As Supreme Expeditionary Forces Commander, General Dwight D. Eisenhower had the top military men of Great Britain and the United States under his command. These men would help him play out the great plans for the long awaited invasion. Their orders from the Combined Chiefs of Staff were very simple; they were to land on the coast of France and destroy the German armies.
The Nazis General Field Marshal Erwin Rommel took many different measures to prepare for the attacks by the Allies. He was the only General under Hitler’s command that believed Normandy not Pas Del Calais would be the invading point (Skipper 42).
His troops worked feverishly to strengthen defenses. The entire coastline was littered with land mines. Their beaches had deadly obstacles and their weapons and bases were camouflaged. They felt that on shore they were invincible.
By early 1944 almost one million Allied soldiers arrived in the United Kingdom. That brought their total there to almost three million. The Allied airforce strength had grown from a few thousand planes to more than 15,000 planes. The 5,000 bombers were ready to drop over 100,000 bombs. All the available space in Britain was used for storage.
Newly thoughts up ideas were in the makings to be used at Normandy. One idea was to create artificial harbors on the coasts of Normandy. They would use heavy machinery to break German obstacles and destroy mines. These new ideas would be very useful in aiding Allied troops.
... About 11, 000 Allied aircraft operated over the invasion area. More than 150, 000 troops disembarked at Normandy on D-Day. ... Hitler to decide against sending reserve panzer divisions to Normandy, a decision that greatly facilitated the landing and the ... while troops, equipment, and supplies poured into Britain, the Allied air forces bombed railroads, bridges, airfields, and fortifications in ...
The men themselves were trained under conditions that would be similar to the ones they would soon be fighting at. These exercises were different from the ones they had known in the US. Troops continually worked at operating as a whole with other infantries. In some cases the men were even toughened up by having sessions of hand to hand combat. Paratroopers were also mentally and physically toughened up for their missions. The thirteen thousand plus men were said to be the greatest up to that time.
The heavy air attacks on the Germans coal railroads began in April of 1944 nearly two months before the actual invasion. These attacks were the first steps in the disruption of the Nazis communication centers. The three days that the Allies thought would be best for the invasion were the 5th, 6th, and 7th of June. If the weather did not meet their standard they would have to postpone the invasion. They believed that if they had to postpone the invasion that the consequences would be terrible.
On June 1st and 2nd the troops left their camps and headed straight for the Forts of embarkation. They were transferred under heavy surveillance of the military police. The day before the scheduled attack the weather turned terribly bad. General Eisenhower soon decided that the attack would have to be postponed. The weather soon cleared and the decision was made to go ahead with the act on June 6th.
The first men to see action would be the paratroopers from the American 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions who were scheduled to drop behind enemy lines (Skipper 53).
To move the 175,000 troopers across shore over 4,000 ships were used. Weapons and artillery were also boarded onto ships so they could aid the troopers once they landed. At the end of June 5th the preparations for the invasion had been finished.
Air fighters were used to knockout key points that were to seal off roads and highways to the shores. They were also very useful as scouts. Next gliders were to be sent carrying soldiers and anti tank weapons before the troops had reached the shores. There were serious loses due to the fact that the fields where they were forced to land were so terrible. Sainte-Mere-Eglise was the first German town to be captured by paratroopers.
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The Germans who were surprised by the invasion were quick to prepare. The coastal defenses that they had prepared for this very moment were readied quickly. Soon Allied destroyers were used to try and fight the coastal defenses that the air force attacks did not destroy. As the battle raged on the transports prepared to bring their troops onshore. After the air fighters and warships had done their jobs the fate of the mission depended on the troops.
Soon the troops made it to the shores. The men were under heavy enemy fire. Three separate American divisions launched onto Utah and Omaha beach. They fought desperately to gain position. It looked as if the battle was going to be very tough for them. Casualties on D-Day were heavy. Nearly 3,000 troops were either missing in action, wounded or deceased on Omaha beach alone.
Due to the rough time the men had reaching the other beaches many of them were not fit to battle the Germans. That afternoon the Americans artillery was brought on shore and put into use. In the late afternoon of D-Day the beaches were secure and the troops started their move to the inland. Their efforts were slowed though because of Nazi obstacles that blocked their way.
Nazis had filled the French coast with mines. Although there were many mines the detection troops cleared the way quickly. The troops were able to move forward without that much of a delay. Another obstacle in the way of the Allied troops was the Nazi soldiers that hid in hedgerows. Many men fought continually to try and proceed.
Although there were no large scale surrenders the Allies gained enough hostages to provide officials with the needed information. After the first week of battle Allied casualties grew in numbers. Now it was over 100,000 men wounded, dead, or missing. On June 7th General Eisenhower took a look at the shores of the landing from a destroyer offshore. The weather had gotten significantly better now so the Allies were able to follow up their success. They were able to land reinforcements and materials.
Even though the invasion had been a success the fight was not over. The Allies still had to take offensive measures. They did such things as build portable harbors off the shores, which enabled them to send troops easily ashore. They also constructed airfields so they could support the advances of the ground troops.
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Europe was now almost on the verge of freedom. D-Day was a successful mission. The troops training and preparation had paid off. The beaches still hummed with movement, and they were strewn with the litter and wreckage of war (Edwards 89).
It may have only been one episode in World War 2, but it caused a lot of human casualties. Allied casualties added up to around 210,000 and the Germans lost close to 300,000.
Collier, Richard. D-Day: June 6, 1944 The Normandy Landings.
New York: Sterling Publishing Co., Inc., 1992
Young, Brigadier Peter. D-Day.
New York: Galahad Books, 1981
Edwards, Tudor. D-Day.
East Sussex: Wayland Publishing Inc., 1975
Skipper, G.C. D-Day.
Chicago: Regensteiner Publishing Enterprises, Inc., 1982
“Operation Overlord-Normandy Invasion” Robert Swanson “http://yourinternet-esq.com/ussaugusta/overlord/index.htm”