a landing ?
Recall of the
international situation: during the second world war, the Axis troops
control the major part of Europe, excepted England which always
defends itself against the Nazi invader. The United States is powerfully
rising and in 1944 they benefit from decisive military successes
in the Pacific while the allied troops fight in North Africa.
the troops of the USSR suffer from the numerous Germans attacks,
even if they are supported by the Americans who send them weapons
and ammunition. Thus, the same year, Stalin wishes to see the creation
of an operation carried out by the allied forces in western Europe
in order to reduce the number of German divisions fighting in the
Soviet Union territory: reinforcements would be sent to defend this
second front. After some discussions, and in particular the decisive
one at Teheran in 1943, allied leaders (Roosevelt:USA, Churchill:Great
Britain, Stalin:the USSR) choose to open the second front in France,
and more particularly in Normandy. It is decided that the invasion
will be done from England. Then, hundreds of convoys cross the Atlantic
coming from the United States to land in England thousands of soldiers
and hundreds of tons of material. England becomes a huge military
camp where thousands of soldiers are involved and where a maximum
of material is stored.
In August 1942,
an “test” landing is organized at Dieppe (northern France).
Officially, it is an attack to install a beachhead in western Europe
and to open this second front asked by the Soviets. Semi-officially,
it is a test of the german defense system. Those soldiers will be
sacrificed to make it possible for the allies to time the German
reaction. Thus, in August 1942, Canadians, supported by tanks, take
foot on the rollers of the French coast under an extremely heavy
fire. The attack is a disaster: more than 3.378 men are left on
the ground, killed or captive. Nevertheless this sacrifice will
be used for allied in the preparation of the following landing,
that one of Normandy.
Here are the reasons: the coasts of Britanny (western France) are
too far away from England to be approached, the grounds in Holland
are flooded and do not allow the installation of a beachhead. The
currents of the Belgian coasts are very strong and thus dangerous.
The Germans await the allies in the Pas-de-Calais (northern France)
because the distance between England and France at this place is
most reduced. The beaches of Normandy are sand beaches and on some
places there are rollers. The composition of these beaches is close
to those of western England. Thus, the soldiers will be able to
train themselves and to test the resistance of the tanks on the
the place where the Germans await the less an allied landing. Nevertheless,
the coast from Norway to norther Spain is defended by a series of
concrete constructions armed with machineguns, barbed wires, minefields:
the Atlantic Wall. The operation will be codenamed the Operation
the order to let the allied fleet go to Normandy is given by general
Eisenhower (commander in chief of Operation Overlord) on June 4,
1944 at the end of the afternoon, there is a terrible storm in the
English Channel. The meteorologists are sure, it would be madness
to send the warships through such a storm. The starting order is
cancelled and delayed. The storm reassures the German officers who
are persuaded that the Allies will not land with such a weather.
But on June 5, a break is announced in the English Channel. Eisenhower,
on whom rests all the responsibility for the operation, will have
this sentence which remained famous: “O.K. we will go!”
- The airborne
Before the amphibious
attack is held a massive airborne operation. Two attacks are set
at each extremity of the invasion area: in the West, the planes
will drop several hundreds of American parachutists belonging to
the 101st and 82nd airborne divisions to control the road around
Carentan and to slow down the German counter-attacks following the
landing. In the East, the 6th british airborne division is charged
to carry out the same work. Bridges, like the Pegasus Bridge
at Bénouville, in the east of the invasion area, are crucial
objectives and the parachutists must capture some of them intact
to prevent the invasion from German counter-attacks. The Germans
also have batteries able to open fire at very long range, like the
Merville, Longues-sur-Mer, Maisy and Crisbecq batteries. Thus, shortly
after midnight, on June 6, 1944, the paras jump in the night and
achieve to capture their objectives. On 18.000 parachutists, about
a half has been killed. But the Germans are disorientated and the
communications do not pass any more. The landing can then start.
- The maritime
5000 ships of all sizes are necessary to the transport
of troops and material.
traverse the way which separates England from Normandy during the
night. It is the most important fleet of the History. The warships
escort the transport ships and move in columns. They are protected
by tethered balloons which prevent the fleet from very low planes
attacks. Only one allied boat is sunk before the landing, the Svener
(a Norwegian ship), torpedoed by a german fast patrol boat (E-boote)
which patrolled in the English Channel and which fled immediately
The attack proceeds
on Tuesday June 6, 1944 at dawn on 5 beaches codenamed Utah Beach
and Omaha Beach (where the Americans land), Gold Beach, Juno Beach
and Sword Beach (where the English,Canadians and Free France soldiers
land). These beaches are located between La Madelaine (Cotentin
peninsula) and Ouistreham (in the Calvados region). After a bombardment
during the night carried out by the allied aviation and a naval
bombardment carried out by the fleet against the Atlantic Wall,
the soldiers land on the Norman soil. At 08:00 a.m., all the first
assault waves have landed.
All the beaches
are conquered in the minutes which follow the attack, except on
Omaha Beach where the American troops are nailed on the ground by
intense shootings. It is only at the beginning of the afternoon
that this beach is secured.
The allied losses
reach 3.000 soldiers: killed, missing or captive, 2.500 just on
Omaha Beach. Support from the air bombers of the naval artillery
allowed to reach most of the objectives. Indeed, sailplanes go behind
the enemy lines to land jeeps and various material as well as guns
and small reco tanks.
After the military
attack a race against the clock is set up: the troops have to be
supplied as fast as possible in fuel, weapons, ammunitions, food
and clothing. But how is it possible to land all this material without
having captured a deep water harbor yet? The key of the solution
is the Operation Mulberry which consists in building item by item
an harbor and to move it piece by piece in front of the village
of Arromanches by making it crossing the English Channel.
- French Participation
177 French landed
Sword on June 6 at dawn. They were with the British troops during
all the engagement and went to support the English parachutists
at the beginning of the afternoon. French crews of strategic bombers
took part in the bombardments during D-Day and the battle of Normandy.
Free France Warships took part in the bombardment of the coast on
June 6, 1944 and supplied the landed troops in the days which followed.
Ten French soldiers were parachuted over Brittany to carry out sabotage
It is obviously
necessary to tell about the actions of the French resistance which
made it possible to disturb the German transmissions so as the arrivals
of German reinforcements. The role of the French Resistance was
essential to win the battle of Normandy, according to Eisenhower.
The German army
is surprised by landing in Normandy, whereas it awaited it in the
Pas-de-Calais area. The allies benefit from this violent shock and
they install a solid beachhead and land on the beaches hundreds
of regiments in reinforcement. The Battle of Normandy begins. The
harbors of Arromanches and Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer are installed in
the days which follow D-Day and the rhythm of materials landing
never stopped increasing. An underwater pipeline is installed; it
connects England to the coasts of Normandy and it supplies the allied
troops with fuel. But a storm damages the two harbors and only that
of Arromanches will be recoverable. The time of repair will prevent
the landing of material and a British offensive is delayed. The
needs for a deep water harbor as that of Cherbourg are huge, fightings
are very difficult to capture the city.
in the months which follow
The news of
the Russian front are marked by the departure of some German divisions,
sent in reinforcement against the allied troops in Normandy. The
Soviets achieve to push bach the German soldiers. The Germans think
that the Normandy landing is a diversion and that the real landing
will take place in the Pas-de-Calais area. They leave 150.000 men
on the spot. This error will be fatal to the German army. The liberation
of France begins efficiently and rapidely, Paris is released in August and the allies reach the Rhine at the end of the winter 1944.
of Normandy is a turning point of world war two.