Operation Overlord: D-Day, The 6th of June

Posted on 05 June 2009


Appointed Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, General Dwight Eisenhower was given the monumental task of establishing a second front in Europe in order to defeat Hitler’s Germany.  Eisenhower determined that the shortest supply route to Europe was the Pas-de-Calais; under the command of Field Marshal von Rundstedt, the Germans arrived at the same conclusion.  Therefore, the Axis military concentrated on reinforcing their Atlantic Ocean wall defenses in this area.


Given this intelligence, Eisenhower was compelled to choose another area upon which to unleash an assault.  After much consideration, he chose Normandy because of its five landing beaches spanning a distance of 40 miles.  The beaches on which the American troops would land were code-named Omaha and Utah.  The beaches that would receive the British and Canadian soldier were referred to as Sword, Juno, and Gold.  For weeks, the weather over the Normandy coast plagued the invasion plans of the Allied Forces.  Finally, after General Eisenhower was informed that there would be 24-hour break in the weather, he assumed responsibility and said, “Go!”


Charged with taking the towns and securing the roads leading to the beaches, to prevent enemy troops from re-enforcing those sandy stretches, airborne troops were dropped behind the German beach defenses on the night of June 5, 1944.  They were the American 82nd and 101st and the British 6th Airborne Divisions.  In the pre-dawn hours of June 6, 1944, the greatest armada ever assembled crossed the English Channel and landed on the beaches of Normandy.  By a quirk of fate, the Americans landing at Utah missed their landing point, which was heavily defended, and found themselves instead on a stretch of beach unoccupied by the Germans: a stroke of luck that saved the lives of hundreds of soldiers.  The same blessing did not occur at Omaha, which subsequently came to be known as Bloody Omaha.  The Naval bombardment of shells at Omaha landed short of their mark.  Compounding this unfortunate event, the aerial bombardment missed its targets, leaving the first wave of troops staring down the barrels of German artillery and gunfire.  The key to the Normandy invasion was the French city of Caen.  Field Marshal Bernard L. Montgomery was given the assignment of securing this town, but that was not to be on that fateful day.


The German Field Marshal Irwin Rommel (“The Desert Fox”) was assigned to build the Atlantic wall to defend Hitler’s Europe from invasion. During its construction, Rommel advised the soldiers burdened with this responsibility that when that invasion took place, it would be the longest day to see who would emerge the victor. The day that came to be known as D-Day was indeed a long one.  But before it ended, American and other Allied Forces managed to secure a beachhead on Fortress Europe.  Less than one year later, they would defeat Hitler on European soil.


Sixty-five years after D-Day, the beaches of Normandy are quiet, but they still retain their code-names. The only reminders of this day are the military cemeteries that dot the area. Destroyed during the invasion, the town of St. Mare Inglese was later restored. It is a living memorial to the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division. The church in that town was also restored.  It includes an effigy of the American paratrooper whose chute got snagged on the steeple as, below him waged the slaughter of his comrades as they were dropped accidentally into the heavily defended town.


Inside the same church are masterpieces of large stained glass windows. One window depicts the Virgin Mary with parachutes descending around her. Another window illustrates a medieval knight surrounded by the division patches of the units that liberated the town. A number of homes in the town have images of parachutes painted on them.  For many years after the storming of the beaches, countless veterans of that war returned to pay their respects to their fallen comrades and relive a part of their lives that claim a monumental, bittersweet history.

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4 Responses to “Operation Overlord: D-Day, The 6th of June”

  1. Editor says:

    I think that for most Americans, the 6th of June represents nothing more than a nice, late spring day. For the generation that served in WWII, it represents much more. I think that this story, and others like it, serve as an important reminder to those of us who were as yet unborn at the time of the high cost of freedom. Excellent article! I hope many read this and take its message to heart.

  2. DRP says:

    Articles like this one make me appreciate the soldiers, past and present, who have fought for and are fighting for our freedom in this country. I’m glad these soldiers, who on this night in 1944 were preparing to land on the beaches of Normandy, are still remembered today. What a great article!

  3. Kimmie says:

    Wow! I’ve never got so choked up over reading an article. Great Work!

  4. BP says:

    GREAT article..Thanks…

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