D-Day

By Maddie and Matti

U.S. Troops Landing

On June 6, 1944, more than 160,000 Allied troops landed on the beaches on Normandy in France. The 50 mile stretch of beach was heavily fortified by the Axis Powers. After a year of planning, D-Day would come to be known as the largest combined sea, air, and land military invasion in history. More than 3 million Allied men were involved with the invasion. The D-Day invasion of France gave the Allies a crucial gain that would later lead to victory over the Axis powers. There were actually 5 different beaches that were stormed by troops: Utah beach, Omaha beach, Gold beach, Juno beach, and Sword beach.

The Beaches

Utah

Utah was the westernmost beach in the string of attacks on Normandy. It was added in the eleventh hour so that the city of Cherbourg was within striking distance. Paratroopers were dropped from the sky in the early morning of June 6, 1944. Men were dropped behind enemy lines. Weighed down by their heavy equipment, some men drowned if they landed in water instead of on the mainland. Others landed outside of their target zone and were forced to improvise. They stationed themselves at the beach's only four exits, capturing German forces within. Theodore Roosevelt's son, Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt Jr., said "We'll start the war from here".

Omaha

Omaha beach is surrounded by steep cliffs and was the most heavily defended beach during D-Day. It was also the bloodiest of the 5 beaches with approximately 2,400 men turning up dead, wounded, or missing. The problems for Americans were numerous, despite their victory. The Allied Army intelligence greatly underestimated the number of German troops stationed at Omaha Beach. To make matters even worse, a prior aerial attack caused little damage and a rough surf made it difficult for men to swim ashore. The initial men were gunned down by German machine guns. Lieutenant General Omar Bradley even considered abandoning the operation due to the initial casualties. Slowly, Allied troops began to move their way inward. By nightfall, they had reached nearly 1.5 miles inland. (1)

101st Airborne

The 101st Airborne was an infantry division trained specifically for air assault operations. The 101st Airborne had many responsibilities on D-Day: secure the four causeway exists behind Utah beach, destroy German artillery, capture buildings believed to be used to barracks for artillery, and destroy bridges and pathways. There were three waves of men dropped on Utah beach that morning, all working towards the same goal: victory.
Airborne troops lead the way for D-Day

Casualties for Allies

It might seem that finding the number of casualties for D-Day would be an easy task, but in fact it is nearly impossible. A conservative guess of the number of casualties is about 8,443. But a more reasonable guess is 9,000, 3,000 of which may have been deaths. The sector with the largest number of fatalities is the U.S. Airborne with approximately 2,499 casualties. The group with the second largest number of casualties is the U.S./Omaha beach sector. The U.S./Utah beach sector had the least amount of casualties with 197. (2)

3 Different Experiences

Major Richard “Dick” Winters

Born: January 21, 1918

Died: January 2, 2011


Major Winters began his association with the 101st Airborne Division’s 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment as a platoon leader in Easy Company. Towards the end of the war, he was commanding the 506th Second Battalion, which included his old company. Winters’ leadership and ability to complete his tough missions is what endeared him to the men under his command. Winters, in an interview, had so that when he landed in Normandy for D-Day everyone landed scattered and not in their designated drop zones because of all the planes crashing and smoke and fire everywhere. When he landed he lost his leg bag and lost all of his equipment. The only thing that he had was a trench knife and a few maps in his pocket. He said the minute they landed, you’re fighting constantly. Being behind enemy lines in France they were fighting. Fighting to find out where they were because they were dropped in the wrong place and fighting to find their own men. (3)


Letter Richard Winters wrote to Stephen Ambrose: http://www.nationalww2museum.org/see-hear/collections/focus-on/letter-from-dick-winters.html

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Captain Lewis Nixon

Born: September 30, 1918

Died: January 11, 1995


Nixon was promoted from a second lieutenant to an intelligence officer at the battalion level, and showed plenty of skill to be promoted to regimental level shortly after Easy Company took Carentan on June 12, 1944. He then served in Normandy where he never fired a shot, however, Nixon managed to get shot in the helmet but it ricocheted off of it, saving his life. During this journey he developed a drinking issue and was eventually demoted down to battalion operations officer. Nixon was one of the first 101st airborne men to have jumped with another division or regiment. On March 24, 1945, Lewis was assigned as an observer with the 17th Airborne Division on Operation Varsity. His plane then took a direct hit as soon as he and three of the other airbornes jumped out of the plane. Surviving the war, he ended it with the ranking of Captain Lewis Nixon. (4)
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Technical Sergeant Donald Malarkey

Born: July 31, 1921

Death: NA (93 years old right now)


Malarkey became a member of Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division. Malarkey was sent to England in 1944 to engage in the largest invasion in history: Operation Overlord. On the morning of D-Day, Malarkey was dropped into France with his unit. In that day, he received the Bronze Star for his heroism. Malarkey served Normandy, Battle of Bastogne, and many other battles. Malarkey served more continuously than any other member of Easy Company. He was promoted to sergeant and received many awards including the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Good COnduct Medal, American Campaign Medal, and several others. (5)


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