was fighting hard, but soon the beach was swarming with our
A British infantryman, speaking in 1944.
1944, the Allies (Britain, Canada and the USA) were ready to
dislodge Hitler from ‘Fortress Europe’.
This involved a (very dangerous) invasion of the
The invasion was codenamed ‘Operation Overlord’ and
was led by the American General Ike Eisenhower.
The invasion day (D-Day) was set for some time in June
– the actual date to be decided by Eisenhower at the last
Past - pretend newspaper
YouTube and other movies:
footage - very clear
Days - includes soundbites
Mr Harrison's guide -
BBC Animated Map - BRILLIANT!
site - takes ages to load but worth it.
site - OK.
D-Day game - good
Images of VE Day - from the Daily Mail
was decided not to try to invade at Calais (where Nazi
fortifications were strongest), but in Normandy.
So that the invasion forces would know every detail of
the landing sites, immensely careful research was done from:
aerial reconnaissance photos
holiday guide books
BBC asked for holiday photos (10 million were sent)
Sam Bassett landed secretly at night to test that the sand
was hard enough to bear the weight of tanks.
forces were gathered all over the south of England.
Some were sent even to Dover (they were provided
with wooden models of tanks) – they were called
‘Patton’s First Army’ (after an American general) to
make the Nazis think that the invasion was planned for
of Americans were posted to Britain (people complained
that they were ‘overpaid, oversexed and over here’)
– some of them eventually married British girls.
of training, practising attacking copies of the
These were so realistic that many men were killed
in these exercises
‘mulberries’ – floating harbours that could be towed
across the Channel and set up once a bridgehead had been
series of specialist machines were built (e.g. ‘crab’
tanks to clear mines/ bridge-carrying tanks) – they were
nicknamed ‘Hobart’s funnies’ after the man who
designed them all.
double agent convinced the Nazis that the main
invasion was going to take place at Calais, and that the
Normandy attack was just a diversion.
was one panic when 12 copies of the D-Day plans blew out
of the window into the street!
invasion force was fully ready by 1 June – but the invasion
was delayed because of bad weather.
In one of their first important roles ever, weather
forecasters predicted that the weather would clear on 6 June.
Eisenhower ordered the attack.
the Longest Day was an historically accurate
account of the fighting on D-Day, starring the American actor John Wayne.
of The Longest Day
on primary accounts, but compare it to the more gory modern
There is a story -
probably untrue - that during the war, one soldier learned how
to keep his gun's firing mechanism warm in freezing weather by
stretching a condom over it. News got back to
Churchill, and it was suggested that Durex be approached to
manufacture 18 inch condoms. Churchill is said to
have agreed, on two conditions - that the condom be labelled
'Made in Britain', and 'Medium'.
3 am on 6 June 1944, a huge armada of 6,000 ships –
including 864 converted merchant ships and 4126 landing craft
– set sail for Normandy in 47 convoys.
They carried 200,000 seamen, 185,000 soldiers and
The weather was still fairly bad.
Many of the soldiers were so seasick that they joked
that they would not mind going into battle, just to get off
few Royal Navy ships raced back and forth between Dover and
Calais to make Nazi radar operators think that the invasion
was going to take place at Calais.
men were dropped by parachute or landed in gliders behind
enemy lines to disrupt communications and seize key points.
The invasion was supported by 11,000 planes, which
attacked the Nazis from the air.
battleships, 23 cruisers and 105 destroyers laid down a
massive bombardment of the Nazi shore defences.
Then the infantry went ashore:
British and Canadian soldiers landed on three beaches –
Gold, Juno and Sword.
They experienced heavy casualties (over 4,500) but by
nightfall had captured a large area of coastline.
Americans were less successful.
At Utah beach they landed by accident at the wrong
place but – by chance – found little Nazi resistance there
and captured the beach with only 210 casualties.
troops go ashore from a landing craft, 6 June 1944.
Comparing this picture with the film Saving Private
Ryan will help you to appreciate what D-Day was like for
paratroopers are dropped behind enemy lines, 6 June 1944
was wonderful. There
they were, marching in to die, just as if they were going to
a ball game… The Germans had hidden themselves in cliffs
facing the beach and were pouring deadly mortar fire down
upon the advancing Americans…
They did not have any cover except bomb-made mounds,
but they pushed forward, with men falling every way you
could look. It
British Air Navigator, speaking of D-Day.
took a look toward the shore and my heart took a dive.
I couldn't believe how peaceful and how untouched, the scene
was. The land was green. All the buildings and houses
were intact. 'Where', I yelled to no one in
particular, 'is the damned Air Corps?’.
Walker, an American, remembering 1944.
happened on Omaha Beach?
Omaha beach, things were much worse:
the morning fog, the B17 bombers had overshot the Nazi
defences by 5 kilometres, and most of the naval
bombardment fell short, so the Nazi defences (dug into the
cliffs) were still very strong.
of just 800 men of the weak 716th Division, the
Nazis had just moved in their crack 352nd
the Americans were landing, the powerful tide swept many
men and vehicles back out to sea and 10 landing craft
In particular, it sank all but 2 of
the 'floating tanks' which were supposed to give the
infantry firing cover.
Americans did not have any of Hobart’s funnies.
ten minutes of landing every officer and sergeant of the 116th
Regiment was dead or wounded, and the Americans sustained
3,000 casualties in first few hours.
By 10 am, only 300 men had managed to struggle ashore
safely, and by nightfall the Americans still only had ‘a
toehold’ on the beach.
was an American victory.
by SLA Marshall, The Atlantic Monthly (1960).
sick of this ‘John Wayne won the war’ message in
The Americans on Omaha were heroes and I owe them my
freedom, but I have yet to be persuaded that they were any
braver (or that their objective was any harder) than the
British or Canadians – they just didn’t do as well.
by a modern historian (2002).
of defences - fab
history behind Saving Private Ryan
197th AAA Automatic Weapons Battalion shoots its way off Omaha Beach
the links and explain whether you agree with the
author of Source D or Source E.
so, by the end of D-Day, 132,715 men were ashore, and this
rose quickly over the next few days – by 12 June 2 million
men were in Normandy.
Nazis fought desperately, but by this time Germany was at the
end of her strength, and many Nazis soldiers were just
By August Paris had fallen and (despite a short Nazi
counter-attack called ‘The Battle of the Bulge’) the
Allies pushed relentlessly into Germany until they met up with
Russian forces advancing from the east (23 April 1945).
7 May, 1945, the Nazis surrendered – it was VE Day (Victory