Today marks the anniversary of D-Day, the Normandy Invasion. On this day in June 1944 the world witnessed the beginning of the end of the war in Europe. Britannica is a good resource for learning more. There is a lot of information and quite a few links to video and oral histories.
Normandy Invasion also called Operation Overlord
“During World War II, the Allied invasion of western Europe, which was launched on June 6, 1944 (the most celebrated D-Day of the war), with the simultaneous landing of U.S., British, and Canadian forces on five separate beachheads in Normandy, France. By the end of August 1944 all of northern France was liberated, and the invading forces reorganized for the drive into Germany, where they would eventually meet with Soviet forces advancing from the east to bring an end to the Nazi Reich.”
You can use this link to listen to oral histories of the day. There are some amazing tales of bravery and courage. The History Channel offers a short video here. This document here holds some amazing stories too.
The Initial Assault Wave
“Ninety-six tanks, the Special Engineer Task Force, and eight companies of assault infantry (1,450 men), landing just before and after 0630, were to carry out the first assault missions (Map No. V).
On the right, the 743d Tank Battalion brought in all its tanks on LCT’s. Company B, coming in directly in face of the Vierville draw, suffered from enemy artillery fire. The LCT carrying the company commander was sunk just of shore, and four other officers were killed or wounded, leaving one lieutenant in Company B. Eight of that company’s 16 tanks landed and started to fire from the water’s edge on enemy positions. The tanks of Companies C and A touched down to the east at well-spaced intervals and without initial losses. In the 16th RCT one, only 5 of the 32 DD tanks (741st Tank Battalion) made shore; of Company A’s 16 standard tanks, 2 were lost far off shore by an explosion of undetermined cause, and 3 were hit and put out of action very shortly after beaching. The surviving third of the battalion landed between E-1 and E-3 draws and went into action at once against enemy emplacements.
The Army-Navy Special Engineer Task Force had one of the most important and difficult missions of the landing. Their chances of clearing gaps through the obstacles in the half-hour allotted were lessened by accidents on the approach to the beach. Delays in loading from LCT’s to LCM’s and in finding their way to the beaches resulted in half of the 16 assault teams reaching shore 10 minutes or more late. Only five team hit their appointed sector, most of them being carried eastward with the result that Dog Beach (the 116th RCT one) received much less than the effort scheduled. As a further effect of mislandings, at least three teams came in where no infantry or tanks were present to give protective fire.
Men burdened with equipment and explosives were excellent targets for enemy fire as they unloaded in water often several feet deep. Of 16 doers only 6 got to the beach in working condition, and 3 of these were immediately disabled by artillery hits. Much equipment, including nearly all buoys and poles for marking lanes, was lost or destroyed before it could be used. Eight navy personnel of Team 11 were dragging the preloaded rubber boat off their LCM when an artillery shell burst just above the load of explosives and set off the primacord. One of the eight survived. Another shell hit the LCM of Team 14, detonating explosives on the deck and killing all navy personnel. Team 15 was pulling in its rubber boat through the surf when a mortar scored a direct hit and touched o the explosives, killing three men and wounding four. Support Team F came in about 0700. A first shell hit the ramp, throwing three men into the water. As the vessel drifted of out of control, another hit squarely on the bow, killing 15 of the team. Only five army personnel from this craft reached shore.
…..Perhaps the worst area on the beach was Dog Green, directly in front of strongpoints guarding the Vierville draw and under heavy flanking fire from emplacements to the west, near Pointe de la Percee. Company A of the 116th was due to land on this sector with Company C of the 2d Rangers on its right flank, and both units came in on their targets. One of the six LCA’s carrying Company A foundered about a thousand yards o shore, and passing Rangers saw men jumping overboard and being dragged down by their loads. At H+6 minutes the remaining craft grounded in water 4 to 6 feet deep, about 30 yards short of the outward band of obstacles. Starting off the craft in three files, center file first and the flank files peeling right and left, the men were enveloped in accurate and intense fire from automatic weapons. Order was quickly lost as the troops attempted to dive under water or dropped over the sides into surf over their heads. Mortar fire scored four direct hits on one LCA, which “disintegrated.” Casualties were suffered all the way to the sand, but when the survivors got there, some found they could not hold and came back into the water for cover, while others tookrefuge behind the nearest obstacles. Remnants of one boat team on the right flank organized a small firing line on the first yards of sand, in full exposure to the enemy. In short order every officer of the company, including Capt. Taylor N. Fellers, was a casualty, and most of the sergeants were killed or wounded. The leaderless men gave up any attempt to move forward and confined their efforts to saving the wounded, many of whom drowned in the rising tide. Some troops were later able to make the sea wall by staying in the edge of the water and going up the beach with the tide. Fifteen minutes after landing, Company A was out of action for the day. Estimates of its casualties range as high as twothirds.
The smaller Ranger company (64 men), carried in two LCA’s, came in at H+15 minutes to the right of Vierville draw. Shells from an antitank gun bracketed Capt. Ralph E. Goranson’s craft, killing a dozen men and shaking up others. An enemy machine gun ranged in on the ramps of the second LCA and hit 15 Rangers as they debarked. Without waiting to organize, survivors of the boat sections set out immediately across 250 yards of sand toward the base of the cliff. Too tired to run, the men took three or four minutes to get there, and more casualties resulted from machine guns and mortars. Wounded men crawled behind them, and a few made it. When the Rangers got to shelter at the base of the cliff, they had lost 35 men.”
It is breathtaking stuff. We owe these men much gratitude and thanks. Without them the world would be a very different place.