I have spent the day trying to think of what to add to the plethora of postings regarding the 66th anniversary of D-Day, the day that Allied troops stormed the beaches of Normandy and began to reclaim Europe from the Axis powers. It is difficult to imagine just what went on there, but here is my small attempt:
Operation Neptune and Operation Overlord were the code names for the assault. It began with a landing of 24,000 airborne troops, followed by the amphibious landing of Allied troops at 6:30 AM. Operation Glimmer and Operation Taxable were diversionary assaults designed to draw German forces away from the main landing.
There were roughly 5,000 ships involved with the assault and 160,000 boots hit the ground on various beeches: Gold, Juno, Omaha, Sword and Utah.
Allied order of battle
The order of battle for the landings was approximately as follows, east to west:
British Second Army
*6th Airborne Division (United Kingdom) was delivered by parachute and military glider to the east of the River Orne to protect the left flank. The division contained 7,900 men, including one Canadian battalion.
* British 1st Special Service Brigade comprising No. 3 Commando, No. 4 Commando, No. 6 Commando and 45 Commando British Commandos landed at Ouistreham in ”Queen Red” sector (leftmost). No.4 Commando were augmented by 1 and 8 Troop (both French) of No. 10 (Inter Allied) Commando.
* I Corps (United Kingdom), 3rd Infantry Division (United Kingdom) and the 27th Armoured Brigade (United Kingdom) from Ouistreham to Lion-sur-Mer.
* 41 Commando (part of 4th Special Service Brigade) landed on the far West of Sword Beach.
* 3rd Canadian Infantry Division, 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade and 48 Commando from Saint-Aubin-sur-Mer, Calvados to Courseulles-sur-Mer.
* 46 Commando (part of 4th Special Service Brigade) at ”Juno” to scale the cliffs on the left side of the Orne River estuary and destroy a battery. (Battery fire proved negligible so No.46 were kept off-shore as a floating reserve and landed on D+1).
* XXX Corps (United Kingdom), 50th Infantry Division (United Kingdom) and 8th Armoured Brigade (United Kingdom), consisting of 25,000 from Courseulles to Arromanches.
* 47 Commando (part of 4th Special Service Brigade) on the West flank of Gold beach.
* 79th Armoured Division operated specialist armour (“Hobart’s Funnies”) for mine-clearing, recovery and assault tasks. These were distributed around the Anglo-Canadian beaches.
Overall, the 2nd Army contingent consisted of 83,115 troops (61,715 of them British). The nominally British air and naval support units included a large number of crew from Allied nations, including several RAF squadrons manned almost exclusively by foreign air-crew.
U.S. First Army
* V Corps (United States), U.S. 1st Infantry Division and U.S. 29th Infantry Division making up 34,250 troops from Sainte-Honorine-des-Pertes to Vierville-sur-Mer.
* 2nd and 5th United States Army Rangers Battalions at Pointe du Hoc (The 5th BN and A, B, C Co 2nd BN diverted to Omaha).
* VII Corps (United States), U.S. 4th Infantry Division and the 359th Regimental Combat Team of the U.S. 90th Infantry Division comprising 23,250 men landing, around Pouppeville and La Madeleine.
* 101st Airborne Division (United States) by parachute around Vierville to support Utah Beach landings.
* 82nd Airborne Division (United States) by parachute around Sainte-Mère-Église, protecting the right flank. They had originally been tasked with dropping further west, in the middle part of the Cotentin Peninsula, allowing the sea-landing forces to their east easier access across the peninsula, and preventing the Germans from reinforcing the north part of the peninsula. The plans were later changed to move them much closer to the beachhead, as at the last minute the 91st Infantry Division (Germany) was determined to be in the area.
In total, the First Army contingent totalled approximately 73,000 men, including 15,600 from the airborne divisions.
And last, but not at all least, Ronald Regan’s speech at the 40th anniversary of the invasion.
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We visited Normandie back in the 1980s and it is a moving experience to see the cemetery and know that these young men died for a true cause. It is also something to walk down the bluffs to the beach and envision them coming up in the opposite direction.