D-Day

by Devan and Jake

US Troop Landings

73,000 U.S. troops took part in Operation Overlord. 15,500 men from the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions took part in the Airborne landings behind the beaches at the Cotentin Peninsula. They were flown in by hundreds of C-47s while others landed in gliders. British and Canadian units also jumped in. There was much confusion as soldiers landed at the wrong drop zones or lost equipment, yet they were still able to secure territory inland of Utah beach. Utah beach itself was the furthest west of the beaches and separated from the other four by Pointe Du Hoc, a position that was captured by a force of U.S. Army Rangers. Utah Beach would bring U.S. VII corps within 60 kilometers of Cherbourg. 23,250 troops landed at the beach and met light resistance. Ohama Beach was the most heavily defended and had the most difficult terrain. There were multiple pillboxes and other gun emplacements positioned on the high bluffs above the landing sites. It was assigned to V Corps, with the U.S. 1st Division, 29th Division, 5th Ranger Battalion, and 5th Engineer Special Brigade assaulting the beach, amounting to 34,250 soldiers. Securing Omaha Beach would be key to moving on to St. Lo and Caumont. The highest casualties of the D-Day landings occurred at this beach, 10,000 in all.
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101st airborne division

This infantry division of the U.S. Army was first activated on August 16th, 1942 at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana. Their first leader Major General William C. Lee said that they had a “rendezvous with destiny”. The core of their forces would be air assault, meaning that they would deploy into combat zones as paratroopers and then go on to fight as regular infantry. After training in the U.S., the division departed for further training in England in September 1943. On the night of June 5th, 1944 and the early hours of the next day they would parachute behind the beaches. They were tasked with securing the way for the 4th Infantry division’s landing at Utah beach. In taking the town of Carentan they linked Utah and Omaha beaches together. After D-Day they returned to England to prepare for further missions such as Operation Market Garden.

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Beaches

The purpose for capturing Utah beach was necessarily for the defense,what is tactically excelled at was being an amazing port location.It wasn’t in the inital plan to capture Utah beach,but was added in as an after though because of this reason.Omaha beach was one of the most crucial yet one of the most easily defendable beachs out of all of the beaches invaded on D-day. It linked the U.S. captured beaches and the British/Canadian beaches. This is regarded as the bloodiest engagements of D-day because of the terrain that was faced by the Americans. Gold beach was the objective to take of the 50th division of the 2nd British army. The primary task was to seize Arrlonaches and drive inland to seize the road junction at Bayeux in order to contact the Americans on their right and the Canadians on their left. Juno beach was left to the 3rd Canadian division, whom pushed farthest inland on D-day and suffering moderate casualties.The British were to take Sword Beach, They were to push as far inland in Caen, which was a lot to ask from a single infantry division,they were met with heavy opposition and Caen was not taken until late June.

On D-day the Allies had sent in around 156,000 troops onto Normandy. The American forces that landed there consisted of 73,000 troops total: 23,250 on Utah beach,34,250 on Omaha beach, and 15,500 airborne troops. The British and Canadian forces consisted of 83,115 troops between both countries (61,715 of them were British) of those troops, they were divided and sent onto their respective beaches: 24,970 on Gold beach,21,400 on Juno beach,28,845 on Sword beach and 7,900 airborne troops

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Casualties

The Invasion of Normandy was one of the most significant invasion in recent history, as well as one of the bloodiest engagements of WWII. For many years the casualties suffered at D-Day was estimated at around 10,000 and 2,500 dead. Broken down by Nationality, the casualties suffered are as the following: 2,700 British 946 Canadians and 6,603 Americans. Losses among the British airborne are 600 killed or wounded and 600 Missing in action. Casualties for the U.S. air force consisted of 2,499 killed or wounded and 238 deaths. German casualties are unknown but estimates range anywhere from 4,000 to 9,000. In total, over 425,000 Allied troops were killed,wounded or went missing during the Battle of Normandy. This number includes 209,000 Allied casualties with 37,000 killed amongst the ground troops and 16,714 killed among the Allied air forces.Though German casualties can only be estimated, it is estimated that 200,000 Germans were killed or wounded during the battle and 90,000 were lost, including prisoners of war. Also, 15,000-20,000 French civilians were killed during the battle, mostly because of Allied bombings,though thousands fled to escape the fighting.

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Major Richard "Dick" Winters

This soldier had a major role in Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division. Promoted to the rank of 1st Lieutenant by Colonel Sink, he was made executive officer (XO) of the company by Captain Herbert Sobel. He traveled with them to complete their training in England. Sobel was then transferred to a jump school for civilians. Lieutenant Meehan from Baker Company then took over command of Easy Company. When D-Day arrived, the 101st jumped behind the American beaches to secure territory inland. Lt. Meehan’s plane was shot down, and thus Winters became CO (commanding officer) of Easy Company. Their initial objective was to capture causeways behind Utah Beach, Causeway #2 being the most crucial. Many paratroopers did not reach their LZ and Winters even lost his weapon in the jump. When more men were accounted for, Winters led an assault on a group of four German 105mm artillery guns. The attack was successful and is still taught at West Point as an example of how to assault a fixed position. Winters would later be promoted to Captain and Major in the war, and go on to take a higher role in the 2nd battalion.

Sergeant Roy Arnn

Sgt. Roy Arrn was on boat crew #8 sent to Omaha beach. He had a very important assignment in the invasion of the beach. He and 3 other people were assigned to disarm mines and booby traps set up by the Germans. The boat’s passengers wanted to all grow beards and goatees as a pre-invasion ceremony,however the captain had wanted them to shave them for fear of them getting caught in their gas masks in case of a gas attack. When faced with being court martialed, he said he’ll take it,because none of them would be alive tomorrow. This shows the moral of the invasion crews at the time, doubtful they would ever return. Arrn and his squad mates each had a pack of explosives, around 5 pounds each, to blow up obstacles in their path.As well as this, a mine detector,a rifle, a coil of rope with a triple hook on the end, and rolls of tape, the coil of rope was to throw and pull back to trip wires. Upon attempting to reach obstacles he was pinned by a machine gun and one of the bullets grazed him and he fell over. After he had fallen to the ground he was hit with shrapnel from an artillery shell. This takes him out of the battle and he is taken back to the boats.

Dr. Bernard S. Feinberg

Dr. Bernard was a practicing dentist when he enlisted as a private. He was sent with the troops on one of the landing craft sent to Normandy beach. Bernard’s craft was very lucky, as it had suffered no casualties. As soon as the ramp had dropped, the medics became busy immediately, bodies laid strew about the beach,some crying out for help,some deathly quiet. Most of his time was spent patching up his fellow soldiers and taking cover behind large rocks. At the end of the day the 116th Infantry Medical attachment,29th Division,including Bernard, lived to see victory on D-day, aiding their fellow Americans.