In this short article you can read a few interesting facts about the invasion.
We will be celebrating the 77th anniversary of the D-Day landings this weekend. Unfortunately, because of the pandemic not in Normandy but in our homes. The greatest amphibious assault in history cracked open the German defenses in Normandy, establishing a new front in Western Europe and leading to the inevitable fall of the Third Reich. There have been countless books written in the subject in this short article you can read a few interesting facts about the invasion.
Did you know? D-Day was almost betrayed by the weather.
The invasion was planned to occur in the morning of June 5 on Monday, but bad weather prompted a 24-hour delay. This ended up beneficial, since the Germans had less information about meteorological conditions over the Atlantic than the Allies and they were not aware of the brief window of opportunity on Tuesday, June 6. As a result, General Rommel, who was in charge of the Normandy defenses, went back to Germany to celebrate his wife’s 50th birthday.
Did you know? Almost a hundred photos of the invasion were lost to incompetence.
Famous Hungarian-born war photographer Robert Capa landed on Omaha Beach with the second wave, shooting 106 photographs while under enemy fire. Unfortunately, only 11 of those survived. The unprocessed rolls were sent to London, where a fifteen-year-old lab assistant, Dennis Banks, dried the negatives at too high a temperature, destroying the rest of the irreplaceable frames.
Did you know? Allied leaders feared defeat.
Before the invasion, General Eisenhower wrote a letter labeled “In case the Nazis won.” It read: “... My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.” By accident, he signed it with the date of July 5, instead of June.
Churchill also had his share of doubts. On the eve of the landings, he asked his wife “Do you realize that by the time you wake up in the morning 20,000 men may have been killed?”
Did you know? The invasion went better than expected.
Despite such fears, the actual landing involved much fewer casualties than expected. Some preliminary estimates calculated with 10,000 dead and 30,000 wounded on the first day on the Allied side. Actual losses ended up being roughly 4,000 dead and over 6,000 wounded.
However, the going got rough afterwards.
In many ways, D-Day was the easy part as the subsequent breakout from Normandy became a much deadlier affair. The British expected to capture the city of Caen on the first day but only secured it after a month of fighting. The bocage terrain of Normandy, small fields separated by thick and tall lines of hedgerows, allowed the defenders to dig in and extract a high prize for every mile. Daily casualty rates became comparable to that of the trench warfare of World War I and slightly above the average for the Battle of the Somme.
Did you know? Churchill wanted to be close to the action.
The British Prime Minister announced that he will be present, watching the invasion from aboard the HMS Belfast. Many people were against exposing the PM to danger, including King George VI. It took the King to convince Churchill to change his mind and he only achieved it by announcing that if the Prime Minister goes, so will he.
Did you know? One defender of the beaches was Korean besides the thousands of other nationalities from the East (Poles, Russians, and other nationalities from the Soviet Union etc.)
Yang Kyoungjong was conscripted into the Japanese Army at the age of 18, in 1938. The next year he was captured by the Soviets at the Battle of Khalkhin Gol, sent to the gulag and pressed into military service against the Germans in 1942. He was captured again, this time by the Germans, the following year and was assigned to a battalion comprised of former POWs. He was taken captive a third time during the Battle of Normandy by the Airborne, who though he was a Japanese soldier in German uniform.
Did you know? The troops were tested by feminine wiles.
British Lieutenant Colonel Terence Otway was slated to command the vital British airborne assault on the Merville Battery. Before the invasion, he had 30 members of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force go to local pubs and see if they could get his men to spill any information. They all failed, as the men remained tight-lipped about their top secret mission.
When life goes back to normal, you can learn more about the lesser-known tidbits of the Normandy landings on our tours covering Western Europe in World War II.