D-Day Research

By: Kelly Allen & Ross Jones

US Troop Landing:

  • The US troop landings at Normandy were code-named Operation Neptune and were used to support Operation Overlord’s liberation of Europe

  • Planned for May, but pushed back due to lack of supplies and vessels; weather conditions almost caused another delay

  • The assault began shortly after midnight June 6, 1944

  • The attack was in stages

    • 1st Aerial bombings of German defense targets

    • 101st Airborne Division began landing behind Utah beach to secure the beach exits

    • 1st wave of invasion including more than 24,000 American, British, and Canadian airborne assault troops and 1,200 aircraft

    • 2nd phase: 6 Allied divisions and numerous small units landing on the beachheads

  • The Allies would go on to continue the assault and liberate France

Utah Beach facts:

  • Added as an after thought the night before the invasion, because the Allies desired to capture Cherbourg as a port city

  • US forces landed about a mile away from their intended landing point

  • Worked out because this area was less defended by German battlements

  • Succeeded in taking the beaches 4 causeways (exit points)

  • Led by Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt Jr.

Omaha Beach:

  • Bloodiest of the D-Day beaches

  • US forces underestimated the German defenses

  • Bombing the night before did not work as much as the Allies had hoped; the Germans still had functional defenses

  • Only 2 out of 29 tanks actually landed on Omaha beach

  • Led by U.S. Lieutenant General Omar Bradley

  • Started gaining ground when a group of Army Rangers disabled German artillery fire in a neighboring orchard between Omaha and Utah beach

  • By nightfall, American had taken Omaha Beach 1.5 miles from the shore

  • Critical link between US and UK beaches and Cotentin Peninsula and Caen flatlands

  • Difficult terrain; crescent curve with lots of cliffs, bluffs, and draws made it easily defended, but made a direct attack very difficult

  • German defenses were well placed within the terrain

101st Airborne Division:

  • Tasked with anchoring the corps southern flank, eliminating German defenses, capture and destroy bridges and railways leading to Carentan, a lock, and establish two bridgeheads northeast of the city

  • Parachuted into the Cotentin Peninsula the night before the invasion to become the first Allied troops to land in German occupied France

  • Due to the AA fire, missed their landing marks and were spread out over a large area

  • 1500 soldiers either killed or captured

  • Went on to complete their mission


  • no for sure count of casualties (lost, killed, MIA, or POW)

  • estimated 10,000 including 2,500 dead

    • 2,700 British, 946 Canadians, and 6,603 Americans.

  • Recent research confirms 2,499 American D-Day fatalities and 1,914 from the other Allied nations, a total of 4,413 dead

  • Estimated losses at each beach: Utah 589, Omaha 3,686, Gold 1,023, Juno 1,242, Sword 1,304

  • German casualties are estimated between 4,000 and 9,000

  • The numbers increase for the amount of time the battle endured

Hubert Mark Alvater

It was in the year of 1942 in April when Alvater took his examinations as an aviation cadet. Later, he was sworn into the U.S Army air Force. Through his years of flight training, he finally succeeded in advanced flight training at Turner Field in Albany, Georgia where he graduated as a second lieutenant pilot on June 30, 1943. He was then trained in the B-26 Marauder bomber (Louisiana).

In September, 1943, Alvater was sent overseas as a part of a replacement bomber crew. Placed in the 554th Bomb Squadron, located at Great Dunmore in Essex County England, he began flying combat missions in February 1944. Many of their targets were mainly pilot-less aircraft launching sites in the peninsula area, marshaling yards, aircraft installations, bridges, communication and transportation centers, and fuel dumps. Near the end of May, 1944, they began hearing rumors of an oncoming attack, but they payed little attention to this warning.

On June 6, 1944 the men were woken from their beds and told to dress and go to breakfast. They were then to report to the briefing room ready to fly. They were told that they would complete their mission by hitting coastal gun replacements on the beaches of Normandy, regardless of the weather. It was dark and rainy, which was ridiculous because none of the men had flown through the night much less than a storm. It was Alvater’s 45th mission. The first mission of that day was the Utah beach where they would bomb the coastal guns at St. Martin. Out of the 4 missions they flew that day, Alvater flew the 1st and 3rd.

He continued flying missions after D-Day, but was shot down on his 63rd mission by German anti-aircraft fire. He was a prisoner of war of the Germans for 9 ½ months at Stalag Luft I in Barth, Germany. Luckily for him, he and other POWs were liberated by the Russians. Upon arrival to the U.S, Alvater left the air force in 1945 and continued his education in mechanical engineering.

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Freitz Weinshank

He was born in a village called Gonsenheim, which is located near Mainz in Hesse, in Germany. Surprisingly, this man was also Jewish. In 1935, his family arrived in the United States after being kicked out of Mainz. In the United States he grew up in Brooklyn, and went to high school, and then later, the City College.

When the news of Pearl Harbor came, he volunteered for the Navy. They turned him down because he was considered an “enemy alien”. But he passed his Army physical and in February 4, 1942 was sent to New York. In his training, he would have to go on thirty-mile hikes and had to run five miles in fifty minutes. Weinshank was shipped to Staten Island, and later put on a boat in a convoy heading for Europe. They did have daily lifeboat drills because of the submarine danger, but encountered no danger. They arrived in Devon, Torquay and were told nothing but to train for any possible invasions.

When he was 21, they sailed out for Paris where they would be the third wave of three to attack. He knew little action would be seen by the time they arrived. Around 7:45, there was an enormous bang above deck! There was a flash and men yelling to get out of there. The ship itself was at an angle and smoke was filling in through the compartments. Their ship had been hit! When he came up to the deck he had thought that many of the sailors were sleeping and never made the connection that they were dead. Men dived into the water, swimming on their backs for 200 ft until they made it to shore. On shore all he saw were dead Americans. He even saw a man, possibly a doctor, attempting to save a man casually dragging on a cigar while his body was split open. It was German fire that attacked him and the American fleet.

Hiding behind a seawall, Weinshank looked beyond to find that the Germans had prematurely set up a booby-wired fence line along the coast, if anything were to dismantle it, a bomb would go off. This firing lasted until around 5 o’clock. It was one of the many horrors Weinshank would encounter on his journey. Although he was German born, he fought for his adopted country with no regrets.

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Sarifino R. Visco

He joined the Marines in 1935 and, later, joined the Army in 1942. His background qualified him for officers candidate school, but instead he volunteered to join the first army

to train for the greatest invasion: D-Day on Omaha Beach. The plan was to land anti-aircraft artillery, which was supported by him and other infantry riflemen. In 1943-44, they had their run in England, Wales, and Scotland.

On June 1, 1944 he and others were in full combat gear. They were given two brown bags for vomiting purposes, because the water would be rough. On the night of June 5, rumors that the landing date was sent by radio accidentally to the Normandy coast! Because of this, they were sent at 2 am to attack the coast after losing the surprise.

D-Day had finally come to the men on June 6th, where wave after wave of troops, explosions and the bodies all around in the water, the air, the explosions of mines on the beach all happened at once. Landing was very difficult because the beach was littered with thousands of dead and wounded. Yet the Germans remained firing.

It was a distressful day for all when the bodies were piled and the artillery was ripped away from them primarily because they would no longer have use for it. June 7 was a day for cooperating as many more crafts and supplies landed.

Visco finds himself lucky and believes himself to be “only one grain of sand, because nearly three million allied soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines were prepared for the D-Day assault”.