Tonight is the Night of all Nights. On D-Day, June 6, 1944, the Allies invaded the beaches of Normandy. D-Day was an assault that ignited a series of Allied triumphs. Long before the dramatic day, at Casablanca, in 1942, Roosevelt and Churchill left a conference with a strategy that included the primary defeat of Germany. In 1943, the chain of command was carefully selected, and planning quickly got underway. Allied troops eventually participated in exercises and battle tactics for the operation.
The troops would ultimately be asked to execute the greatest amphibious assault in history. The operation would not have been successful unless the Germans were intentionally misled. In addition, the Allies had to be appropriately prepared. The Allies had the prayers of millions of people, and fought to protect peace and freedom. D-day's victory can be credited to the Allied commanders, planners, preparations, deceptions, and most importantly the soldiers. Before paratroopers of the US 101st Airborne Division embarked, Colonel Sink read aloud his last thoughts of the evening, "Tonight is the night of all nights".
The Germans, after their invasion of Poland in 1939, tallied numerous victories. The Allies needed a solution. Then in 1942, Churchill and Roosevelt ended a conference with a strategy that consisted of a primary emphasis on the defeat of Germany. The Allies needed to withdraw attention away from the Red Army. Roosevelt and Churchill concluded that a collapse of the Red Army would result in occupation of the Soviet Union and a possible defeat of the Allies. Around this time, the Germans were at the gates of Moscow.
The Allies concluded that a cross-channel invasion was needed. In August 1942, Canadian forces conducted a suicidal raid on the French port of Dieppe. The British learned several lessons from their failed assault. One important flaw was prior naval bombardment, which would have taken out German artillery and mines. In addition, the landing crafts' material was made out of plywood, which was easily chipped and destroyed. The material was made out of plywood, which was easily chipped and destroyed.
Poor communications between the headquarters ship and units on shore was determined to be an area that needed improvement. It was also very clear that a huge force would be necessary at the point of attack. However, after the disastrous Dieppe Raid, the Allies did find some light, Operation TORCH. Operation TORCH, which was a campaign in North Africa, was lead by American Brigadier General Dwight D. Eisenhower. It was a success. The accomplishment now gave the Allies a stable area to launch attacks against German-held areas in the Mediterranean.
With Allied morale high, the Allies got underway on Operation ROUNDUP, or the cross-channel invasion of France. In January 1943, Prime Minister Churchill and President Roosevelt met, and decided to delay Operation ROUNDUP until 1944 and to establish a headquarters in London to discuss a landing in France. Lieutenant General Frederick E. Morgan of the British Army was in charge of the staff, and American Brigadier General Ray W. Barker was named Morgan's deputy. Morgan's new name was Chief of Staff to the Supreme Allied Commander, his staff eventually became known as COSSAC.
COSSAC then changed Operation ROUNDUP to the more familiar codename Operation OVERLORD. COSSAC faced one major problem; lack of naval equipment. However, in the summer of 1943 the Allies seemed to have won the Battle of the Atlantic. COSSAC's first duty was to choose an area to invade. They needed an area that had little time at sea, fast re-supply, and easy air support from airfields in Britain. All of these factors pointed to the Pas-de-Calais region of Northern France.
Intelligence proved that the Pas-de-Calais region was very heavily guarded and an invasion would cost thousands of Allied lives. The Allies then searched for a less guarded area, and Normandy was calling for an invasion. General Morgan decided to land three divisions and his team decided on four beaches - codenamed - Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword. General Morgan also decided on dropping two airborne divisions close to the beaches.
Great Britain and the United States had a duty to select a Supreme Allied Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force. The two countries eventually decided on General Eisenhower. British Air Chief Marshal Arthur W. Tedder was selected as deputy supreme commander in the Mediterranean. Two other commanders were then selected, British Admiral Bertram H. Ramsay - naval commander, and British Air Chief Marshal Trafford L. Leigh-Mallory - air force commander. Soon after, General Sir Bernard Law Montgomery was appointed commander of the ground forces. The Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Force, or SHAEF, was established west of London.
SHAEF predicted that a massive invasion could possibly have up to 81% allied casualties. Eisenhower and many commanders began to ask whether an invasion could actually work. The Allied chain of command was unsure of the German's true knowledge of Operation OVERLORD. One objective of SHAEF, which included COSSAC, was Operation FORTITUDE, or deception and intelligence gathering. Operation FORTITUDE had a focus of hiding the massive buildup on the western end of Britain, and to concentrate German officers on the southeastern coast of England, which was opposite of Pas-de-Calais. Enemy reconnaissance missions identified "tanks" and "landing craft" on Britain's southeastern coast.
The "tanks" and "landing craft" were actually inflatable rubber or plywood dummies. Fortunately, the dummies worked, and German intelligence nibbled on the bait. Another significant part of Operation FORTITUDE was the false headquarters established. The fake headquarters was known as the US 1st Army Group, which was "commanded" by General George S. Patton. It was believed that the Germans highly expected General Patton to lead the attack, so the Allies used this to their advantage. The Allies completed the psych out by using fake radio traffic.
Before the actual operation, General Patton's focus was to walk his dog and to be seen by German reconnaissance. General Patton's true duty was to command the US Third Army in Normandy during the breakout phase. The deception truly paid off. The Germans were almost clueless about the invasion until the actual bombardment began. However, it is alleged that one German officer, Field Marshall Erwin Rommel, thought that Normandy would possibly be invaded.
German Field Marshall Erwin Rommel was appointed commander of German Army Group B by Hitler in early January. He was to defend the Normandy coastline. Immediately after being appointed, Rommel began buffering up his defenses. He ordered his troops to construct extra beach defenses by flooding low-land areas (Mostly for protection against paratroopers. ), and by planting sharp stakes with mines attached to them, which were referred to as Rommel's asparagus. In addition, Rommel ordered an unimaginable amount of mines to be spread over the beach. Rommel also built extra pillboxes, and re-fortified his armored walls by installing bulletproof doors.
The Germans had a lack of troops, which caused them unable to complete all the defenses that Rommel had requested. The week of the attack, German meteorologists predicted severe weather for two weeks. Rommel assumed that poor weather would mean no Allied invasion, so he requested a car and drove east to celebrate his wife Luci's birthday. In addition, that same week, German officers were organizing an exercise in case of an amphibious landing. The exercise was to take place on the beaches of Normandy.
Americans today would simply say, "Sweet irony". During the planning and preparation, the Allies closely worked with parts of the French Resistance. The French Resistance included Gaullist and Communist groups, as well as loyal members of the Old French Army. Members of the French Resistance were ordered to keep a low profile around the Normandy area. They were also ordered to collect intelligence.
Their main job during the invasion was to slow German reinforcements. In order to arm and train resisters, the Allies conducted a large number of small missions throughout France. All over France, patriotic citizens sabotaged German railways, bridges, and telephone lines. The groups of the Resistance were given instructions through BBC, or the British Radio in London. They were told that the first line of a poem was that an invasion was "imminent" and the second line was to go into action.
German intelligence knew of this, and heavily guarded the Pas-de-Calais region when the lines were read. Many Germans ignorantly overlooked the warning, because German meteorologists poorly predicted the weather. A main topic that was widely discussed was when to land? Eisenhower said, "We wanted to cross the Channel with our convoys at night so that darkness would conceal the strength and direction of our several attacks.
We wanted a moon for our airborne assaults. We needed approximately forty minutes of daylight preceding the ground assault to complete our bombing and preparatory bombardment. We had to attack on a relatively low tide because of beach obstacles which had to be removed while uncovered". In June only between the fifth and seventh matched his needs. Before June, the Allies set "Y-Day" for June 1, which meant that everything had to be ready. On "Y-Day", nothing could be changed.
Eisenhower wanted to begin the invasion on June 2, but Allied meteorologists predicted a severe storm on June 4. Eisenhower decided to postpone the invasion. Soon meteorologist said the weather would give in a little and Eisenhower was stressed with the decision to go ahead with the invasion or to postpone yet again. At approximately 0415 hours, Eisenhower decided to go ahead with the invasion. On the night of June 5, the British 6th Airborne Division and the US 82nd Airborne Division departed.
The US 82nd Airborne Division's object was to capture the small French town of Sainte-M'ere-Eglise, at 0100 hours on the morning of June 5. The British 6th Airborne Division was to land east of Caen, and to hold areas over the Orne River. Many paratroopers drowned in flooded low-lands - a result of Erwin Rommel's defenses. Not only were the airborne assaults successful, but the beach landings were dramatically victorious.
Because of prior naval and air bombardment, many beach obstacles were destroyed and many mine fields were detonated. The Germans looking out to sea must have been wishing they were wearing brown pants. The Allies had assembled the greatest armada in history, up to that point. The armada included 9 battleships, 23 cruisers, 104 destroyers, 71 large landing craft, and many others. Omaha beach is said to have been the bloodiest brawl.
Omaha beach had 41% casualties. All landings were successful, and D-day was a great Allied accomplishment. Because Operation FORTITUDE was so successful, Hitler did not allow many of his units to re-enforce. Hitler along with most commanders believed that the invasion of Normandy was small compared to an invasion in possibly the Pas-de-Calais region. D-day helped tally allied victories. Soon after, the Allies captured Cherbourg, and the Content in peninsula.
During the Battle of Normandy (June 6 - August 29), 637,000 soldiers were killed, wounded, or captured. The Allies lost 237,000 soldiers, and the Germans lost 400,000 soldiers. D-day opened the thought of a VE-day, or Victory in Europe day. D-day can sometimes be referred to as the Battle of Prayers. Allied troops fought courageously and definitely proved that the heart will always conquer the sword.