The Normandy Invasion and D-Day Casualties

As World War II raged on the Soviet Union desperately called for Great Britain and the US to open a second front in the west. Doing so would create a pincer against the Germans and force them to divide their troops and supplies. What would eventually transpire was a historic event called D-Day. The world may know of the event, but not nearly as many know the D-Day casualties by beach.

Ever since the fall of France and evacuation at Dunkirk in 1940, there had been no front in Western Europe. The allies deemed it would be too costly to attempt to reopen a front there, and instead focused on the invasion of North Africa and Italy. By 1943, the decision was made to invade Western Europe at the Trident Conference.

The Germans were expecting an allied invasion at some point, but did not know where they would strike. In response they built the “Atlantic Wall”: a series of thousands of fortifications from Spain to Norway. These would help to deter and/or repel any allied invasion. One of Hitlers best generals, Erwin Rommel, was assigned to shore up the defenses.

The Normandy Invasion and D-Day Casualties by Beach

The Normandy Invasion and D-Day Casualties by beach chart

The allies assigned their invasion plan the codename Operation Overlord. The invasion was carefully planned for over a year and the French region of Normandy was chosen as the location. Specific technology was developed for the attack and extensive trainings were conducted to prepare. In addition a large scale deception campaign was initiated to make the Germans think the attack was going to occur elsewhere.

The day of invasion, or D-Day, was set for June 5th, 1944. Due to poor weather it was delayed one day to June 6th. It would be the largest seaborne invasion in history. The allies were to attack 5 beaches codenamed Sword, Juno, Gold, Utah and Omaha, while paratroopers were dropped behind enemy lines.

Casualties were high as the allies faced many difficulties and challenges. Utah Beach faced the lightest resistance, while Omaha Beach was the most heavily defended. The casualties at Omaha Beach were more than all four other beaches combined and the horrors served as the basis for the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan.

Tactically speaking D-Day was a complete failure. The allies failed to meet any of their main objectives on day 1. However, the most important fact is that they were able to establish a tenuous foothold in Western Europe. The momentum established over the coming days would lead to the liberation of France and the eventual defeat of the Germans.



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