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On June 6th, 1944, thousands of soldiers huddled in LCVPs waited for the moment to storm the beaches of Normandy and establish a foothold in France so the Allied Forces could mount a campaign in Europe against the German war-machine. D-Day has become one of the most amazing moments in history as it was one of the most important moments in World War 2. While much of the event itself has been shown in documentaries and movies, Saving Private Ryan being one of the most popular, here is some facts you may not know about the invasion of Normandy.
1. The ‘D’ in D-Day doesn’t actually stand for a word. It is a designation for an unnamed day for which an operation is or is going to happen on.
2. Even with the title of ‘D-Day’ being so associated with the Normandy Landings, the real name of the operation was Operation Overlord.
3. Operation Overload was the name given to the whole of the Normandy Invasion. Each separate task was named differently. Operation Neptune was the amphibious invasion, Operation Pointblank the massive bombing campaign prior to the invasion, and Operation Bodyguard to ensure information of the invasion never reached the Germans.
4. Largest seaborne invasion of history with over 160,000 soldiers crossing the English Channel on D-Day and 875,000 more by the end of June.
5. Planning took months, beginning in 1943. The initial plan was reviewed by General Dwight D. Eisenhower and General Bernard Montgomery. They believed the original plan was too small and needed to be expanded to include more troops as well as using paratroopers to speed up the invasion.
6. Landings happened on a 50-mile stretch of the Normandy coast. The Five sectors were Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword Beach.
7. To prepare for the landing, Allied forces had a rehearsal. This might sound incredibly odd, but nothing on this scale had ever been attempted before and the generals wanted a rough notion of what to expect. On April 28, 1944, eight ships packed with soldiers and equipment were on route to the UK for this operation. Disaster stuck, however, when the Germans picked up the radio transmissions and sunk the boats, killing 800. To make the matter ever worse, the US army feared that this news would demoralize the army and ordered a complete blackout on all information involving this attack, meaning that families were unaware of the deaths.
8. Hitler anticipated that the Allied Forces would invade France from the northern coast. To fortify and prepare for this, he assigned Erwin Rommel to head construction of defenses. Rommel was placed in charge of finishing Hitler’s Atlantic Wall which consisted of 2,400 miles of bunkers, landmines, and various obstacles to make a beach landing more difficult and hazardous for the Allies.
9. Trying to throw off the German forces, the Allies had a diversionary tactic to make them believe the invasion was happening elsewhere. Putting together an army of fake planes and tanks, they hoped the Germans would be led to believe the invasion would be happening at Pas-de-Calais.
10. The original date of the invasion was June 5th, 1944, but the weather was deemed too bad to work and it was delayed by 24 hours.
11. Eisenhower’s famous statement to the troops as he gave the order for Operation Overlord open with “You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you.”
12. That is not the only letter Eisenhower penned in preparation of the Normandy Landings. He also had a letter drafted in case the invasion failed in which he took full responsibility for the inability to gain a foothold on French soil.
13. On the evening of June 5th, a massive airborne landing was launched. Over 13,000 paratroopers were dropped behind enemy lines to attempt to secure vital roads and bridges to help air the landing invasion. Due to the thick cloud cover and intense AA fire from German ground forces, many of the C-47s were unable to drop the troopers in their intended locations, causing many units to be scattered.
14. German casualties were near 1,000 while Allied deaths were near 10,000. By the end of the first day following the invasion, 150,000 extra men and 20,000 vehicles were able to land on the beach.
15. The victory in Normandy can’t be traced to a single moment. The Germans had been unable to complete the Atlantic Wall and the deception tactics had paid off with many of the German forces diverted from the key coasts. Even the French Resistance, having heard from their English sources of the invasion, had launched successful attacks that slowed German reinforcements.