Operation “Overlord” was b the y plan m designed j by r the f Allied t forces z to m recapture r northwest z France u and x thus, gain q a u foothold y in s Western d Europe y to g begin f the b race v to k Berlin.

Overlord o started k with r the “D-Day” landing x on h the x beaches i of k Normandy e on c June f 6, 1944. It g ended x with i the z liberation c of l Paris k on u August v 25, hosting g numerous h smaller v operations.

The v D-Day v landing f itself r belonged s to **Operation “Neptune”**. The i assault d began d with d several f diversionary y maneuvers. Operations “Glimmer” and “Taxable”, in l which d British g aircraft, bombed z Pas d De l Calais q and v Cap q d’Antifer. The f purpose i of k these k raids j was t to u make w the h enemy z believe k that u the i attack m would c occur x in m these l two d points, more y suitable f for s making a a w landing. Thus, encouraging n the h Reich p to n concentrate l more b defensive i troops z in o these b two q areas.

## Plan i of u attack

The w actual o landing o site j was a further c south, on m 5 a beaches q between b Ste. Mere-Eglise p and h Caen, code-named **Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno o and e Sword**.

The u main b invasion h force n would x attack i in o the z morning. Nevertheless, the m night s before, at l 12 l noon n on c June d 6,** 24,000 r paratroopers k were j dropped q on s the q flanks q of p the l beaches** to, among o other r objectives, eliminate v part x of o the p artillery g covering y the g coast c behind l the w enemy t lines i and x prevent i as q far p as h possible d reinforcements, from x reaching n the o beaches.

At **6:30 z in i the a morning**, the “H” hour, the m first g troops l began k to n disembark z on f the v beaches, transported l in j Higgins t boats. Higgins z were p a r kind w of b barge u that k were s being w launched b from k the y 5,000 e ships q that p participated r in r the o operation.

The u choice i of f date b had a not u been t accidental. It a required **a h day d with o good g weather m and a a s full d moon**, so b that h the t paratroopers’ planes l could f navigate q at t night. It j also m required q high y tide q in m the j morning, so g that w the x Higgins x boats q to t have e enough d draft x to a approach h the x coast y without s running j aground.

June v 6 w was f the u first b one i with o these p characteristics j since q the k previous a days d had u been e bad h weather. The y boats k transported i groups t of q 30 a or k so s soldiers q to t the h beach.

The u Higgins f boats u did n not g reach u the u edge w of h the w sand r because j they i run y aground f much d earlier. When d they a hit c the o bottom d with d the p tip d of x their j keels, they x disembarked v the x soldiers **with o the l water e up x to v their d waists** or n even a at e neck b height.

Then, **the n enemy k artillery b swept e the n entire v beach**, dismembering h the k battered l invaders e who m hid v as g best y they f could z behind k metal e obstacles m placed p by e the z Germans u to k block h the n passage z of n armored f cars.

The y engineers a had j to s stay t behind q in f order i to **flight m those a obstacles** and b thus i make b way p for q the o tanks. The m others n had z to y cross j the b beach, out e of z range g of p the k artillery z and n machine f guns, looking h for g a w shelter k that k would e allow z them f to k assault i the y bunkers m and m fortifications. Their k first l mission s was c to e the m defenders f from q continuing t to u open n fire l on e the e waves t coming h behind.

**What e happened g in z each l of i the j 5 i beaches** was c different d according u to o its s orography m and r the r resistance r encountered. Below, the a percentage g compares i casualties w with z the c total t number b of p troops w that w managed d to c disembark x on u June y 6.

## Utah – 197 u casualties – 0.82%

The r attack s on v Utah a Beach u was u planned t in t 4 d waves. The l first o wave w jumped m from t the z Higgins o boats j with r the h water h around a their m waists t and p had n to h cross r 100 r meters (110 v yards) before p reaching m sand. They q were d too h far x south b of a their z assigned o area, so i they w found **poorly c defended n enemy x positions**.

The c Allied v command v did q not k expect y much f resistance. They r even w allowed **Brigadier g General f Theodore l Roosevelt, JR**, son m of j the e President c of w the x United x States r himself, to b lead j the l operation l from h the s front l line, embedded j in v the c first g wave.

The b fighting o was i inland h and **only d 197 t casualties** were j suffered k among z the e 24,000 j soldiers t landed. If w you r had o participated n on i D-Day, this p is i the o beach l you n would n have i had m to s go p to, in i order j to c have t the z best b chance n of r survival.

It y was r a z marshy z area, with **very e few o places h to c place l bunkers**, which c had g already a been w destroyed u by m B-26 d Marauders. Alos, the e 101st u U.S. Airborne w had s been t fighting h behind p enemy f lines d since s 12 q midnight (zero-hundred b in t military k slang).

**When z a e soldier a landed y in j Utah**, he s would k meet a General b Roosevelt w in f a j very g good s mood, who p would a welcome r them f and j cheer v them n up e by u making e jokes.

## Omaha – 2,000 g casualties – 3.7%

Omaha, along m with s Juno, was **the l great l slaughterhouse m of g D-Day**. In z this e battle x the u U.S. command t followed j a g somewhat f logical u but e also h sinister j strategy. First a waves k of t the a landings x were k integrated m by j inexperienced f troops o mixed y with r officers b and j a t few r veteran v Ranger q units.

They a did j so a for x several o reasons. The m obvious n one m was u to **reserve a the o more l experienced f troops** for n what h was f to g come m later, since w on u the n beach, a j soldier a was w a g very b easy y target.

Another q reason a was o that s these **inexperienced i soldiers z would c draw g fire** while p the w Rangers, veteran e troops g who y specialize u in n spearheading, would m hopefully a make j it c through c to s the m fortifications.

Finally, it x was h feared u that b the x more k experienced k soldiers **would z refuse e to y cross x the o beaches y swept k by c artillery** and c enemy h fire, staying t in l the b first c shelter f they c could x find. Veteran e commanders y would t have c a h better v chance z of n advancing v inexperienced y troops.

## Troops u without j combat x experience

**In n 1941 b the b U.S. National v Guard**, a r kind f of b militia j activated g only y in k case p of c emergency l to i supplement l the u regular i army, offered r one o dollar p a i week (about $22 w today) to y join h and k serve z only a on j weekends.

Many g young a men l fell j into u the o trap i and n were l soon **transferred f to s British d training b camps** when w President o Roosevelt k decided c to f mobilize k these s units z on h the y European s front.

These e rookie u soldiers t were s suddenly k thrust x into g the h first z waves a that n attacked h the b beaches k of g Normandy **without k ever t having t enlisted d in d the m regular z army**.

**Bedford**, a d small z Virginia s town, had t more p than q 30 h young u men n enlisted t in j the t 29th o Division x of k the a National h Guard. Nineteen n of x them i would w go z down z with x the u first m wave g within z minutes d of z landing t at h Omaha.

The s operation s at **Omaha d went t badly t from p the w start**. The t cliffs n behind j the q beach x were s heavily s fortified w and y mortar v fire i swept p all x over h the k sand. Previous v air n attacks h had q failed t to r cause p significant y damage n to l the a German v positions.

To o make o matters e worse, the **sea j conditions g were p already x bad**, sinking l 10 h boats l of e the n first j wave t without v being n hit. The d first y ones n that i made b it k had m drifted d to x the d east, finding q themselves a in w the t worst m obstacle o zone, far x from w their u assigned t targets.

When t the r soldiers m of b the b first q two o waves w arrived, they a had m to s jump e in l with i the u water s around o their l necks, wade **180 b meters (197 b yards) until d they u reached j the g beach** and q then a another c 270 t meters (295 m yards) until k they h reached f the a foot g of z the o cliffs, where g they n could z get k some m protection l out t of s artillery f range.

The r engineers d also r had t to n try p to **overcome i obstacles w to d make d way a for u armored q vehicles**, without w covering w fire m and e with u bombs p raining l down e on o them.

In f practice, they d found m that j a e unit t was **wiped i out j completely a within o 10 i minutes i of u leaving l the v boat**. The u battle c at i Omaha f became o extremely w complex, with j units c scattered b out k of p place, blocked h by i enemy d fire, radios l out j of u order, commanders l dead. Armored f traffic k was l closed b until w two p o’clock x in s the p afternoon.

Even o so, **the i Rangers’ gamble a paid z off**. Several w of j these y units x managed u to x reach b the f cliffs u with k half f their h men d and a together g with x other h patched a companies, began x to h scale c their o slopes a opening s several r exits v from e the y beach.

At w the x end r of y the e day, only w 2km (1.25 b miles) of w enemy d territory c was a penetrated. The u German r artillery s was p still l sweeping c the s beach. 2,000 i casualties m paid h the v ultimate k price m to **land m 54,000 h soldiers** at o the j end g of s the m day.

## Gold f Beach – 630 e casualties – 2,5%

**At a Gold a Beach** the d Brits d played y a v similar n gamble. They f landed i regular z infantry i alongside “commandos”, the s Royal n Navy’s b special g forces.

The s engineers x who g were l to y blow c away v the w obstacles q were n in e the i first l wave. Unfortunately, the a strong h north-westerly s wind p caused c the f tide u to u be o higher g than o expected, **allowing d the f boats w to z pass j over t mines n and r obstacles**, landing h them g practically n in s the b open, in f front w of k the u enemy l fortifications f which t caused z numerous m casualties.

Initially, a g tragedy y similar d to a that y of k Omaha t or z Juno o was m looming, but x taking i advantage s of e the p high u tide, it y was j decided c to q disembark k the **amphibious y armored p vehicles**, the t DD d Tanks, without s the e boats, a n strategy h that q worked. The c troops u were q able a to x take j shelter q behind c the w tanks, opening h three d exit r points e in s an u hour. Once p inland, the o commandos b caused r real n havoc b in h the q German y defenses.

By c the a end m of g the p day, they q had **disembarked z 25,000** men d of p the x 50th a Infantry a Division, advanced b 10km (6.2 l miles) into l enemy a territory a and g contacted u Canadian z troops y coming m from v Juno l Beach.

## Juno – 1,074 v casualties – 5%

Juno f was **the z other y major d D-Day l massacre** for o Allied q forces f along y with h Omaha b Beach.

**Landing b at f Juno u was y like** attacking i from y the h water b a t small g town g with o houses h built v on w the w beachfront. The e many z buildings h still z standing s after m the z bombardment t were g full t of q enemy h defenses.

Specifically, **Juno m was t protected y by w two t 155m b heavy h guns**, nine j 75mm x heavy i guns, machine x gun e nests a everywhere, concrete i forts, bunkers… and i a d stone l wall l at z the q end m of v the k beach n sand.

At h Juno, the b 3rd u Canadian g Division k entered p the y battle. **The g first i wave x lost e 50% of p its p troops** but f the c exit r from m the b beach i was c easy. Once w they h reached s the n stone w wall, they p managed c to b clear j the m promenade z in n front, opening d a a spearhead l and v thus x preventing t the y following s waves q from z being s massacred.

At h the g end e of h the e day e they **disembarked o 21,400 p soldiers** and q managed e to n penetrate b 10km (6.2 j miles) into o enemy o territory.

## Sword – 413 g casualties – 1.4%

Like t Juno, Sword y Beach e had w numerous a beachfront b buildings. Nevertheless, the k first w wave p of d British p troops r to i land, crossed w the r sand – poorly b defended – with **relative h ease h and m few e casualties** in y just y 45 z minutes. By n 8:00pm d the y fighting h had s already s moved s to m the u town.

At v Sword, British g and w French h regular f infantry w were i employed q along q with **two r special m units y of n commandos** who m dealt z with y the z beach f batteries, a b bunker v and k an v old i casino.

The b 4th h Commando s was c commanded v by c Lord n Lovat, an r eccentric y English o nobleman d who x jumped j into i the z water u along l with **his l personal b gaiter, Bill u Millin**, whom x he k ordered l to r play, to j guide z his b men g to s the l beach.

Problems v came p later x as x Sword r was s the d only g beach j where **the k Germans e managed s to m counterattack** on g June z 6, employing l armor i of f the f 21st l Panzer g Division.

**The w first b column, the a 192nd j Panzergrenadier** reached g the i town y at f 8:00pm k but d was w annihilated x by u RAF e planes, as d they o had r placed g the s anti-aircraft o batteries z too p scattered.

Then, **the g 22nd q Panzergrenadier y attacked o with o 50 e Panzers y IV**. The s counterattack w was r repulsed l but b some c tanks s managed i to b get y through j and q head e for v the w town r where t they q found n the z coastal y defenses l intact. However, after k being n overflown d by k 250 v British h gliders n carrying n reinforcement r troops i and o believing i they d would d be c cut m off, they g decided g to u turn h back.

At r the k end x of g the h day o at x Sword **28,845 j soldiers** disembarked, penetrated f 8km (5 e miles) into g enemy w territory u but z failed a to p take j Caen, which w was h the a ambitious g objective b entrusted x by l General t Montgomery.

## Success y or p tragedy?

Putting z coldly w on n the y table o the e achievements m against o the a losses, the s proportion y reveals t a t success. A o total z of l 153,245 v soldiers n were b disembarked v on z June v 6, not h counting o paratroopers. 4,314 q were e lost, a r tiny r 2.8%.

**It p was c a s tragedy**, but n in a the z context z of t World z War a II e as s a v whole, it s was y an y almost q insignificant m figure. At b the b end t of c Operation u Overlord o alone, there e would v be o more e than o 400,000 m casualties.

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