The spring of 1944 saw RAF Bomber Command and
US 8th Air Force bomb and destroy roadways, railways and airfields
in Northern France in preparation for the planned invasion. The
build-up of the invasion forces was gathering pace and both men
and machines were heading for the South of England.
Britain had become like a large aircraft carrier...
a springboard for missions into mainland Europe. Diversionary
tactics duped the Nazis into believing that the invasion would
take place in Norway, or over the shortest stretch of water -
the Straits of Dover (English Channel) - at the Pas de Calais.
Extreme measures, such as building a fake Army, helped to strengthen
the Nazis' suspicions. This subterfuge, together with the use
of anti-Nazi German spies to supply misinformation, helped to
keep the Nazis looking in the wrong direction.
The primary landing would actually take place
on the beaches of Normandy, 100 miles across the English Channel
in Northern France. The main landing points were designated as
Utah and Omaha for the Americans; and Gold, Juno and Sword for
the British and Canadians. The timing of the invasion was extraordinarily
important not only because of tidal considerations, but because
the weather threatened to postpone the invasion, set for early
June. The next window of opportunity (dictated by many variables)
would not be until several weeks later.
But the South of England was already at bursting
point with men and materiel; delay would have been disastrous.
The Chief Met.Officer, Dr.J.M.Stagg, informed General Ike Eisenhower
that there would be a short window of calm weather between two
incoming fronts. Eisenhower gambled rather than endure the delay,
so Operation Overlord went ahead and the armada set sail.
At 5.30am on the morning of June 6th, a massive
naval bombardment of Nazi positions began, but before the bombardment,
paratroopers in the thousands had dropped behind the enemy lines.
The Nazis were taken by surprise and caught totally off guard.
The Allied Armies met varying degrees of responses when landing
on the beaches: some soldiers met little resistance; others met
fierce opposition - the Americans and Canadians, in particular,
came face to face with strong, deadly Nazi defences. By midnight,
over 130,000 Allied troops were ashore, having sustained over
9,000 casualties. But an Allied foothold in Europe had been achieved.
D-Day +1, two massive artificial harbours ("Mulberry" being one,
was the size of Dover harbour) were established to allow the Allied
invasion force to be supplied until ports along the French coast
could be captured. This supply operation proved to be crucial
to the success of the operation. A pipeline under the sea carried
millions of tons of fuel each day and was far less likely to fall
prey to enemy attack than ships ferrying supplies across the channel's
surface. On the 6th June, Winston Churchill made a speech in the
House of Commons regarding Operation Overlord and the invasion
of France by allied troops. (The
By the 12th of June, all the beachheads were
linked, creating an Allied front that was over 60 miles long and
20 miles deep. Hitler's Fortress Europe had been breached.....and
the long-awaited second front in Europe had been established in