D-Day: The Normandy landings through rare photographs, 1944

The D-Day invasion of Normandy on 6 June 1944 was a massive undertaking involving approximately 6,939 Allied ships, 11,590 aircraft and 156,000 troops.

The military term "D-day" refers to the day when a combat operation is to begin, and "H-hour" is the exact time the operation is to begin. This concept allows military strategists to plan an operation in advance, even when the exact date and time of action are still unknown.

D-Day, however, would be associated with the invasion of Normandy, one of the largest and most famous amphibious campaigns in the history of the war. As D-Day fades further away in the mirror of history, photos remain with us, almost a no-compromise for that extraordinary, remarkable event.

Each picture tells only a moment in time, a second of the experience, a glimpse into the reality of the instant. These unforgettable photos show us the uniform, weapons, equipment, preparation, setting, hardship, valor and bravery that took place on June 6, 1944.

War had broken out in Europe since the German invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, and the United States became involved in the struggle against the Axis powers on December 7, 1941, when the Japanese attacked the American fleet at Pearl Harbor.

During the years leading up to the Allied cross-Channel invasion of the European continent, millions of lives were lost, and the Allies would accept nothing less than an unconditional surrender from Germany and Japan. The Third Axis nation, Italy, was invaded on July 9, 1943 and later surrendered on September 8, 1943.

After months of preparing, planning, and stockpiling men, ships, and weapons, the Allies were ready to attack the European continent. From January to May 1944, more than 589,000 men arrived in the United Kingdom before the invasion.

The Germans expected the Allies to come ashore on the French coast at Calais, as it is the narrowest point along the Strait of Dover between England and France, and the Battery of the Coast, overwhelming the Atlantic sea wall with a vast network of beach barriers. was significantly strengthened. minefields

The Allies instead chose to invade the European continent along the coastline of the Normandy region in the Gulf of the Seine, roughly between Le Havre in the north and Cherbourg on the Cotentin peninsula in the south.

After months of training soldiers to attack beaches and sailors in how to handle landing craft and large amphibious ships, a target date was set for Operation Neptune – the amphibious assault of Operation Overlord (the invasion of France). phase.

General Dwight D. Eisenhower was selected as the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force. Management of the naval aspect of the attack was Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay (Royal Navy), who served as Supreme Naval Commander for the operation.

In the Gulf of Seine where the invasion would take place, the tides were very complex. When the tide moves from low to high water, the change in depth can be up to 5 feet per hour, and the difference in area between high and low tide can exceed 20 feet.

The command created tidal gauges that estimated tidal speeds, and ranges for each attack coastline. Photo reconnaissance pilots recording tidal positions and timing of movements as they overflow the beaches.

Tide tables also gave planners a good estimate of when and to what depth German anti-aggression barriers would be covered by sea, or when they would be exposed and landing craft would be easier to escape.

However, landing on the beach at low tide, the attacking troops would face heavy fire from the defenders. Whatever path was chosen, the men were harmed.

On 28 May invading ships were boarded at every dock, beach and wharf in southern England. American forces were supported and transported by 931 ships, while British and Commonwealth forces sailed in 1,796 ships of all types.

On 3 June the attacking ships were ready, but the weather was not cooperating. June 4 was no better, and June 5 was predicted to be miserable as well.

Forecasters predicted a break in the weather on June 6, and near midnight on June 4, General Eisenhower gave the offensive order: D-Day was scheduled for the morning of June 6. The invasion armada was sorted off the coast of England in the morning. 5th of June

During the early morning hours of 6 June, more than 13,000 American and 8,500 British paratroopers landed behind the beaches. They were to capture important bridges and secure beach exits to enable sea attack troops to move inland as quickly as possible.

Offshore, at 2:00, minesweepers moved in, clearing channels for fire support and amphibious ships, which were soon to follow. At 6:00 a.m., as the ships of the Assault Fleet approached the landing areas, the German heavy coastal batteries opened, firing at the Assault Fleet.

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