Remembering D-Day: Yanks, British, Canadians land on French Coast

National Archives and Records Administration, 26-G-2517 Personnel and equipment arriving at Normandy by air and sea following the D-Day invasion in 1944.

SUPREME HEADQUARTERS, Allied Expeditionary Force, June 6 (AP) — Allied Expeditionary Forces and sea-borne forces landed in northwestern France today, establishing beach heads in Normandy and slashed inland in an auspicious start to history’s greatest overseas operation, aimed at liberating the peoples of Europe from German mastership.

So wrote Wes Gallagher on the day of the Normandy Invasion, which has come to be known as D-Day. However, slashing inland did not quite happen as Gallagher reported. It was not a slash, but a casualty-intensive push. Gallagher should not be taken to account for his coverage of the invasion on that day, due largely to the fact that June 6, 1944, was a day of confusion, with few, if any, having a clear understanding on what was happening on the beaches of Normandy. In fact, as Gallagher pointed out in his article, which appeared on the front page of the Tuesday, June 6, 1944, edition of the Daily Mining Gazette, the first reports regarding the invasion had been released by Germany.

“The German radio began broadcasting a constant stream of invasion flashes almost as soon as the first troops landed,” Gallagher wrote, “and continued with extensive reports of the gigantic naval and air bombardments that covered the assault.”

The European Theater of Operations (ETO) had its own time zone during the war (eastern war time,) which was six hours behind that of British time, and the German media used the eastern war time in reporting events as they unfolded.

At 12:32 a.m. (6:32 a.m. BT), the German News Agency Transocean broadcast that the Allied invasion had begun.

Allied headquarters, on the other hand, remained silent until 9:32 a.m. British time, when the following communique was issued, he wrote:

“Under the command of General Eisenhower, Allied naval forces supported by strong air forces began landing Allied Armies this morning on the northern coast of France.”

The German reports were actually more accurate than those of the American or British media that morning, as well as more detailed. The Allied invasion had actually begun on the night of June 5, when American and British airborne forces were dropped behind enemy lines, with clear objectives which, taken together, were planned to completely disrupt the Germans’ ability to operate from their rear.

If few people had an understanding of what was happening on the morning of June 6, much of the confusion was caused by the Allies, and caused on purpose.

While airborne divisions were being dropped behind enemy lines in Normandy, at Pas de Calais, the closest point between France and England, the Allies dropped thousands of paratrooper dummies, complete with accurate uniforms, parachutes and firecrackers, behind German defensive positions. The firecrackers exploded when the dummies landed, mimicking machine gun fire. Nicknamed “Rupert,” the dummies were dropped from C-47 transport planes in several areas.

Four thousand ships, and countless thousands of smaller craft were employed in landing the Allied forces on five code named beaches: Omaha, Utah, Gold, Sword and Juno. The American forces landed at Omaha and Utah beaches, which were the two most heavily-defended of the five beaches.

Of a total of 132, 715 troops and personnel landed across the five beaches on D-Day, of which 57,500 were American. The total number of killed and wounded will never be known, and estimates range from 3,400 to 10,000. Historian Stephen Ambrose stated the total number at 4,900 killed, wounded, and missing.

As history records, the Allied invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944, was successful, but it was not easy, and it would require 11 months of intense fighting, with American, British, Canadian, and French forces driving to the east of Europe, while the Russians pushed westward, placing the Germans between two aggressive forces, between Chancellor Adolph Hitler had opened a war on two fronts.