Let’s dive into one of history’s most critical operations. The day credited for changing the course of WW2. Codenamed Operation Warlord, the invasion of D-day began on June 6, 1944. Also known as the “Battle of Normandy,” the day is an epic story of victory and sacrifice. More than 156,000 troops through 5000 ships and landing craft barged into the fiercely protected territory of the beaches of Normandy.
Operation Warlord was the largest seaborne invasion in history, laying the foundation of Allied victory on the Western Front. By the end of August 1944, the area of northern France was finally liberated. The invading Allied forces reorganized that Germany could fall, deciding a march and eventually meeting with Soviet forces advancing from the east to end the dominance of the Nazi Reich.
Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, then supreme commander of the Allied Forces, was an instrumental figure in the success of this operation.
Here are the 7 facts from the D-day you should know:
#1. The mystery behind D in D-day
Though contested, the most accepted explanation for the D in D-day is that D stands for day. As per historian Keith Huxen, Senior Director of Research and History at the National WWII Museum, “it signifies the day that invasion will launch putting all the timetables into play.”
D for the day means the undetermined (or secret) day for the start of a military operation.
H-Hour is similar, with “H” referring to the time of D-Day when the Allied troops stormed the beaches.
The French believe the D stands for “disembarkation,” “debarkation,” and a more poetic version goes by “day of decision.”
When someone wrote to General Eisenhower in 1964 seeking an explanation, his executive assistant Brigadier General Robert Schultz replied: “any amphibious operation has a ‘departed date’; therefore, the shortened name ‘D-Day’ is used.”
Guess who wouldn’t be arguing on the D-day: Germans.
#2 The invasion started terribly
The D-day was making of long planning. The Allied forces had prepared for the strike marking and identifying the areas of attack and overall tactics.
The strategy was to ready the beaches for incoming Allied troops through the heavy bombing of Nazi gun positions at the coast, ensuring the demolishing of main bridges and roads for cutting off Germany’s defense and any reinforcements.
The follow-up plan was landing paratroopers in the inland positions before the land invasion.
Although the planning was tight, the weather played spoilsport, and nothing went as planned. The poor weather conditions and visibility made the strikes ineffective, and many bombers failed to hit and take out the artillery positions at Omaha beach. Also, the paratroopers’ drop was off the mark, exposing them to the German snipers. The land invasion wasn’t much success since a critical fleet of marine tanks sunk in the stormy seas.
Notwithstanding the setbacks, the Allied forces kept pushing and made inroads.
#3. Ghost army
The allied army kept pushing through Europe at the end of WW2, and a lot of effort went into convincing the Germans that the invasion was to be near Calais, not Normandy.
It was mid-September 1944, and the Allied forces drove east across France towards the German border. An attack was planned on the French city of Metz by The American XX Corps, but they were outnumbered against a desperate enemy fighting to defend the Third Reich.
The problem at hand was the lack of troops to guard the 50 miles area between the city and the Luxembourg border.
The solution came as a deception plan, and they raised ghost field armies based in Kent as part of their D-Day deception plan. It was named Operation Fortitude.
They built dummy pieces of equipment as part of the deception. Inflatable tanks, parachuted dummy soldiers, and controlled leaks of misinformation led the Germans to believe the Allies were to invade via the Pas-de-Calais.
#4. Pulling off the largest amphibious military operation in history
Below are the sheer numbers making it the largest amphibious military operation in history.
Troops jumped into France behind the enemy lines before the invasion
Airborne troops the US- 15,500
Airborne troops the British- 7,900
Naval vessels- 6,939, including 1,213 naval combat ships, 4,126 landing ships, 736 ancillary craft, and 864 merchant vessels, manned by over 150,000 sailors took part in the beach assault.
#5. Bogus appeal for photographs by BBC
Since the planning for the invasion was done way before and included deception as a part of the plan, it was pertinent to use strategies to uncover the exact place for bombings.
Russians we rampaging through the Eastside, and Germany suffered huge losses. It was critical to take Berlin from the West for a possible victory.
Lieutenant General Frederick Morgan had to lead the planning for a watertight strategy. His team began drafting the blueprint for the D-day for maximum impact. The intelligence reports suggested targeting the beaches since the ports were well guarded.
The question then was, which beaches?
It gave rise to a big info gathering deception plan by the BBC. In 1942, BBC issued an appeal for photos and postcards of the European coast.
The data collected was provided to the War Office for analysis for review with the help of the French Resistance and air surveillance. Finally, Morgan and the team picked their target beach landing spots.
The data unanimously pointed towards Normandy.
#6. The sleeping Fuhrer
When the invasion began, the Fuhrer Adolf Hitler was asleep. Moreover, none of his generals were audacious or dared
order reinforcements and defense strategy without his go-ahead. They were terrified at the thought of waking the Fuhrer and facing his wrath that led to crucial time loss.
Hitler finally woke at 10 AM excited and confident about the German defense capability of holding Normandy.
#7. Canadian troops emerged most successful
While Canadian soldiers also suffered terrible casualties, they emerged most successful. The Canadian troops at Juno Beach made a massive headway battling rough seas before landing on a heavily defended shoreline strip.
Although the Nazi artillery gunned down the first lines of Canadian troops by 50 percent, grit and determination led Canadians further into German territory.
In the end, the Canadians captured max territory than any other battalions in Operation Overlord.
The D-Day was the turning point of the second world war. Less than a year post the D-Day, Germany surrendered unconditionally. It changed the course of history, and the men who fought in the Normandy invasion forever changed people’s lives.
Allied losses at Normandy are estimated to be around 4,413.