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D Day

Franklin D Roosevelt

D Day: Franklin Roosevelt was the 32nd American President who served in office from March 4, 1933 to April 12, 1945, the day of his death. One of the important events during his presidency was the D-Day Normandy landings.

Definition and Summary of the D Day
Summary and definition:
D-Day in WW2 began at 6:30am on 6 June, 1944 when American, British and Canadian troops landed on the beaches of Normandy to liberate France, and the rest of North West Europe, from German occupation. The codename for the WW2 invasion of France was Operation Overlord, which would become known as D-Day.

The 50-mile (80 km) stretch of the Normandy coast chosen for the Allied invasion was divided into five sectors codenamed Utah Beach, Sword Beach, Gold Beach, Juno Beach, and Omaha Beach. By the end of D-Day, 156,000 soldiers landed on the Normandy beaches with more than 10,000 Allied casualties killed, wounded or missing.

What date was D-Day? The date of D-Day and the WW2 Allied landings in Normandy was on 6 June 1944.

Where were the D-Day landings? The location of the D-Day landings was the coastline of Normandy in northern France

What were the D-Day Beaches?
The D-Day Beaches were the fives sections of the Normandy coast chosen for the landings. Their codenames were Omaha Beach, Utah Beach, Sword Beach, Juno Beach, and Gold Beach

What were the D-Day casualties?
There were 10,000 Allied casualties killed, wounded or missing on D-Day. Casualties at each beach were as follows: Utah 589, Omaha 3,686, Gold 1,023, Juno 1,242, Sword 1,304. The total German casualties on D-Day are unknown, but are estimated as being between 4,000-9,000 men.

Who participated in D-Day invasion?
The majority of troops who landed on the D-Day beaches were from the United States, Britain, and Canada however, troops from many other countries including Australia, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, France, Greece, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and Poland also participated.

How many Allied troops were involved in D-Day?
It is estimated that 156,000 troops landed in Normandy on D-Day. The American forces numbered 73,000 including 34,250 on Omaha Beach, 23,250 on Utah Beach and 15,500 airborne troops. The British and Canadian troops totaled 83,115 (61,715 of them British) including 28,845 on Sword Beach, 24,970 on Gold Beach, 21,400 on Juno Beach and 7900 airborne troops.

Why was it called D-Day and what does it stand for?
The term 'D-Day' is one of the most famous used in WW2, but what does it mean and what did it stand for. 'D-Day' is a piece of military vocabulary used, when secrecy was essential, to designate the day and hour on which a military operation or exercise was planned to commence when the exact had not yet been determined. An example of this was used during WW1 when Field Order No. 8 from the First Army of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) dated September 7, 1918 read, "...the First Army will attack at H-Hour on D-Day with the object of forcing the evacuation of the St. Mihiel salient." The term ' D-Day' is now used almost exclusively in reference to June 6, 1944 which marked the beginning of the Allied invasion of France

Use of the D-Day Military Term
The choice of the letter D has no significance other than that of an unknown date of military significance - it did not stand for doomsday, designated, decision, disembarkation, or death day!  Its use was to provide a point of reference from which all other dates could be reckoned. For example, D-Day [minus] 1 would be the day before an operation commenced. D-Day [plus] 1 would be the second day of the operation. This allowed for a military plan to be worked out in advance, even though the actual date of D-Day might remain undecided.

What was Operation Overlord?
Plans for the Allied invasion of France, D-Day, were made by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill at a conference in Tehran. The codename for the invasion was 'Operation Overlord'. FDR appointed a command team led by US General Dwight D. Eisenhower in December 1943 to plan the air, naval and land operations. Operation Overlord was top secret and included the development of Deception campaigns to draw German attention and strength away from Normandy to other parts of France. Hitler had fortified the coast of occupied France and the Allies only advantage was the element of surprise - the Germans did not know where or when the Allies would land. The German High Command were skeptical of an attack on the Normandy coast due to lack of harboring.

What was Operation Fortitude?
The planners of Operation Overlord and D-Day needed to convince the Germans that Pas-de-Calais, the area of France closest to Britain, was the target for the Allied invasion of occupied France. Operation Fortitude was the code name given to the Allied military deception plan to fool the Germans into believing that the invasion of Europe on D-Day would occur at Pas-de-Calais, rather than in Normandy. The Operation Fortitude deception campaign included placing decoys such as inflated rubber tanks, dummy aircrafts, dummy landing craft, dummy parachutists and empty tents along the British coast opposite Calais. The decoys all looked genuine to the German spy planes who flew over the area and helped to mislead the enemy on the Allies true intention for D-Day.

Facts about D Day
The following fact sheet contains interesting facts and information on D Day.

The Germans, under the command of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, had built defenses right along the north coast of France and beyond, referred to as the Atlantic Wall. The Atlantic Wall consisted of barbed wire, thousands of pillboxes, gun placements and bunkers. Over six million mines had been buried along the beaches of the 'Atlantic Wall'.

Operation Overlord needed complex and comprehensive planning. The location of the Allied invasion required firm, flat beaches in close proximity to the warplanes based in England together with easy access to roads to move the invasion force further inland after the initial landings. Five beaches in Normandy met the criteria and the destination of the D-Day landings was selected.

Over 1.5 million American troops together with US airplanes, arms and equipment were sent to England in preparation for the invasion of Normandy and D-Day.

The 50-mile (80 km) stretch of the Normandy coast chosen for the invasion was divided into five sectors codenamed Utah Beach, Sword Beach, Juno Beach, Gold Beach and Omaha Beach.

New technology was developed during WW2 to help troops and vehicles land by sea and used on D-Day. The British invented the 'Mulberry harbor' enabling the Allies to land troops, vehicles and equipment on French soil without having to capture a port first. New tanks, called "Funnies" were designed to assist in the invasion of occupied France.

The 'mulberries' were concrete pre-fabricated makeshift harbors with mile long piers and landing ramps that were towed across the English Channel in pieces and put into place on the Normandy beaches.

The D-D (Duplex Drive) tank, the 'swimming' Sherman, had a propeller enabling it to travel on the sea as well as land. The 'Bobbin' carpet layer tank was an AVRE adapted to lay reinforced matting on soft beach surfaces allowing armored vehicles to drive across difficult terrain and without sinking on the beach.

The front of the Crab tank was fitted with revolving steel chains to detonate the German mines and clear the barbed wire. The terrifying 'Crocodile' tanks had napalm flame throwers that could shoot fire at the enemy. The 'Kangaroo' APC tank was used for the rapid transport of infantry increasing the mobility and providing some protection for the troops.

The planners of Operation Overlord and D-Day needed to time the Normandy invasion to coincide with a moonlit night, a low tide and good weather. The Allied ships had to arrive at low tide in order to see beach obstacles and the gunners on the ships attacking the coastline also required a low tide  Moonlight was needed so that the paratroopers dropped behind enemy lines could see where to land.

There were only a few days in June when the required conditions for the Normandy invasion and D-Day would apply: from June 5 - June 7.  On June 5 the weather was bad with strong winds, high waves and low clouds making the invasion impossible.

Weather forecasts for June 6 indicated a brief improvement and, although conditions were far from perfect, General Eisenhower made the decision to launch the D-Day invasion

On June 6, 1944 nearly 7000 ships carried an estimated 156,000 Allied soldiers to the Normandy beaches on D-Day, the majority of them were American, British and Canadian.

The D-Day invasion began whilst it was still dark to hide the ships crossing the English Channel towards Normandy.

11,590 Allied aircraft supported the D-Day landings flying 14,674 sorties of which 127 planes were lost. The Allied airmen targeted German bunkers, radar sites and bridges.

Huge naval forces consisting of 6,939 vessels with 195,700 Navy personnel participated in the D-Day assault including 52,889 US ships, 112,824 British ships, and 4,988 vessels from other Allied countries bombarded Normandy with thousands of shells..

The three miles wide Utah Beach was westernmost of the five landing beaches and vital for the early capture of the vital port of Cherbourg. The D-Day landing was made by the US 4th Infantry Division and an airborne drop by the US 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions. 20,000 men were landed Utah Beach with 1,700 military vehicles. Casualties were less than 300 men.

The 5 mile stretch of Sword Beach was the furthest east of the five beaches targeted for D-Day, located about 9 miles to the north-east of the vital city of Caen. The D-Day landing was made by units of the British 3rd Division together with French and British commandos. 29,000 men landed with 630 casualties.

Juno Beach was the second beach from the east among the five landing areas of the Normandy Invasion of WW2 and assaulted by units of the Canadian 3rd Infantry Division. The Canadians suffered 1,200 casualties out of 21,400 troops who landed at Juno Beach.

The 5 mile wide Gold Beach was the centre beach of the 5 landing areas of the Normandy Invasion of WW2 and taken by units of the British 50th Infantry Division on D-Day. The British suffered 400 casualties out of 25,000 troops who landed at Gold Beach.

The 6 mile wide Omaha Beach, between Utah and Gold,  was the largest of all the beaches and assaulted by the U.S. 29th and 1st infantry divisions led by Omar Bradley. The Americans suffered 2,400 casualties out of 34,000 troops who landed at Omaha Beach on D-Day.

The Normandy landings at Omaha Beach on D-Day resulted in the greatest number of casualties during the D-Day offensive. Many the soldiers were drowned during the approach from ships offshore before they even reached Omaha Beach.

The Omaha Beach troops were without armored support as most of the DD (Duplex Drive) 'swimming' tanks had foundered in the heavy swell of the sea.

The Omaha troops were surrounded by great cliffs and faced heavy enemy fire from a German fortress on top of the cliffs at Pointe de Hoc and from German trenches and guns built into the bluffs.

Many of the Omaha troops were mown down as soon as the doors of the landing crafts opened. Those who survived had to cross 300 yards littered with man-made booby traps. The landing crafts were forced together and the large groups of Americans storming Omaha Beach made easy targets. Despite the carnage the Americans took Omaha Beach on D-Day and began to fight their way inland.

The Allied troops took all five of the beaches during D-Day. The Allied invasion of Normandy had been successful.

For the D-Day invasion all Allied aircraft had black and white stripes painted on the underside of their wings for easy identification. Likewise, all military vehicles had a white star in a white circle painted on them, regardless of nationality.

The French Resistance begin to sabotage the German response to the Normandy invasion on D-Day, by blowing up telephone exchanges and railway lines.

All D-Day troops were given 'clickers' as a means of identification in the dark, regardless of language. A click indicated a 'friendly' response - no such response indicated the enemy.

By 11 June, 1944 (D-Day + 5), 326,547 troops, 54,186 vehicles and 104,428 tons of supplies had been landed on the Normandy beaches.

The "Battle of Normandy" lasted from June 6, 1944 September 1, 1944 and including Operation Overlord (June 6, 1944 August 25, 1944) and Operation Cobra, the breakout from Normandy. Over 425,000 Allied and German troops were killed, wounded or went missing in the "Battle of Normandy".

The 1962 movie 'The Longest Day', starring John Wayne, Robert Ryan and Richard Burton, is based on the 1959 book by Cornelius Ryan, tells the story of the WW2 Normandy landings on June 6, 1944 - D-Day.

Other notable WW2 movies about the Normandy Invasion and D-Day include Saving Private Ryan (1998 movie), The Americanization of Emily (1964 movie), Overlord (1975 movie), The Big Red One (1980 movie), Ike: Countdown to D-Day (2004 movie) and Red Ball Express (1952 movie)

US American History
1929-1945: Depression & WW2

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