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. Eventually the allies agreed which culminated in the historic event now known as D-Day. The world may know of the event, but not nearly as many know the exact 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 Tehran 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.
The allies assigned their invasion plan the code name Operation Overlord. The invasion was carefully planned for over a year and the French region of Normandy was chosen as the location.
Military engineers developed specific technology for the attack and forces conducted extensive training to prepare. In addition, leaders initiated a large scale deception campaign to make the Germans think the attack would occur elsewhere.1
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. The allies were to attack five beaches code named Sword, Juno, Gold, Utah and Omaha, while paratroopers were dropped behind enemy lines.2
Total D-Day Casualties by Beach
While the allies successfully captured all five beaches, they suffered high casualties. The below table shows the total D-Day casualties broken down by beach, with Omaha Beach suffering the most by far:
The allies suffered high casualties due to the strong defenses. 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 the movie, Saving Private Ryan.
Tactically speaking the allies failed to meet any of their main objectives on D-Day. However, the most important fact is that they were able to establish a tenuous foothold in Western Europe.
In just one day the allies accomplished the significant feat of landing eight divisions and three armored brigades in German occupied France. The brilliant planning and execution of D-Day by the allies helped lead to the successful landings.3
The momentum established over the coming days would lead to the liberation of France and the eventual defeat of the Germans.
To learn more about US history, check out this timeline of the history of the United States.
1) Ambrose, Stephen E. “Eisenhower and the Intelligence Community in World War II.” Journal of Contemporary History, vol. 16, no. 1, 1981, pp. 153–66. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/260621.
2) Baldwin, Hanson W. “America at War: The End Begins.” Foreign Affairs, vol. 23, no. 1, 1944, pp. 1–16. JSTOR, https://doi.org/10.2307/20029868.
3) Newland, Samuel J., and Clayton K. S. Chun. “D-DAY: PLANNING AND EXECUTION.” The European Campaign: Its Origins and Conduct, Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College, 2011, pp. 137–88. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/resrep12096.9.