One of the most talked about days of the last century occurred on 6th June 1944. It is known as D-Day. It was the first day of Operation Overlord, which saw the largest combined land-sea-air operation in history. Its objective was the liberation of western Europe from Nazi occupation.
The plans for Operation Overlord were talked about as far back as 1942. In the years between 1942 and June 1944, every detail of the operation was meticulously looked at, which included an elaborate deception plan to convince the Germans that the Allies planned to land an invasion force nowhere near Normandy. Deception plans were also followed up by months of intensive air bombing in 1944, which aimed to disrupt German lines. It was then on the early morning of 6th June 1944 over Normandy, that five desolate beaches – code-named Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword – became the scene of heavy fighting and the beginning of the end of the Third Reich.
Led under the Allied supreme command of US General Dwight D. Eisenhower, around 3 million men (made up of French, British, Canadian and American forces) with 13,000 aircraft and 4000 ships disembarked on Normandy beaches. In addition to the landings, one British and two US airborne divisions parachuted in behind enemy lines to disrupt German efforts and their ability to counter-attack.
It is said that the D-Day landings for a short while, looked as if they might fail during the course of the morning. The heaviest fighting occurred on Omaha beach, but by the end of the day, the beach head was secured. However, strategic objections to advance inland as far as possible, came up short. Overall though, the first day of Operation Overlord was a qualified success.
Supply landings at Omaha Beach, mid-June 1944.
What a day, and what courage it must have taken to land on that beach and fight your way up to the top. Thousands of heroic stories were told on that beach, we will only know part of their stories.