June 6 1944,
D - Day. (Operation Overlord)
There are not many single days in the last 100 years that affected the course of world history.
June 6, 1944 was definitely one that did.
That was the day the world decided whether it would be Free or Fascist.
If you don’t know the story of D Day, you should. Your life (and the world map) exists in its current form because the events of D - Day were successful.
World War 2 had been raging for 5 years. The United States had been fighting for 3.
The Americans had battled the Nazi’s across North Africa and defeated them.
The Americans battled the Nazi’s across Italy and defeated them again.
Those battles were the easy part of the war. Now it was time for the hard part.
The Allies needed to find a way to get onto the continent of Europe. That meant crossing the English Channel and Landing somewhere along the occupied French coastline.
The Nazi’s knew the invasion would be coming. That was not a secret but they didn’t know when, and they didn’t know where.
Hitler had spent 3 years constructing the Atlantic Wall. This was considered an impenetrable set of defenses stretching hundreds of miles along the coast.
The Germans were expecting the landing to be around Calais, because geographically it made the most sense.
There were three conditions that had to be met for the invasion to go forward.
1) There needed to be a full moon because paratroopers were jumping in the middle of the night. In 1944 there was no such thing as night vision goggles.
2) It had to be low tide. The Nazis placed tons of beach obstacles meant to sink incoming landing craft. In low tide they would be visible.
3) It needed to be relatively clear because planes could not operate in poor weather conditions.
If any of those conditions were not met the invasion would have to wait.
When the D Day landings began (at Normandy) the Germans were confused and thought it might be a diversion. First it was taking place at the wrong location and second it was raining. This confusion (and delay with reinforcements) was critical to the success the Allies achieved.
The Germans were also sure the invasion would be led by General Patton. General Patton was Americas best General. He also scared the heck out of the Nazi’s.
The Nazis best General was Rommel. It was Rommel who was in charge of defending the French coast line.
Rommel led the Nazi’s in North Africa and Patton kicked his behind. Because of this butt whoopin the Germans were positive it would be Patton coming across the channel. The Americans knew this and used Patton as a decoy in the weeks leading up to the invasion.
Patton actually played no role in the D - Day landings. As a stroke of luck Rommel was back in Germany when the landings happened.
The actual invasion was the largest amphibious operation ever in history.
The sheer size and scope of the operation was enormous. 156,000 troops landed on 5 beaches (Code name - Utah, Omaha, Gold, Sword, Juno) across 50 miles (in one day). There were 5,000 ships, 50,000 vehicles, and 11,000 aircraft.
It was like nothing ever attempted before or since.
If it failed (and the allies were repelled back into the sea) the entire war could have been lost.
Today everybody thinks the United States winning World War II was a forgone conclusion, but at the time it was anything but.
The total number of dead or wounded (between all of the Allies) was 10,377.
The United States had 1,465 killed. To put that in perspective, in the Afghanistan war (which has been waged for 12 years) The United States has lost just over 1000 soldiers. D – Day had more then that in 1 day.
When June 6th ended the Allies had their foot hold.
By June 11th the beaches were secured and an additional 326,000 troops landed (with over 100,000 tons of equipment).
The fighting raged on for another year. By August 26 1944 Paris was liberated.
On May 8th, 1945 Germany Surrendered and Hitler was dead. That surrender was only possible because D Day was successful.
So as you go about your day (today) and feel you have it tough, just remember….. if you were not squeezed on an overcrowded Higgins boat…… wet….. sea sick, and heading towards Omaha beach (on this day 69 years ago) you really have nothing to complain about.