Combat Camera: D-Day, June 6, 1944
WASHINGTON, June 5, 2009 -- This is the 65th anniversary of one of the greatest joint land, sea and air operations in history. On June 6, 1944, Army Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower gave the approval to launch. His decision was an agonizing one; weather was treacherous, but circumstances dictated a high tide and a short time span. Further delays would have given away the plan, known as Operation Overlord -- D-Day to everyone else.
The force contained 39 divisions, 20 of these were American. The Allies assembled a gargantuan naval armada, from battleships and destroyers to landing craft and coasters.
Late in the evening of June 5, thousands of ships made their way across the Channel. On that same night, a fleet of cargo planes, mainly C-47 Skytrains loaded with paratroopers, took off. In tow were American Waco and British Hamilcar gliders filled with soldiers or equipment. Fighters and bombers waited until dawn. One Air Force pilot wrote it looked like "an immense migration of birds."
The landings called for an assault on a five-divisional front. Three airborne divisions, including the U.S. 82nd and 101st Airborne, were dropped inland. They were to protect the sides of the main landing area, and close off the beaches. British and other allied troops were taking the northern beaches, code-named Juno, Gold and Sword. For the Americans, Utah and Omaha.
Overhead, specially marked black and white striped Allied Expeditionary Air Force aircraft owned the sky. Tactical bombers were hammering the whole northwest coast. The 8th AAF, commanded by Lt. Gen. James Doolittle, alone had 1,300 bombers over the area by daybreak. The 9th AAF's fighters, P-47 Thunderbolts and P-51 Mustangs, roared and dived at German strong points unhindered by Luftwaffe [German Air Force] interference. The Germans had been driven from the sky. In the air, the troops were supported by no less than 10,521 combat aircraft. Over the troops, too, screamed a hail of naval gunfire from the supporting warships. Far inland, the airborne divisions were already down and fighting hastily rallied enemy garrisons.
During the day, Germans flew 319 sorties; Allies 12,015 (not one was interrupted by enemy air action). However, a snapshot of that day cannot explain the importance of airpower. The invasion's air operations cannot be isolated from the earlier offensives carried on by the Royal Air Force and U.S. Army Air Force. The Allied Expeditionary Air Force, comprising the British 2nd Tactical Group and the USAAF 9th AAF, was set up almost a year before the actual landing.
Allied air support contained the invasion area -- destroying communication lines, rail lines and bridges. There were 66,000 tons of bombs dropped on Normandy during the three months preceding D-Day, creating what was called a "railway desert" around the Germans. The Allies further strengthened their advance by an additional 14,000 tons dropped on radar installations on the eve of D-Day.
By the end of D-Day, the Allies had control of all five beaches, but much of the jigsaw remained to be put together. British and Canadian beaches had become a solid Allied grip on the left flank. On the right flank, Americans on Utah were ashore, but German guns were still firing at Omaha. The invasion effort was already being replenished with stores, ammunition, and men by a second armada of ships.
Normandy was not a victory for a single branch of the service, nor the victory of a single nation. Normandy was the classic example of modern combined arms, air-land, coalition warfare. It was a struggle in which the Allies were fortunate to have not merely air superiority, but air supremacy. Their task of winning on the ground was made easier. Where the Allies had won the critical battle for air supremacy was not over the beachhead. It was in the air war lasting several years preceding June 1944
(Report from a U.S. Air Force news release.)
U.S. Army Official D-Day Web Site
D-Day at The National World War II Museum
National WWII Memorial in Washington, D.C.
National Parks Site
Utah beach Normandy France - 360 degree panorama (Java)
American Battle Monuments Commission (Normandy American Cemetery)
More Combat Camera Imagery on THE TENSION
Tags: War, Military, United States, photography, photo, photos, pictures, images, photojournalism, Combat Camera, Navy, Army, WWII, D-Day, Invasion, Normandy, Germany, France, Nazi, Europe
Global Tags: Washington DC, News and Politics, News, Politics, Current Events, Current Affairs, Life, Culture, Buzz, Tension