June 6 1944 is marked in the annals of history as the day that the Anglo-American
forces opened the second front in Europe. It was the culmination of many years of
intense planning as part of Operation Overlord.
It combined British ingenuity with American logistical power to meet the objective
of landing on the beaches of Normandy, France. The quick establishment of
beach heads was paramount to build supply lines for the Allied troops that followed.
The German coastal defences were very strong and more than 10000 men lost their lives on that fateful day.
The attack plan called for five infantry divisions (two US, two British and one Canadian) to land on an 80 kilometre sector consisting of beaches, estuaries and cliffs.
The Americans were assigned ‘Utah’ and ‘Omaha’ whilst ‘Gold’, ‘Juno’ and ‘Sword’ beaches were allocated to the British and Canadians. Battles at some beaches cost dearly – Omaha alone accounted for more than 2300 American war dead.
Part of the invasion force included 181 glider commandos transported in 6 Horsa gliders to seize strategic crossings.
Three simple statistics sum up the results of D-Day: in the first 24 hours, the Allies landed about 155,000 troops and controlled 100 km of French coastline at a cost of around 10000 lives. While many of the targets by D-Day evening were not met, the political objective of starting a Second Front was met.
Extracts from Memories of D-Day published online 14 August 2005 by Nitin K Shankar