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Battle of Normandy

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The Battle of Normandy, codenamed Operation Overlord was the Allied invasion of Normandy, part of the Normandy Campaign. It began on June 6, 1944 (commonly known as D-Day), and is held to end on June 30, 1944, with Operation Cobra. Operation Neptune was the codename given to the initial naval assault phase of Operation Overlord; its mission, to gain a foothold on the continent. It involved over 156,000 troops crossing the English Channel from England to Normandy.

Allied land forces that saw combat in Normandy on D-Day itself came from Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Substantial Free French and Polish forces also participated in the battle after the assault phase, and there were also contingents from Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Greece, the Netherlands, and Norway. Other Allied nations participated in the naval and air forces.

The Normandy invasion began with overnight parachute and glider landings, massive air attacks, naval bombardments, and an early morning amphibious phase began on June 6. The "D-Day" forces deployed from bases along the south coast of England, the most important of these being Portsmouth.

The Battle of Normandy was one of the most important events in modern history as the Allied Forces broke the back of the Nazi army, hastening the destruction of Nazi Germany, securing the victory of democracy over totalitarianism.

Battle of NormandyNeptune - Airborne landings - Tonga - Pegasus Bridge - Albany - Boston - Chicago - Detroit - Elmira - Sword - Juno - Gold - Omaha - Utah - Pointe du Hoc - Brécourt Manor - La Caine - Carentan - Villers-Bocage - Cherbourg - Epsom - Goodwood - Atlantic - Spring - Cobra - Bluecoat - Lüttich - Totalise - Tractable - Falaise - Brest - ParisWest European Campaign

(1944-1945)

Normandy - Dragoon - Siegfried Line - Ardennes Offensive - Invasion of Germany - German capitulationWestern Front

(World War II)

France - The Netherlands - Dunkirk - Britain - Dieppe - Villefranche-de-Rouergue - Normandy - Dragoon - Siegfried Line - Market Garden - Aintree - Scheldt - Hurtgen Forest - Aachen - Bulge - Colmar Pocket - Plunder

Allied preparations

Eisenhower speaks with 1st Lt. Wallace C. Strobel and Company E, 502d Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division on the evening of June 5, 1944.

The objective of the operation was to create a lodgement that would be anchored in the city of Caen (and later Cherbourg when its deep-water port would be captured). As long as Normandy could be secured, the Western European campaign and the downfall of Nazi Germany could begin. About 6,900 vessels would be involved in the invasion, under the command of Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay (who had been directly involved in the North African and Italian landings), including 4,100 landing craft. A total of 12,000 aircraft under Air Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory were to support the landings, including 1,000 transports to fly in the parachute troops; 10,000 tons of bombs would be dropped against the German defenses, and 14,000 attack sorties would be flown.

Some of the more unusual Allied preparations included armored vehicles specially adapted for the assault. Developed under the leadership of Maj. Gen. Percy Hobart (Montgomery's brother-in-law), these vehicles (called Hobart's Funnies) included "swimming" Duplex Drive Sherman tanks, the Churchill Crocodile flame throwing tank, mine-clearing tanks, bridge-laying tanks and road-laying tanks and the Armored Vehicle, Royal Engineers (AVRE)-equipped with a large-caliber mortar for destroying concrete emplacements. Some prior testing of these vehicles had been undertaken at Kirkham Priory in Yorkshire, England. The majority would be operated by small teams of the British 79th Armoured Division attached to the various formations.

U.S. soldiers of the 2nd Ranger Battalion march through Weymouth, a southern English coastal town, en route to board landing ships for the invasion of France.

Allied forces rehearsed their roles for D-Day months before the invasion. On April 28, 1944, in south Devon on the English coast, 749 U.S. soldiers and sailors were killed when German torpedo boats surprised one of these landing exercises, Exercise Tiger.

In the months leading up to the invasion, the Allies conducted a deception operation, Operation Bodyguard. The Allies prepared a massive deception plan, called Operation Fortitude.

There were several leaks prior to or on D-Day. Through the Cicero affair, the Germans obtained documents containing references to Overlord, but these documents lacked all detail.4 Double Cross agents, such as Juan Pujol (code named Garbo), played an important role in convincing the German High Command that Normandy was at best a diversionary attack. Another such leak was Gen. Charles de Gaulle's radio message after D-Day. He, unlike all the other leaders, stated that this invasion was the real invasion. This had the potential to ruin the Allied deceptions Fortitude North and Fortitude South. For example, Gen. Eisenhower referred to the landings as the initial invasion. The Germans did not believe de Gaulle and waited too long to move in extra units against the Allies.

Allied Order of Battle

D-day assault routes into Normandy.

The order of battle was approximately as follows, east to west:

British sector (Second Army)

  • 6th Airborne Division was delivered by parachute and glider to the east of the River Orne to protect the left flank. The division contained 7,900 men.5
  • 1st Special Service Brigade comprising No.3, No.4, No.6 and No.45(RM) Commandos landed at Ouistreham in Queen Red sector (leftmost). No.4 Commando were augmented by 1 and 8 Troop (both French) of No.10 (Inter Allied) Commando.
  • I Corps, 3rd Infantry Division and the 27th Armored Brigade on Sword Beach, from Ouistreham to Lion-sur-Mer.
  • No.41(RM) Commando (part of 4th Special Service Brigade) landed on the far right of Sword Beach, where 29,000 men would land6
  • Canadian 3rd Infantry Division, Canadian 2nd Armored Brigade and No.48 (RM) Commando on Juno Beach, from Saint-Aubin-sur-Mer to Courseulles-sur-Mer, where 21,400 troops would land.6
  • No.46(RM) Commando (part of 4th Special Service Brigade) at Juno to scale the cliffs on the left side of the Orne River estuary and destroy a battery. (Battery fire proved negligible so No.46 were kept off-shore as a floating reserve and landed on D+1).
  • XXX Corps, 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division and 8th Armored Brigade, comprising of 25,000 men landing on Gold Beach,7 from Courseulles to Arromanches.
  • No.47(RM) Commando (part of 4th Special Service Brigade) on the West flank of Gold beach.
  • 79th Armored Division operated specialist armor ("Hobart's Funnies") for mine-clearing, recovery and assault tasks. These were distributed around the Anglo-Canadian beaches.

Overall, the British contingent would consist of 83,115 troops (61,715 of them British).6

U.S. Sector (First Army)

  • V Corps, 1st Infantry Division and 29th Infantry Division making up 34,250 troops for Omaha Beach, from Sainte-Honorine-des-Pertes to Vierville-sur-Mer.6
  • 2nd and 5th Ranger Battalions at Pointe du Hoc (The 5th diverted to Omaha).
  • VII Corps, 4th Infantry Division and the 359th RCT of the 90th Infantry Division comprising of 23,250 men landing on Utah Beach, around Pouppeville and La Madeleine.
  • 101st Airborne Division by parachute around Vierville to support Utah Beach landings.
  • 82nd Airborne Division by parachute around Sainte-Mère-Église, protecting the right flank. They had originally been tasked with dropping further west, in the middle part of the Cotentin, allowing the sea-landing forces to their east easier access across the peninsula, and preventing the Germans from reinforcing the north part of the peninsula. The plans were later changed to move them much closer to the beachhead, as at the last minute the 91st Air Landing Division was found to be in the area.

In total, the Americans contributed 73,000 men (15,500 were airborne).

Naval participants

Large landing craft convoy crosses the English Channel on June 6, 1944.

The Invasion Fleet was drawn from eight different navies, comprising 6,939 vessels: 1,213 warships, 4,126 transport vessels (landing ships and landing craft), and 736 ancilliary craft and 864 merchant vessels.6

The overall commander of the Allied Naval Expeditionary Force, providing close protection and bombardment at the beaches, was Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay. The Allied Naval Expeditionary Force was divided into two Naval Task Forces: Western (Rear-Admiral Alan G. Kirk) and Eastern (Rear-Admiral Sir Philip Vian).

The warships provided cover for the transports against the enemy-whether in the form of surface warships, submarines, or as an aerial attack-and gave support to the landings through shore bombardment. These ships included the Allied Task Force "O."

German Order of Battle

The number of military forces at the disposal of Nazi Germany, reached its peak during 1944, tanks on the east front peaked at 5,202 in November 1944, total aircraft in the Luftwaffe inventory peaked at 5,041 in December 1944. By D-Day 157 German divisions were stationed in the Soviet Union, 6 in Finland, 12 in Norway, 6 in Denmark, 9 in Germany, 21 in the Balkans, 26 in Italy and 59 in France, Belgium and the Netherlands.8 However, these statistics are somewhat misleading since a significant number of the divisions in the east were depleted; German records indicate that the average personnel complement was at about 50 percent in the spring of 1944.9

Atlantic Wall

Standing in the way of the Allies was the English Channel, a crossing which had eluded the Spanish Armada and Napoleon Bonaparte's Navy. Compounding the invasion efforts was the extensive Atlantic Wall, ordered by Hitler as part of Directive 51. Believing that any forthcoming landings would be timed for high tide (this caused the landings to be timed for low tide), Rommel had the entire wall fortified with tank top turrets and extensive barbed wire, and laying a million mines to deter landing craft. The sector which was attacked was guarded by four divisions.

Divisional Areas

  • 716th Infantry Division (Static) defended the Eastern end of the landing zones, including most of the British and Canadian beaches. This division, as well as the 709th, included Germans who were not considered fit for active duty on the Eastern Front, usually for medical reasons, and various other nationalities such as conscripted Poles and former Soviet prisoners-of-war who had agreed to fight for the Germans rather than endure the harsh conditions of German POW camps.
  • 352nd Infantry Division defended the area between approximately Bayeux and Carentan, including Omaha beach. Unlike the other divisions this one was well-trained and contained many combat veterans. The division had been formed in November 1943 with the help of cadres from the disbanded 321st Division, which had been destroyed in the Soviet Union that same year. The 352nd had many troops who had seen action on the eastern front and on the 6th, had been carrying out anti-invasion exercises.
  • 91st Air Landing Division (Luftlande - air transported) (Generalmajor Wilhelm Falley), comprising the 1057th Infantry Regiment and 1058th Infantry Regiment. This was a regular infantry division, trained, and equipped to be transported by air (i.e. transportable artillery, few heavy support weapons) located in the interior of the Cotentin Peninsula, including the drop zones of the American parachute landings. The attached 6th Parachute Regiment (Oberstleutnant Friedrich August Freiherr von der Heydte) had been rebuilt as a part of the 2nd Parachute Division stationed in Brittany.
  • 709th Infantry Division (Static) (Generalleutnant Karl-Wilhelm von Schlieben), comprising the 729th Infantry Regiment, 739th Infantry Regiment (both with four battalions, but the 729th 4th and the 739th 1st and 4th being Ost, these two regiments had no regimental support companies either), and 919th Infantry Regiment. This coastal defense division protected the eastern, and northern (including Cherbourg) coast of the Cotentin Peninsula, including the Utah beach landing zone. Like the 716th, this division comprised a number of "Ost" units who were provided with German leadership to manage them.

Adjacent Divisional Areas

Other divisions occupied the areas around the landing zones, including:

  • 243rd Infantry Division (Static) (Generalleutnant Heinz Hellmich), comprising the 920th Infantry Regiment (two battalions), 921st Infantry Regiment, and 922nd Infantry Regiment. This coastal defense division protected the western coast of the Cotentin Peninsula.
  • 711th Infantry Division (Static), comprising the 731th Infantry Regiment, and 744th Infantry Regiment. This division defended the western part of the Pays de Caux.
  • 30th Mobile Brigade (Oberstleutnant Freiherr von und zu Aufsess), comprising three bicycle battalions.

Armored reserves

Rommel's defensive measures were also frustrated by a dispute over armored doctrine. In addition to his two army groups, von Rundstedt also commanded the headquarters of Panzer Group West under General Leo Geyr von Schweppenburg (usually referred to as von Geyr). This formation was nominally an administrative HQ for von Rundstedt's armored and mobile formations, but it was later to be renamed Fifth Panzer Army and brought into the line in Normandy. Von Geyr and Rommel disagreed over the deployment and use of the vital Panzer divisions.

Rommel recognized that the Allies would possess air superiority and would be able to harass his movements from the air. He therefore proposed that the armored formations be deployed close to the invasion beaches. In his words, it was better to have one Panzer division facing the invaders on the first day, than three Panzer divisions three days later when the Allies would already have established a firm beachhead. Von Geyr argued for the standard doctrine that the Panzer formations should be concentrated in a central position around Paris and Rouen, and deployed en masse against the main Allied beachhead when this had been identified.

The argument was eventually brought before Hitler for arbitration. He characteristically imposed an unworkable compromise solution. Only three Panzer divisions were given to Rommel, too few to cover all the threatened sectors. The remainder, nominally under Von Geyr's control, were actually designated as being in "OKW Reserve." Only three of these were deployed close enough to intervene immediately against any invasion of Northern France, the other four were dispersed in southern France and the Netherlands. Hitler reserved to himself the authority to move the divisions in OKW Reserve, or commit them to action. On June 6, many Panzer division commanders were unable to move because Hitler had not given the necessary authorization, and his staff refused to wake him upon news of the invasion.

Army Group B Reserve

  • The 21st Panzer Division (Generalmajor Edgar Feuchtinger) was deployed near Caen as a mobile striking force as part of the Army Group B reserve. However, Rommel placed it so close to the coastal defenses that, under standing orders in case of invasion, several of its infantry and anti-aircraft units would come under the orders of the fortress divisions on the coast, reducing the effective strength of the division.

The other two armored divisions over which Rommel had operational control, the 2nd Panzer Division and 116th Panzer Division, were deployed near the Pas de Calais in accordance with German views about the likely Allied landing sites. Neither was moved from the Pas de Calais for at least 14 days after the invasion.

OKW Reserve

The other mechanized divisions capable of intervening in Normandy were retained under the direct control of the German Armed Forces HQ (OKW) and were initially denied to Rommel:

Four divisions were deployed to Normandy within seven days of the invasion:

  • The 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend (Brigadeführer Fritz Witt) was stationed to the southeast. Its officers and NCOs (this division had a very weak core of NCOs in Normandy with only slightly more than 50 percent of its authorized strength10) were long-serving veterans, but the junior soldiers had all been recruited directly from the Hitler Youth movement at the age of 17 in 1943. It was to acquire a reputation for ferocity and war crimes in the coming battle.
  • Further to the southwest was the Panzerlehrdivision (General major Fritz Bayerlein), an elite unit originally formed by amalgamating the instructing staff at various training establishments. Not only were its personnel of high quality, but the division also had unusually high numbers of the latest and most capable armored vehicles.
  • 1st SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler was refitting in Belgium on the Netherlands border after being decimated on the Eastern Front.
  • 17th SS Panzergrenadier Division Götz von Berlichingen (Generalmajor Werner Ostendorff) was based on Thouars, south of the Loire River, and although equipped with Assault guns instead of tanks and lacking in other transport (such that one battalion each from the 37th and 38th Panzergrenadier Regiments moved by bicycle), it provided the first major counterattack against the American advance at Carentan on June 13.

Three other divisions (the 2nd SS Division Das Reich, which had been refitting at Montauban in Southern France, and the 9th SS Panzer Division Hohenstaufen and 10th SS Panzer Division Frundsberg which had been in transit from the Eastern Front on June 6), were committed to battle in Normandy around 21 days after the first landings.

One more armored division (the 9th Panzer Division) saw action only after the American breakout from the beachhead. Two other armored divisions which had been in the west on June 6 (the 11th Panzer Division and 19th Panzer Division) did not see action in Normandy.

Landings

Just prior to the invasion, General Eisenhower transmitted a now-historic message to all members of the Allied Expeditionary Force. It read, in part, "You are about to embark upon a great crusade, toward which we have striven these many months."11 In his pocket was an unused statement to be read in case the invasion failed.

Weather forecast

British Pathfinders synchronizing their watches in front of an Armstrong Whitworth Albemarle.Did you know?Bad weather before D-Day gave the Allied troops the element of surprise

The final factor in determining the date of the landing was the anticipated weather. By this stage of the war, the German U-Boats had largely been driven from the Atlantic,12 and their weather stations in Greenland had been closed down. The Allies possessed an advantage in knowledge of conditions in the Atlantic, which was to prove decisive.

A full moon was required both for light for the aircraft pilots and for the spring tide, effectively limiting the window of opportunity for mounting the invasion to only a few days in each month. Eisenhower had tentatively selected June 5 as the date for the assault. Most of May had fine weather, but this deteriorated in early June. On June 4, conditions were clearly unsuitable for a landing; wind and high seas would make it impossible to launch landing craft, and low clouds would prevent aircraft finding their targets. The Allied troop convoys already at sea were forced to take shelter in bays and inlets on the south coast of Britain.

It seemed possible that everything would have to be canceled, and the troops returned to their camps (a vast undertaking, because the enormous movement of follow-up formations was already proceeding). The next full moon period would be nearly a month away. At a vital meeting on June 5, Eisenhower's chief meteorologist (Group Captain J.M. Stagg) forecast a brief improvement for June 6. Montgomery and Eisenhower's Chief of Staff General Walter Bedell Smith wished to proceed with the invasion. Leigh Mallory was doubtful, but Admiral Ramsay believed that conditions would be marginally favorable. On the strength of Stagg's forecast, Eisenhower ordered the invasion to proceed.

The Germans meanwhile took comfort from the existing poor conditions and believed no invasion would be possible for several days. Some troops stood down, and many senior officers were absent. Rommel, for example, took a few days' leave with his wife and family, while dozens of division, regimental, and battalion commanders were away from their posts at war games.

French Resistance

The various factions and circuits of the French Resistance were included in the plan for Overlord. Through a London-based headquarters which supposedly embraced all resistance groups, Etat-major des Forces Françaises de l'Interieur or EMFFI, the British Special Operations Executive orchestrated a massive campaign of sabotage tasking the various Groups with attacking railway lines, ambushing roads, or destroying telephone exchanges or electrical substations. The resistance was alerted to carry out these tasks by means of the messages personnels, transmitted by the BBC in its French service from London. Several hundred of these were regularly transmitted, masking the few of them that were really significant.

Among the stream of apparently meaningless messages broadcast by the BBC at 21:00 CET on June 5, were coded instructions such as Les carottes sont cuites (The carrots are cooked) and Les dés sont jetés (The dice have been thrown).13

One famous pair of these messages is often mistakenly stated to be a general call to arms by the Resistance. A few days before D-Day, the (slightly misquoted) first line of Verlaine's poem, "Chanson d'Automne," was transmitted. "Les sanglots longs des violons de l'automne"1415(Long sobs of autumn violins) alerted the resistance of the "Ventriloquist" network in the Orléans region to attack rail targets within the next few days. The second line, "Bercent mon coeur d'une langueur monotone" (soothes my heart with a monotonous languor), transmitted late on June 5, meant that the attack was to be mounted immediately.

Josef Götz, the head of the signals section of the German intelligence service (the SD) in Paris, had discovered the meaning of the second line of Verlaine's poem, and no less than 14 other executive orders they heard late on June 5. His section rightly interpreted them to mean that invasion was imminent or underway, and they alerted their superiors and all Army commanders in France. However, they had issued a similar warning a month before, when the Allies had begun invasion preparations and alerted the Resistance, but then stood down because of a forecast of bad weather. The SD having given this false alarm, their genuine alarm was ignored or treated as merely routine. Fifteenth Army HQ passed the information on to its units; Seventh Army ignored it.15

In addition to the tasks given to the Resistance as part of the invasion effort, the Special Operations Executive planned to reinforce the Resistance with three-man liaison parties, under Operation Jedburgh. The Jedburgh parties would coordinate and arrange supply drops to the Maquis groups in the German rear areas. Also operating far behind German lines and frequently working closely with the Resistance, although not under SOE, were larger parties from the British, French and Belgian units of the Special Air Service brigade.

Airborne operations

The success of the amphibious landings depended on the establishment of a secure lodgment from which to expand the beachhead to allow the build up of a well-supplied force capable of breaking out. The amphibious forces were especially vulnerable to strong enemy counterattacks before the buildup of sufficient forces in the beachhead could be accomplished. To slow or eliminate the enemy's ability to organize and launch counterattacks during this critical period, airborne operations were utilized to seize key objectives, such as bridges, road crossings, and terrain features, particularly on the eastern and western flanks of the landing areas. The airborne landings some distance behind the beaches were also intended to ease the egress of the amphibious forces off the beaches, and in some cases to neutralize German coastal defense batteries and more quickly expand the area of the beachhead. The U.S. 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions were assigned to objectives west of Utah Beach. The British 6th Airborne Division was assigned to similar objectives on the eastern flank.

British airborne landings

East of the landing area, the open, flat, floodplain between the Orne and Dives Rivers was ideal for counterattacks by German armor. However, the landing area and floodplain were separated by the Orne River, which flowed northeast from Caen into the bay of the Seine. The only crossing of the Orne River north of Caen was 7 kilometres (4.5 mi) from the coast, near Bénouville and Ranville. For the Germans, the crossing provided the only route for a flanking attack on the beaches from the east. For the Allies, the crossing also was vital for any attack on Caen from the east.

The tactical objectives of the British 6th Airborne Division were (a) to capture intact the bridges of the Bénouville-Ranville crossing, (b) to defend the crossing against the inevitable armored counter-attacks, (c) to destroy German artillery at the Merville battery, which threatened Sword Beach, and (d) to destroy five bridges over the Dives River to further restrict movement of ground forces from the east.

Airborne troops, mostly paratroopers of the 3rd and 5th Parachute Brigades, including the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion, began landing after midnight, June 6 and immediately encountered elements of the German 716th Infantry Division. At dawn, the Battle Group von Luck of the 21st Panzer Division counterattacked from the south on both sides of the Orne River. By this time the paratroopers had established a defensive perimeter surrounding the bridgehead. Casualties were heavy on both sides, but the airborne troops held. Shortly after noon, they were reinforced by commandos of the 1st Special Service Brigade. By the end of D-Day, 6th Airborne had accomplished each of its objectives. For several days, both British and German forces took heavy casualties as they struggled for positions around the Orne bridgehead. For example, the German 346th Infantry Division broke through the eastern edge of the defensive line on June 10. Finally, British paratroopers overwhelmed entrenched panzergrenadiers in the Battle of Bréville on June 12. The Germans did not seriously threaten the bridgehead again. 6th Airborne remained on the line until it was evacuated in early September.

American airborne landings

US troops of the Third Armored Division examine a knocked out German Sturmgeschutz III with a dead German crewman on the gun barrel.

The U.S. 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions, numbering 13,000 paratroopers, were delivered by 12 troop carrier groups of the IX Troop Carrier Command, were less fortunate in quickly completing their main objectives. To achieve surprise, the drops were routed to approach Normandy from the west. Numerous factors affected their performance, but the primary one was the decision to make a massive parachute drop at night (a tactic not used again for the rest of the war). As a result, 45% of units were widely scattered and unable to rally. Efforts of the early wave of pathfinder teams to mark the landing zones were largely ineffective, and the Rebecca/Eureka transponding radar beacons used to guide in the waves of C-47 Skytrains to the drop zones were a flawed system.

Three regiments of 101st Airborne paratroopers were dropped first, between 00:48 and 01:40, followed by the 82nd Airborne's drops between 01:51 and 02:42. Each operation involved approximately 400 C-47 aircraft. Two pre-dawn glider landings brought in anti-tank guns and support troops for each division. On the evening of D-Day two additional glider landings brought in 2 battalions of artillery and 24 howitzers to the 82nd Airborne. Additional glider operations on June 7 delivered the 325th Glider Infantry Regiment to the 82nd Airborne, and two large supply parachute drops that date were ineffective.

After 24 hours, only 2,500 troops of the 101st and 2,000 of the 82nd were under the control of their divisions, approximating a third of the force dropped. The dispersal of the American airborne troops, however, had the effect of confusing the Germans and fragmenting their response. In addition, the Germans' defensive flooding, in the early stages, also helped to protect the Americans' southern flank.

Paratroopers continued to roam and fight behind enemy lines for days. Many consolidated into small groups, rallied with NCOs or junior officers, and usually were a hodgepodge of men from different companies, battalions, regiments, or even divisions. The 82nd occupied the town of Sainte-Mère-Église early in the morning of June 6, giving it the claim of the first town liberated in the invasion.

Sword Beach

British troops take cover after landing on Sword Beach.

The assault on Sword Beach began at about 03:00 with an aerial bombardment of the German coastal defenses and artillery sites. The naval bombardment began a few hours later. At 07:30, the first units reached the beach. These were the DD tanks of 13th/18th Hussars followed closely by the infantry of 8th Brigade.

On Sword Beach, the regular British infantry came ashore with light casualties. They had advanced about 8 kilometers (5 mi) by the end of the day but failed to make some of the deliberately ambitious targets set by Montgomery. In particular, Caen, a major objective, was still in German hands by the end of D-Day, and would remain so until the Battle for Caen, August 8.

1st Special Service Brigade, under the command of Brigadier The Lord Lovat DSO and MC, went ashore in the second wave led by No.4 Commando with the two French Troops first, as agreed among themselves. The 1st Special Service Brigade's landing is famous for having been led by Piper Bill Millin. The British and French of No.4 Commando had sep

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