The first phase, the amphibious invasion and establishment of a secure foothold, was codenamed Operation Neptune. The landings were to be preceded by airborne operations near Caen on the eastern flank to secure the Orne River bridges and north of Carentan on the western flank. A secure lodgement would be established with all invading forces linked together, and an attempt made to hold all territory north of the Avranches - Falaise line within the first three weeks.
Under the overall umbrella of Operation Bodyguard, the Allies conducted several subsidiary operations designed to mislead the Germans as to the date and location of the Allied landings. Patton , supposedly located in Kent and Sussex. Fortitude South was intended to deceive the Germans into believing that the main attack would take place at Calais. Many of the German radar stations on the French coast were destroyed in preparation for the landings. These dummies led the Germans to believe that an additional airborne landing had occurred.
On that same night, in Operation Taxable , No. The illusion was bolstered by a group of small vessels towing barrage balloons. The invasion planners determined a set of conditions involving the phase of the moon, the tides, and the time of day that would be satisfactory on only a few days in each month. A full moon was desirable, as it would provide illumination for aircraft pilots and have the highest tides. The Allies wanted to schedule the landings for shortly before dawn, midway between low and high tide, with the tide coming in.
This would improve the visibility of obstacles on the beach, while minimising the amount of time the men would be exposed in the open. However, on 4 June, conditions were unsuitable for a landing: high winds and heavy seas made it impossible to launch landing craft, and low clouds would prevent aircraft from finding their targets. He and his meteorological team predicted that the weather would improve enough for the invasion to proceed on 6 June. Postponement of the invasion would have required recalling men and ships already in position to cross the Channel, and would have increased the chance that the invasion plans would be detected.
Allied control of the Atlantic meant German meteorologists had less information than the Allies on incoming weather patterns. Nazi Germany had at its disposal fifty divisions in France and the Low Countries, with another eighteen stationed in Denmark and Norway. Fifteen divisions were in the process of formation in Germany. German soldiers were now on average six years older than their Allied counterparts. Many in the Normandy area were Ostlegionen eastern legions —conscripts and volunteers from Russia, Mongolia, and other areas of the Soviet Union.
They were provided mainly with unreliable captured equipment and lacked motorised transport. In early , OB West was significantly weakened by personnel and materiel transfers to the Eastern Front.
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All told, the German forces stationed in France were deprived of 45, troops and tanks, assault guns, and self-propelled anti-tank guns. Seven of the eleven panzer or panzergrenadier divisions stationed in France were still not fully operational or only partially mobile in early June Allied forces attacking Utah Beach faced the following German units stationed on the Cotentin Peninsula:.
Alarmed by the raids on St Nazaire and Dieppe in , Hitler had ordered the construction of fortifications all along the Atlantic coast, from Spain to Norway, to protect against an expected Allied invasion.
He envisioned 15, emplacements manned by , troops, but shortages, particularly of concrete and manpower, meant that most of the strongpoints were never built. Reserves for this group included the 2nd , 21st, and th Panzer divisions.
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Rommel believed that the Normandy coast could be a possible landing point for the invasion, so he ordered the construction of extensive defensive works along that shore. In addition to concrete gun emplacements at strategic points along the coast, he ordered wooden stakes, metal tripods, mines, and large anti-tank obstacles to be placed on the beaches to delay the approach of landing craft and impede the movement of tanks.
Nazi armaments minister Albert Speer notes in his autobiography that the German high command, concerned about the susceptibility of the airports and port facilities along the North Sea coast, held a conference on 6—8 June to discuss reinforcing defenses in that area. In Germany itself we scarcely had any troop units at our disposal.
If the airports at Hamburg and Bremen could be taken by parachute units and the ports of these cities seized by small forces, invasion armies debarking from ships would, I feared, meet no resistance and would be occupying Berlin and all of Germany within a few days. Rommel believed that Germany's best chance was to stop the invasion at the shore. He requested that the mobile reserves, especially tanks, be stationed as close to the coast as possible.
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Rundstedt, Geyr, and other senior commanders objected. They believed that the invasion could not be stopped on the beaches. Geyr argued for a conventional doctrine: keeping the Panzer formations concentrated in a central position around Paris and Rouen and deploying them only when the main Allied beachhead had been identified. He also noted that, in the Italian Campaign , the armoured units stationed near the coast had been damaged by naval bombardment. Rommel's opinion was that, because of Allied air supremacy, the large-scale movement of tanks would not be possible once the invasion was under way.
Hitler made the final decision, which was to leave three Panzer divisions under Geyr's command and give Rommel operational control of three more as reserves. Hitler took personal control of four divisions as strategic reserves, not to be used without his direct orders.
The First Army contingent totalled approximately 73, men, including 15, from the airborne divisions.
D-Day: Facts About the WWII Invasion of Normandy - HISTORY
Overall, the Second Army contingent consisted of 83, men, 61, of them British. The Allies developed four plans for the Resistance to execute on D-Day and the following days:.
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The resistance was alerted to carry out these tasks by messages personnels transmitted by the BBC's French service from London. Several hundred of these messages, which might be snatches of poetry, quotations from literature, or random sentences, were regularly transmitted, masking the few that were actually significant. In the weeks preceding the landings, lists of messages and their meanings were distributed to resistance groups. However, because of the barrage of previous false warnings and misinformation, most units ignored the warning.
A report from the Counter-insurgency Information Analysis Center details the results of the French Resistance's sabotage efforts: "In the southeast, 52 locomotives were destroyed on 6 June and the railway line cut in more than places. Normandy was isolated as of 7 June. Naval operations for the invasion were described by historian Correlli Barnett as a "never surpassed masterpiece of planning". He had also been responsible for the naval planning of the invasion of North Africa in , and one of the two fleets carrying troops for the invasion of Sicily the following year.
The invasion fleet, which was drawn from eight different navies, comprised 6, vessels: 1, warships, 4, landing craft of various types, ancillary craft, and merchant vessels. After attacking, the German vessels turned away and fled east into a smoke screen that had been laid by the RAF to shield the fleet from the long-range battery at Le Havre. Bombing of Normandy began around midnight with more than 2, British, Canadian, and US bombers attacking targets along the coast and further inland. Concerned about inflicting casualties on their own troops, many bombers delayed their attacks too long and failed to hit the beach defences.
Minesweepers began clearing channels for the invasion fleet shortly after midnight and finished just after dawn without encountering the enemy. The success of the amphibious landings depended on the establishment of a secure lodgement from which to expand the beachhead to allow the buildup of a well-supplied force capable of breaking out.
The amphibious forces were especially vulnerable to strong enemy counter-attacks before the arrival of sufficient forces in the beachhead could be accomplished. To slow or eliminate the enemy's ability to organise and launch counter-attacks during this critical period, airborne operations were used to seize key objectives such as bridges, road crossings, and terrain features, particularly on the eastern and western flanks of the landing areas. The airborne landings some distance behind the beaches were also intended to ease the egress of the amphibious forces off the beaches, and in some cases to neutralise German coastal defence batteries and more quickly expand the area of the beachhead.
The US 82nd and st Airborne Divisions were assigned to objectives west of Utah Beach, where they hoped to capture and control the few narrow causeways through terrain that had been intentionally flooded by the Germans. Reports from Allied intelligence in mid-May of the arrival of the German 91st Infantry Division meant the intended drop zones had to be shifted eastward and to the south. BBC war correspondent Robert Barr described the scene as paratroopers prepared to board their aircraft:. Their faces were darkened with cocoa; sheathed knives were strapped to their ankles; tommy guns strapped to their waists; bandoliers and hand grenades, coils of rope, pick handles, spades, rubber dinghies hung around them, and a few personal oddments, like the lad who was taking a newspaper to read on the plane There was an easy familiar touch about the way they were getting ready, as though they had done it often before.
Well, yes, they had kitted up and climbed aboard often just like this—twenty, thirty, forty times some of them, but it had never been quite like this before.
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This was the first combat jump for every one of them. The US airborne landings began with the arrival of pathfinders at Navigation was difficult because of a bank of thick cloud, and as a result only one of the five paratrooper drop zones was accurately marked with radar signals and Aldis lamps. Paratroops from st Airborne were dropped beginning around , tasked with controlling the causeways behind Utah Beach and destroying road and rail bridges over the Douve River.
Many planes came in so low that they were under fire from both flak and machine gun fire. Some paratroopers were killed on impact when their parachutes did not have time to open, and others drowned in the flooded fields. Troops of the 82nd Airborne began arriving around , with the primary objective of capturing two bridges over the River Merderet and destroying two bridges over the Douve.
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