D-Day

By: Suzi Seaton and Keeley Shoudel

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US Troop Landings

More than 160,000 Allied troops landed along a 50-mile stretch of heavy-fortified French coastline to fight Germany. More than 5,000 Ships and 13,000 aircraft supported the D-Day invasion. Before troops landed on the beaches, airborne drops at both ends of the beaches were to protect the flanks, as well as open up the interior. Six divisions were to land on the first day; 3 U.S., 2 British, and 1 Canadian. 2 more British and 1 U.S. division were to follow up after the assault division had cleared a path for them. The initial phases of the landings were disorganized and confusing for most of the troops. They had to adapt and think of ways to help them get where they needed to be. Link
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The Beaches

  • Omaha

    • Omaha Beach was surrounded by steep cliffs and was heavily defended. It was also the bloodiest of the 5 D-Day beaches, with almost 2,400 U.S. troops dead. The number of German soldiers were underestimated by the Army intelligence, which made matters worse. On that day, there was rough surf and the Allied troops came in on a low tide.

  • Utah

    • The Utah Beach was the westernmost of the 5 D-Day beaches. Paratroopers were dropped inland behind enemy lines. Unfortunately, many drowned in the flooded marshlands at the back of the beach because they were weighed down by their heavy equipment. Others were shot out of the sky by the Germans. Troops succeeded in seizing the 4 causeways that served as the beach’s only exit points.

  • Gold

    • The Gold Beach was the middle of the 5 D-Day beaches. British troops began storming Gold nearly an hour after fighting was underway at Omaha and Utah Beach. British warships were effective because of their pinpoint accuracy from miles away. Within an hour, the British had secured a few beach exits, and from there they quickly pushed inland.

  • Juno

    • The Juno Beach was on the eastern side of the 5 D-Day beaches. Canadian landing craft struggles with rough seas, along with offshore shoals and enemy mines. The first hour of the battle was brutal, with a casualty rate almost to 50% for the leading assault teams. After fighting their way off the beach, German resistance slowed considerably, and the march into the inland went quickly. The Canadians advanced further inland than either their American or British counterparts.

  • Sword

    • The Sword Beach is the easternmost beach. At midnight, British airborne troops dropped behind enemy lines to secure the invasion’s eastern flank. At 7:25 am, the British landed on Sword. As moderate fire happened, they soon secured beach exits. As they started moving inland, they connected with the airborne units but faced strong resistance in farmyards and villages.

Link

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101st Airborne

  • D-Day: Operation Neptune

    • June 6, 1944 was the first time the 101st Airborne had seen combat. Their mission was to anchor the corps’ southern flank and to eliminate the German’s secondary beach defenses. This allowed the seaborne forces of the 4th Infantry Division to continue inland after landing.

    • Despite these plans, most of the paratroopers from both the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions missed their landing zones and were scattered over wide areas. 1500 troops were captured or killed because of this. Eventually, the soldiers found their units and finally assembled. Link
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Casualties

Because record keeping was so bad back during World War II, the official number is unknown. It was originally estimated that 2,500 troops died. This includes 2,700 British, 946 Canadians, and 6,603 Americans. However, a recent study suggests that even more were killed. They have recorded the names of individual Allied personnel killed on 6 June 1944 in Operation Overlord, and so far they have verified 2,499 American D-Day fatalities and 1,914 from the other Allied nations, a total of 4,413 dead. Another recent study shows the casualties at each beach: Utah 589, Omaha 3,686, Gold 1,023, Juno 1,242, Sword 1,304. Most of these figures from the beaches do not include the airborne forces. The exact number of German casualties is unknown, but it is estimated at 4,000 to 9,000 men. Link
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First Experience

  • Kenneth T. Delaney:

    • He was on the beach of Omaha on D-Day. He left from the UK on June 4-5 and at 6 am on June 6, 1944 he arrived with many others to fight against Germany. His job was to blow up barbed wire so that other troops could walk past them. Once he got to Omaha beach he was very seasick. As he got off the boat, he felt a sharp, burning pain in his left foot. He had been shot, but that didn't stop him. He was able to make it to the Atlantic Wall, while others weren't so lucky. As the other waves of troops came in he sat against the wall helping others and watching as men in front of him were dying on the beach. As medics finally came to him, he said to worry about the others instead of himself. He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for helping the wounded while still under fire and wounded himself. It was a day he will never forget. Link
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Second Experience

  • Chuck Hurlbut

    • He was on the Omaha Beach on D-Day. The night before D-Day, all of the American troops were somewhat excited because they all got dressed and ready like they were going on a weekend pass. He left from Weymouth, UK on June 4-5 and arrived 10-12 miles out from the beach at 3 am. At 6:30 am on June 6, 1944, his boat arrived at Omaha Beach and began battle. Every troop had at least 60 pounds of equipment on them and so it was hard to walk. As he got off of the raft, he shot at a pillbox. That was the only shot he took that day. Link
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Third Experience

  • Walter Ehlers

    • He was on Omaha Beach on D-Day. He lead a group of 12 men who had no battle experience and had spent their Army tours entertaining the troops. His squad made it to the beach, and all of his men survived that fateful day on June 6, 1944. Unfortunately, Ehler’s brother died along the French coastline that day. When him and his team got onto the beach he said “They have all of these people laying down on the beach that were killed, it was chaos.” It was a totally different kind of battle than his previous locations in North Africa and Italy. Once he got to the wall, he made his way towards the trenches with the Germans, where they captured 4 enemy soldiers and killed or scared off many others. After this, Ehlers and his men attacked a “pillbox” bunker and captures it from behind using only rifles. He says, “A lot of kids have not the least idea of what America went through, in other words the tremendous effort that America put into this war.” Ehler’s story is an amazing one and should be told across the country. Link
Omaha Beach, D-Day, 6 June 1944