Monday, June 6, 2011

D-Day By The Numbers: Facts About The Great Invasion on the 67th Anniversary

U.S. troops approach Utah Beach on D-Day.
D-Day By The Numbers

There were 6,603 American casualties on D-Day.

225 American Rangers landed at Point du Hoc before the invasion occured to take out the large guns that the Germans had on the cliffs that overlooked the beaches.

Only 25 Australians fought on the beaches but thousands were a part of the airborne invasion. Only about 6 Australians died on D-Day.

D-Day was originally scheduled for June 5, but the weather did not cooperate. It happened the next day.

The D-Day invasion involved 5,000 ships carrying men and vehicles across the English Channel.

A single sortie of two fighters was the German airpower presence over the landing beaches on D-Day.

The total width of the D-Day invasion front on the Normandy beaches was 61.7 miles.

Captured Germans were sent to American prisoner of war camps at the rate of 30,000 POWs per month from D-Day until Christmas 1944. Thirty-three detention facilities were in Texas alone.

800 planes dropped more than 13,000 men in parachutes.

Wthin weeks after the invasion, supplies were being unloaded at Utah and Omaha beachheads at the rate of over 20,000 tons per day.

More than 300 planes dropped 13,000 bombs on German troops defending the beaches.

Over 100,000 Allied troops made it to shore that day.

War planners had projected that 5,000 tons of gasoline would be needed daily for the first 20 days after the initial assault. In one planning scenario, 3,489 long tons of soap would be required for the first four months in France.

The Beaches
The most difficult landing of D Day was at Omaha beach. Navigation problems resulted in many men drowning before they reached land. Omaha Beach also had the largest amount of German troops, and the fighting was fierce.

The Atlantic wall had been set up by the Germans along the coast of France. It was made up of thousands of large concrete pillboxes set up along the coast of France. Many of the concrete pillboxes were made from material from the beaches and were easily demolished when bombed.

Nevada Beach was NOT part of the invasion.

Because the debarkation zones were for the most part directly north to south except on the western end, the morning sun was not a factor.

Three American divisions, two British, and one Canadian participated in the initial amphibious landings. One additional American and two British divisions followed once beachheads were established.

Gold, Sword and Juno Beaches were for the Canadian and Britsh Commonwealth to invade.

Utah and Omaha Beaches were for the Americans to invade.

There were two main reasons for choosing Normandy as the invasion site: 1. It was less heavily defended than the Pas de Calais. 2. The accessibility to Allied air cover. Allied air domination was essential in establishing a beachhead.

Utah Beach was added to the attack plan last.

Omaha Beach battle that is reenacted in the opening of the movie Saving Private Ryan.

Interesting Facts
The code name Operation Overlord was given to the military plan for D-Day.

D-Day was the largest military land invasion ever undertaken during war-time.

Many soldiers got seasick from the rough ride across the English Channel.

On the dawn of D-Day, paratroopers secured a vital bridge across the Orne River to prevent German troops from reinforcing the area of the landings. This bridge is commonly known as Pegasus bridge.

The British 6th Airborne Division landed in gliders a few hundred yards from the bridge and captured it. Today, stone markers indicate the exact location where the gliders came to rest. The operation was code-named Tonga.

German Field Marshall Erwin Rommel was absent from the action at the onset of the invasion because he was celebrating his wife's birthday in Germany.

Tthe Allies had barrage balloons which had large steel rods hanging down from them. They tore apart  low flying enemy aircraft above the ships that were firing upon the beaches.

The Allies trained for D-Day for one year so that they had the toughest and most advanced army for the job.

The Allies made inflatable tanks and put them in a part of England opposite the Pas de Calais, in order to fool the Germans.

The 101st Airborne was supposed to take the town of Ste. Marie-Du-Mont but some ended up at Ste. Mere Eglise instead.

Dummy paratroopers called Ruperts (left) were dropped from other places to confuse the Germans.

F Company of the 505th Parachute Regiment (82nd Airborne) landed in the town they were supposed to take and were massacred.

At 0145 hrs, a second platoon of F company, the 505th, had the bad luck to jump right above the town where the Germans were fully alerted. John Steele's parachute was caught in the church steeple and he was hit in the foot. He was deaf for a few days as a result of the church bell ringing. Steele was captured but escaped later.

Svenner, a Norweigan destroyer, was the name of the only ship sunk by German submarines on D-Day.

The system that the British used in which they sent false or/and useless information to the Germans was called Double Cross System. The British captured the German spies in Britain, turned them around, and sent useless and misleading information back to the Germans to reinforce the belief that the invasion would be in the Pas de Calais.

The 'challenge,' the password, and the response of the US paratroopers on D-Day were Flash, Thunder, Welcome. The other alternative to identify oneself was to use the crickets. One was supposed to click the cricket once, click-clack, and the answer would be click-clack, click-clack. 

By August 1944, all of Northern France was under Allied control as Eisenhower began to prepare for the invasion of Germany.

Before the Invasion.....
Before the invasion, the 12,000 planes of the Allied air forces swept the Luftwaffe from the skies, photographed enemy defenses, dropped supplies to the resistance, bombed railways, attacked Germany's industries and isolated the battlefield.

Before the invasion, the Allies' naval component escorted convoys, patrolled and protected the English Channel, reconnoitered beaches and beach defenses, conducted amphibious rehearsals and organized and loaded a mighty flotilla to land the assault forces in France.

Before the invasion, the nine army divisions (three airborne and six infantry) from the United States, Britain and Canada trained and rehearsed their roles in the carefully choreographed operation. Rangers climbed cliffs, engineers destroyed beach obstacles, quartermasters stockpiled supplies and infantrymen waded through the English surf as each honed the skills necessary for the invasion's success.

The Leaders
The Normandy Invasion Supreme Commander was General Dwight D. Eisenhower, pictured at right.

The Commander of the 21st Army Group was the General Sir Bernard L. Montgomery.

Air Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory was in charge of the Allied Expeditionary Air Forces.

Eisenhower appointed Lt. General Walter Bedell Smith as his Chief of Staff.

Troops Involved in the Invasion
United States Army 
First Army
V Corps
VII Corps
1st Infantry Division
4th Infantry Division
29th Infantry Division
82nd Airborne Division
101st Airborne Division
UK Land Forces
Second British Army
1st British Corps
30th British Corps
3rd British Infantry Division
6th British Airborne Division
50th British Infantry Division
3rd Canadian Infantry Division

Air Forces 
U.S. Army Air Forces 
Eighth Air Force
Ninth Air Force
British Royal
2nd Tactical Air Force

Allied Expeditionary Naval Forces 
Western Task Force (U.S.
Eastern Task Force (Britain)

The Meaning of the "D"
Many scholars have tried to explain the term “D-Day,” suggesting it stood for “decision day” or “disembarkation day,” but most likely it comes from the army’s use of the term to mean an “undefined day,” or the first day of any operation.

U.S. troops approach Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944.
The City of Bedford, Virginia is the home of the National D-Day Memorial Complex because
in that very small town, 21 men were killed on D-Day which was the largest per capita K.I.A. of any city in the United States.

The National D-Day Museum' is being built in New Orleans, Louisiana in honor of Andrew J. Higgins. Andrew Jackson Higgins, an New Orleans industrialist, designed and built the LCVP's (Landing Craft Vehicles, Personnel)aka 'Higgins Boats'. These landing crafts were vital to the success of Operation Overlord. In 1940 the U.S. had no landing craft. By 1944 the Higgins Industries had built more than 30,000 LCVP's.

"We want to get the hell over there. The quicker we clean up this Goddamned mess, the quicker we can take a little jaunt against the purple pissing Japs and clean out their nest, too. Before the Goddamned Marines get all of the credit." ~ General George S. Patton, Jr., June 5, 1944

"Rangers, Lead The Way!" ~ Colonel Francis W. Dawson on the occasion of the Normandy Invasion, 1944

You will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world. Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped, and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely....The free men of the world are marching together to victory. I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty, and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory. Good luck, and let us all beseech the blessings of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking." ~General Dwight D. Eisenhower giving the D-Day order on June 6, 1944.

Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt Jr.. said "We'll start the war from right here" from a 'headquaters' which was a shell hole. It did not happen.

London-based American journalist George Hicks made history with his radio broadcast from the deck of the U.S.S. Ancon at the start of the D-Day invasion. "...You see the ships lying in all directions, just like black shadows on the grey sky," he described to his listeners. "...Now planes are going overhead... Heavy fire now just behind us... bombs bursting on the shore and along in the convoys." 

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