report by: Thierry LETELLIER
2014 marks the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the Allies’ invasion of occupied Europe by air and sea. Hundreds of thousands of Allied troops breached the Atlantic Wall on 6 June 1944;Codenamed Operation OVERLORD, the Allied invasion of Normandy on ‘D-Day’, 6 June 1944 was the largest military invasion in history.America had entered the European Theatre of Operations in 1942. Plans to launch an Allied invasion of Europe were discussed when Prime Minister Winston Churchill and US President Franklin Roosevelt agreed upon a core strategy to first defeat Germany.
The British preference for an invasion in the Mediterranean region contrasted with America’s determination to invade Germany and free occupied Europe a direct assault on the French coastline was still deemed to be the most effective route into occupied Europe. Planning for the invasion of Europe intensified throughout 1943 under the command General Dwight D. Eisenhower. Normandy was chosen in July 1943 as the location for the invasion, favoured for its tactical naval advantage. proximity to the two major ports at Cherbourg and Le Havre, the former of which the Allies were confident could be liberated within two weeks of the landings.
Throughout 1943 and Spring 1944, American forces had been mustering in the UK and, by June 1944, southern England was home to more than two million American and over 250,000 Canadian troops, together with tens of thousands of aircraft, tanks and weapons. The participating military divisions underwent extensive seaborne landing training which was conducted along the Scottish coast. Allied air power played a vital role in weakening the German coastal defences, with north-western France being the target of World War Two’s largest aerial offensive.n the lead up to D-Day, the Luftwaffe losses were as heavy as 2,000 per month. Reconnaissance aircraft also played a vital role from the outset of the planning for Operation OVERLORD, with beaches, landing zones, drop zones, airfields, military installations.
The invasion itself saw Allied forces making a seaborne invasion on five beaches, spread across a 40 miles front, with five divisions launching the first wave of attacks, followed by a further four divisions within the 24 hours immediately after D-Day. The American forces, based in the west of the UK, would assault the most westerly beaches, codenamed Omaha and Utah, on either side of the River Vire estuary. The British and Canadian beaches, codenamed Gold, Juno and Sword, were further east, covering the coastline as far as Ouistreham.D-Day was initially set for 5 June, but terrible weather in the Channel saw it postponed for 24 hours. On 6 June, D-Day; RAF bombers initiated a diversionary tactic by dropping chaff in the Pas de Calais as part of Operation BODYGUARD, simulating the radar profile of a massed invasion fleet. Further west, Operation NEPTUNE was assembled in the English Channel, with over 7,000 vessels and approaching 200,000 personnel moving towards the Normandy coastline.
By the end of 6 June, around 156,000 Allied troops had landed in occupied France, breaching Adolf Hitler’s Atlantic Wall along the Normandy coastline by sea and air.The American forces numbering 73,000 and British forces, 83,115. Joining the British, Americans and Canadians were troops from Australia, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, France, Greece, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and Poland. All those countries were present in Normandy for this Anniversary Day. Most of the delegations planes came to Caen Carpiquet Airport and permeeted me to make this report.