Following on the tail of Memorial Day, we thought it appropriate to reflect and remember the events of D-Day. The following excerpt is from History.com
During World War II (1939-1945), the Battle of Normandy, which lasted from June 1944 to August 1944, resulted in the Allied liberation of Western Europe from Nazi Germany’s control. Code-named Operation Overlord, the battle began on June 6, 1944, also known as D-Day, when some 156,000 American, British and Canadian forces landed on five beaches along a 50-mile stretch of the heavily fortified coast of France’s Normandy region. The invasion was one of the largest amphibious military assaults in history and required extensive planning. Prior to D-Day, the Allies conducted a large-scale deception campaign designed to mislead the Germans about the intended invasion target. By late August 1944, all of northern France had been liberated, and by the following spring the Allies had defeated the Germans. The Normandy landings have been called the beginning of the end of war in Europe.
Preparing for D-Day
After World War II began, Germany invaded and occupied northwestern France beginning in May 1940. The Americans entered the war in December 1941, and by 1942 they and the British (who had been evacuated from the beaches of Dunkirk in May 1940 after being cut off by the Germans in the Battle of France) were considering the possibility of a major Allied invasion across the English Channel. The following year, Allied plans for a cross-Channel invasion began to ramp up. In November 1943, Adolf Hitler (1889-1945), who was aware of the threat of an invasion along France’s northern coast, put Erwin Rommel (1891-1944) in charge of spearheading defense operations in the region, even though the Germans did not know exactly where the Allies would strike. Hitler charged Rommel with finishing the Atlantic Wall, a 2,400-mile fortification of bunkers, landmines and beach and water obstacles.
In January 1944, General Dwight Eisenhower (1890-1969) was appointed commander of Operation Overlord. In the months and weeks before D-Day, the Allies carried out a massive deception operation intended to make the Germans think the main invasion target was Pas-de-Calais (the narrowest point between Britain and France) rather than Normandy. In addition, they led the Germans to believe that Norway and other locations were also potential invasion targets. Many tactics was used to carry out the deception, including fake equipment; a phantom army commanded by George Patton supposedly based in England, across from Pas-de-Calais; double agents; and fraudulent radio transmissions.
A Weather Delay: June 5, 1944
Eisenhower selected June 5, 1944, as the date for the invasion; however, bad weather on the days leading up to the operation caused it to be delayed for 24 hours. On the morning of June 5, after his meteorologist predicted improved conditions for the following day, Eisenhower gave the go-ahead for Operation Overlord. He told the troops: “You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you.”
Later that day, more than 5,000 ships and landing craft carrying troops and supplies left England for the trip across the Channel to France, while more than 11,000 aircraft were mobilized to provide air cover and support for the invasion.