Monday, June 6, 2011

D-Day, June 6th, 1944

67 years ago, on June 6th, 1944, the Allies began the greatest amphibious and most complicated military operation in the history of mankind, the invasion of the European mainland to free it from Nazi occupation. To commemorate the event this year, I decided to simply give you all a list of facts relating to the operation, some of which you are sure to have known, and some not…..

• Until the very last minute, the place of invasion - Normandy - was the most heavily guarded secret on the planet.

• Even the units conducting the initial assaults did not know the locations of their landings.

• Surprise was crucial since Germany had 55 divisions in France - the Allies could transport no more than 8 divisions on D-Day morning.

• It is estimated that nearly 2 million soldiers, sailors and airmen were involved in Operation Overlord, including U.S., British, and Canadians who were scheduled to fight after men on the ground secured a Normandy bridgehead.

• 195,000 naval personnel manned 6,939 naval vessels (including 1,200 warships and 15 hospital ships).

• About 17 million maps supported the mission.

• Training maps used fake names.

• The United States shipped 7 million tons of supplies (that translates into 14 billion pounds of material).

• Of those supplies, ammunition accounted for 448,000 tons.

• Air-support operations - often overlooked in the success of D-Day - sustained significant losses:

• Between the 1st of April and the 5th of June, 1944, the Allies flew 14,000 missions losing 12,000 airmen and 2,000 aircraft.

• 127 more planes were lost on D-Day.

• By the end of the Normandy campaign, 28,000 airmen were dead.

• Instead of two days, it took Germany's 2nd Waffen SS Division two weeks to reach the front. Allied air power, Eisenhower's spies and French Resistance contacts all contributed to that result.

• There are 9,386 graves in the American cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer. Each grave faces west, toward America.

• 307 of those graves contain the remains of "unknown" soldiers.

• 1,557 names are listed in The Garden of the Missing for those who were never found.

• 4,868 British dead are buried in the Bayeux Cemetery.

• 1,837 British names are listed at Bayeux for those who were never found.

• There were 946 Canadian casualties in the Normandy campaign.

• 21,500 German dead are buried at LaCambe.

Five years before he died, General Eisenhower (who was a conquering hero at war's end and later served two terms as America's president) came back to Colleville-sur-Mer. It was the first, and only, time he made that journey after the war. Looking over Omaha Beach, he spoke from his heart:

. . . these men came here - British and our allies, and Americans - to storm these beaches for one purpose only, not to gain anything for ourselves, not to fulfill any ambitions that America had for conquest, but just to preserve freedom. . . . Many thousands of men have died for such ideals as these. . . but these young boys. . . were cut off in their prime. . . I devoutly hope that we will never again have to see such scenes as these. I think and hope, and pray, that humanity will have learned. . . we must find some way . . . to gain an eternal peace for this world. (Eisenhower: A Soldier's Life, by Carlo D'Este, p. 705.)

Decades after D-Day, even though humanity seems farther than ever from finding "some way to gain an eternal peace for this world," everyone can agree on at least one point. Those who fought, and died, to free Europe on that day altered the course of history.....

Live Long and Prosper.....

No comments: