River Seine by the end of August and the Germans had been driven away from the northwestern section of France. The Battle of Normandy had ended and the Allies were preparing to attack Germany with the support of Soviet troops. The planned isolation of the German troops in Normandy was a huge psychological blow to their leadership as it also prevented the German Führer from sending his troops stationed in France to repel the advancing Soviet

troops. By May 8, 1945, Nazi Germany’s unconditional surrender was accepted by the Allies. It was hugely influenced by Hitler’s suicide on April 30, 1945.

Disclaimer Although the author and publisher have made every effort to ensure that the information in this book was correct at press time, the author and publisher do not assume and hereby disclaim any liability to any party for any loss, damage, or disruption caused by errors or omissions, whether such errors or omissions result from negligence, accident, or any other cause.