Codename Operation Overlord
“You are about to embark on the great crusade toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you… I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle”. – Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower –
Operation Overlord is the operation of the liberation of German-occupied northwestern Europe from German control in Normandy. The assault phase of Operation Overlord was known as Operation Neptune. This operation involved landing the troops on the beaches, and all other associated supporting operations required to establish a beachhead in France. By this time, the Allies had established a firm foothold in Normandy. Operation Overlord also began on D-Day, and continued until Allied forces crossed the River Seine on 19 August 1944. The Battle of Normandy is the name given to the fighting in Normandy between D-Day and the end of August 1944. The date when Paris was liberated, 25 August 1944, is sometimes used as the end of the Battle of Normandy.
May 1944 had been chosen at the conference in Washington in May 1943 as the time for the invasion. Difficulties in assembling landing craft forced a postponement until June, but June 5 was fixed as the date by Eisenhower on May 17. As the day approached and troops began to embark for the crossing, bad weather set in, threatening dangerous landing conditions. Eisenhower and his subordinates decided on a 24 hour delay. Eventually, on the morning of June 5, Eisenhower “OK We will go.” After consulting the weatherforecaster. Within hours an armada of 3,000 landing craft, 2,500 other ships, and 500 naval vessels, escorts and bombardment ships began to leave English ports. That night 822 aircraft, carrying parachutists or towing gliders flew to their designated Normandy landing zones.
Over 425,000 Allied and German troops were killed, wounded or went missing during the Battle of Normandy. This figure includes over 209,000 Allied casualties, with nearly 37,000 dead amongst the ground forces and a further 16,714 deaths amongst the Allied air forces. Of the Allied casualties, 83,045 were from 21st Army Group (British, Canadian and Polish ground forces), 125,847 from the US ground forces. The losses of the German forces during the Battle of Normandy can only be estimated. Roughly 200,000 German troops were killed or wounded. The Allies also captured 200,000 prisoners of war (not included in the 425,000 total, above). During the fighting around the Falaise Pocket (August 1944) alone, the Germans suffered losses of around 90,000, including prisoners. During the battle, between 15,000 and 20,000 French civilians were killed, mainly as a result of Allied bombing. Thousands more fled their homes to escape the fighting.
“An operation of the nature and size of Operation Overlord has never been attempted in history.”
– Outline of Operation Overlord (official document)
Codename Operation Neptune D-Day-0
“Les sanglots longs des violons de l’automne / Blessent mon cœur d’une langueur monotone.”
Part of a song (chason) from Paul Verlaine. These were the 2 lines for the French resistance to prepare for an Allied invasion. The start of D-Day!
Operation Neptune is the name of the biggest seaborne invasion the world has ever seen. It was on Tuesday, 6 June 1944 on the coast of Normandy. It was the beginning of Operation Overlord.
It was plannend to secure a stable position for more Allied troops on the mainland of Normandy. This day is also known as D-Day (military term). In total 156,000 Allied troops landed along a 60-mile stretch of heavily fortified French coastline called the Atlantikwall on D-Day. With nearly 5,000 landing and assault craft, 289 escort vessels, and 277 minesweepers participating.
The first Allied action of D-Day was Operation Deadstick, a glider assault at 00:16 at Pegasus Bridge over the Caen Canal and the bridge (since renamed Horsa Bridge) over the Orne, half a mile (800 metres) to the east. Both bridges were quickly captured intact, with light casualties, by members of the British 5th Parachute Brigade and the 7th (Light Infantry) Parachute Battalion. The five bridges over the river Dives were destroyed with minimal difficulty by the 3rd Parachute Brigade.
The American airborne landings in Normandy were the first American combat operations the invasion of Normandy by the Western Allies on June 6, 1944, during World War II. Around 13,100 American paratroopers of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions made night parachute drops early on D-Day, June 6, followed by 3,937 glider troops flown in by day.
Operation Neptune began on D-Day 6 June 1944 and ended on 30 June 1944.
The Allied Command had devided the beaches in 5 major sectors.
SWORD BEACH (BRITISH)
At the east of the landing D-Day beaches, with sectors O, P, Q, and R. Like all the British or Canadian beaches, Sword was fronted by vacation homes close to the sea wall. At Ouistreham some of the houses had been reinforced and turned into makeshift bunkers. An antitank ditch had been dug behind the seawall, but paved city streets lay beyond, some blocked by concrete walls. To the east was the Merville battery of four 75 mm guns. Within supporting range were 155 mm guns at Le Havre.
GOLD BEACH (BRITISH)
A ten-mile stretch between Omaha Beach to the west and Juno to the east, Gold was divided into sectors H, I, J, and K, with the main landing areas being Jig Green and Red plus King Green and Red. It was one of the largest of the D-Day beaches. Gold was assaulted by the British Fiftienth (Northumberland) Infantry Division and 47 Royal Marine Commando in the Item sector. Two good-sized towns fronting Gold Beach were La Rivère and Le Hamel, but the major objective was Arromanches at the west end, selected as the site of one of the Mulberry piers, meant to improve Allied logistics as soon after the landings as possible.
JUNO BEACH (Canadian)
Smallest of the D-Day beaches, Juno covered two miles between Gold Beach to the west and Sword to the east. Its three sectors were designated L, M, and N. The primary sectors were Nan Red, White, and Green to the east and Mike Red and White to the west.
OMAHA BEACH (US)
Omaha was the most heavily defended of all the D-Day beaches. Omaha spanned ten statute miles in seven sectors A, B, C, D, E, F, and G, bounded by the Douve Estuary separating Utah Beach on the west and by Gold on the east. Before the landingcrafts touched shore, the area was attacked by hundreds of bombers but their bombs fell too far inland. Forced to drop through an undercast, the bombers were concerned about ‘‘overs’’ that might endanger the naval force offshore. Consequently, no German defenses were damaged, and no bomb craters were available to provide cover for the GIs on the beach. At the end of the day the US forces that landed sufferd 3000 casualties of whom c 1000 died. The beach was also known as ‘Bloody Omaha’.
UTAH BEACH (US)
The most westerly sector of the D-Day beaches. Extending some eleven statute miles in four sectors S, T, U, and V running north-northwest to south-southeast. Utah joined the west end of Omaha Beach in a line projecting through tidal flats beyond the mouth of the Vire River.
POINTE DU HOC (US)
Pointe du Hoc, a prominent headland situated between Utah and Omaha, was assigned to two hundred men of 2nd Ranger Battalion, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel James Rudder. Their task was to scale the 30m (100ft) cliffs with grappling hooks, ropes, and ladders to destroy the coastal gun battery located at the top. The cliffs were defended by the German 352nd Infantry Division and French collaborators firing from above.
Point Du Hoc
Casualties on D-Day-0
In April and May 1944, the Allied air forces lost nearly 12,000 men and over 2,000 aircraft in operations which paved the way for D-Day.
Historian Joseph Balkowski, who lists casualties unit-by-unit, gives these casualty figures:
– Utah Beach: 589, including 197 killed.
– US airborne landings: 2,499 including 238 killed.
– Other Allied: 235 naval and 340 air casualties.
– Omaha Beach: US Army: 3,686 casualties.
– Other Allied: 539 naval and 10 air casualties.
– Gold Beach 1,023,
– Juno Beach 1,242,
– Sword Beach 1,304
– Losses amongst the British airborne troops are often quoted as some 600 killed or
wounded, and 600 missing; 100 glider pilots also became casualties
– The total German casualties on D-Day are not exacly known, but are estimated as being between 4,000 and 9,000 men
– Naval losses for June 1944 included 24 warships and 35 merchantmen or auxiliaries sunk, and a further 120 vessels damaged.
The US National D-Day Memorial Foundation has achieved an accurate figure for the Allied personnel who were killed on D-Day. They have recorded the names of individual Allied personnel killed on 6 June 1944 in Operation Overlord. So far they have verified 2,499 American D-Day fatalities and 1,914 from the other Allied nations, a total of 4,413 dead (much higher than the traditional figure of 2,500 dead). Further research may mean that these numbers will increase slightly in future.
Lieutenant-General F.E. Morgan designated “COSSAC” – Chief of Staff to the Supreme Allied Commander (designate). Detailed planning for landing operation commences. Operation Overlord is born.
A group of COSSAC staff travel to Washington D.C. to present the Overlord plan to the US Joint Chiefs of Staff and to discuss matters with the War Department.
At the Quebec Conference, initial invasion plans drawn up by COSSAC are approved. COSSAC is instructed to proceed with measures to implement the approved plan.
British, American and Soviet Foreign Affairs ministers meet in Moscow to discuss operations in 1944.
At the Tehran Conference the decision is taken to open the second front in May 1944.
General Eisenhower is appointed Commander of SHAEF (Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force). COSSAC is absorbed into SHAEF.
Eisenhower takes up command in London.
Allied forces begin Exercise Tiger, a rehearsal operation for the amphibious invasion. Overnight, German E-boats spot part of a convoy and sink several vessels, killing 638 American servicemen.
The date of 5th June is set as D-Day.
Camps on the south coast of England are sealed and nobody can enter or leave without special authorisation.
Military personnel begin embarking the ships that will take them across the Channel. However, poor weather leads to a postponement of the invasion.
A break in the weather allows the invasion to go ahead for 6th June. The massive invasion force begins to assemble for the Channel crossing.
156,000 Allied soldiers land in Normandy and secure a bridgehead on mainland Europe. Casualties are about half the 20,000 feared.
The 12th SS Panzer Division launches a major counterattack against Canadian forces. The first elements of the artificial “Mulberry” harbours are put in place. Bayeux is the first city in France to be liberated.
American troops fighting inland from Utah and Omaha beaches link up near Carentan.
7th Armoured Division is driven back from attacks on Villers-Bocage and Hill 213.
German forces in the northern part of the Cotentin Peninsula are cut off by US Army VII Corps.
A huge storm causes significant damage to the Mulberry harbours. Mulberry A at Omaha Beach is beyond repair and abandoned.
Operation Epsom begins southwest of Caen.
The German garrison at Cherbourg surrenders.
Last German forces holding out in north Cotentin Peninsula surrender.
Operation Charnwood begins. XXX Corps launches attack on Caen.
Caen is occupied by British and Canadian forces.
Allied air attack injures Field Marshall Rommel. He is replaced by Field Marshall Gunther von Kluge.
Operation Goodwood is launched. American forces capture St Lo.
1,500-strong bombing raid precedes the start of Operation Cobra.
Operation Bluecoat begins.
General Bradley assumes command of Twelfth Army Group. Patton’s Third Army is activated.
German forces launch Operation Lüttich. Operation Totalize launched towards Falaise.
Patton’s Third Army captures Alençon.
Operation Tractable launched and Falaise captured.
Field Marshall Walter Model assumes command of German Armies in the west and orders a full retreat from the Allied encirclement.
At the neck of of the Falaise pocket British, Polish and American forces link up.
Allied forces close the Falaise Gap.
Paris is liberated by French and American forces.
General Eisenhower takes over command of all Allied ground forces.
D-Day june 6th
German coastal batteries between Le Havre and Cherbourg are the target of Allied bombers.
The initial airborne landings commence with the dropping of reconnaissance and pathfinder units.
Gliderborne troops, under the command of Major John Howard, land and commence an assault on the Caen Canal and Orne River bridges in the British sector.
Major Howard’s forces seize both bridges.
Major General Matthew Ridgway’s 82nd Airborne Division parachute west of Ste Mere Eglise in the American sector.
At the German 84th Army Corps headquarters in St Lo, initial reports of the American paratrooper landings are received.
Major General Maxwell Taylor’s 101st Airborne Division land on drop zones near Utah Beach in the American sector.
The main body of the British 6th Airborne Division parachute east of the River Orne.
American soldiers destined for Omaha and Utah Beaches (which will be the first to be landed on) start to transfer from their assault ships to landing craft.
Allied warships arrive at their positions for the naval bombardment.
Heavy equipment and reinforcements for paratroops arrive by glider.
German naval observers report the presence of Allied naval forces.
British paratroopers commence an attack on the village of Ranville.
The island of Saint Marcouf is occupied by American forces. Elements of the 82nd Airborne Division capture the town of Ste Mere Eglise.
Paratroops of the British 6th Airborne Division disable the gun battery at Merville. Two miniature submarines surface just off the coast to provide navigation reference points for the British landing forces.
The Allied naval bombardment commences.
First troops begin landing at Utah and Omaha beaches.
Admiral Ramsey receives first reports of conditions ashore.
German radio broadcasts initial reports of the landings.
US Army Rangers commence the assault of the Pointe du Hoc battery.
British troops begin landing at Gold and Sword beaches.
Canadian troops being landing at Juno Beach.
General Eisenhower authorises the release of a communiqué announcing the start of the invasion.
General Bradley calls for reinforcements at Omaha Beach, for fear of having to abandon the landings there.
Free-French commandos who landed with the British at Sword Beach liberate the casino at Riva Bella. Hermanville, behind Sword Beach, is liberated.
Utah Beach is cleared of all German forces.
La Riviere, behind Gold Beach, is taken by advancing British forces.
Canadian forces capture the town of Bernieres, behind Juno Beach.
In a speech to the House of Commons, Prime Minister Winston Churchill reports on the landings. Forces advancing inland from Utah Beach link up with paratroopers of the 101st Airborne Division.
Lord Lovat’s commandos of the 1st Special Services Brigade arrive at Pegasus Bridge to relieve the holding force.
Troops finally start moving inland at Omaha Beach.
The German 21st Panzer Division launches a counter attack against British forces on the eastern flank of the invasion area.
12th SS Panzer Division moves into position south of Caen.
British armour reaches Arromanches.
American forces liberate St Laurent behind Omaha Beach. British and Canadian forces link up the Gold and Juno beachheads. The battery at Longues is finally silenced by Allied naval bombardment.
21st Panzer Division reaches Luc sur Mer between Juno and Sword beaches, but British armour and infantry halt their advance. Allied patrols reach the outskirts of Bayeux.
British 6th Airborne Brigade land by glider in the Orne area.
Field Marshall Rommel returns to his headquarters from Germany. Canadian and British forces advance on Caen is stalled at the Forest of Lebisay.
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