DDay Essay Research Paper DDay

D-Day Essay, Research Paper D-Day Introduction June 6, 1944 will be remembered for many reasons. Some may think of it as a success and some as a failure. The pages following this could be used to prove

D-Day Essay, Research Paper



June 6, 1944 will be remembered for many reasons. Some may think of it as a

success and some as a failure. The pages following this could be used to prove

either one. The only sure thing that I can tell you about D-Day is this: D-Day,

June 6, 1944 was the focal point of the greatest and most planned out invasion

of all time. The allied invasion of France was long awaited and tactfully

thought out. For months the allied forces of millions trained in Britain

waiting for the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces, General

Eisenhower to set a date. June 6, 1944 was to be the day with the H-hour at

06:30. Aircraft bombed German installations and helped prepare the ground

attack. The ground forces landed and made their push inland. Soon Operation

Overlord was in full affect as the allied forces pushed the Germans back towards

the Russian forces coming in from the east. D-Day was the beginning and the key

to the fight to take back Europe.

Preparations for D-Day

Operation Overlord was in no way a last minute operation thrown together. When

the plan was finalized in the spring of 1944 the world started work on preparing

the hundreds of thousands of men for the greatest battle in history.

By June of 1944 the landing forces were training hard, awaiting D-Day.

1,700,000 British, 1,500,000 Americans, 175,000 from Dominions (mostly Canada),

and another 44,000 from other countries were going to take part.

Not only did men have to be recruited and trained but also equipment had to be

built to transport and fight with the soldiers. 1,300 warships, 1,600 merchant

ships, 4,000 landing craft and 13,000 aircraft including bombers, fighters and

gliders were built. Also several new types of tanks and armoured vehicles were

built. Two examples would be the Sherman Crab flail tank and the Churchill


On the ground Britain assembled three armoured divisions, eight infantry

divisions, two airborne divisions and ten independent fighting brigades. The

United States had six armoured divisions, thirteen infantry and two airborne

divisions. With one armoured division and two infantry divisions Canada also

contributed greatly with the war effort especially when you look at the size of

the country at the time. In the air Britain’s one hundred RAF squadrons (1,200

aircraft) paled in comparison to the one hundred and sixty-five USAAF squadrons

(2,000 aircraft).

The entire Operation Overlord was supposed to go according to Montgomery’s

Master Plan which was created by General Sir Bernard L. Montgomery. His plan

was initiated by a command system which connected the U.S. and Britain and

helped them jointly run the operation. His plan was to have five divisions act

as a first wave land on the sixty-one mile long beach front. Four more

divisions as well as some airborne landings would support the first wave. The

beaches of Normandy would be separated into five beaches, codenamed, from west

to east Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword. The Americans would invade the two

westernmost beaches, being Utah and Omaha and the British and it’s Dominions

would take Gold, Juno and Sword. The Canadians were nearly the entire force to

land on Juno beach. The operation was also coordinated with various French

resistance groups called the ?Secret Army.?

The naval plans were to transport the allied expeditionary forces, help secure

and defend a beachhead, and to help setup a method of constant resupplying of

allied forces. Operation Overlord, in short, was as follows: The airforce

would be used to knock out German defences and immobilize their forces, blowup

tanks and other dummies were used to fool Germans into thinking the invasion was

coming at Pas de Calais, the navy would transport the troops while doing

whatever it can to help them gain ground, and enough of France would be

liberated and held by allied forces so that they would not be pushed back into

the sea.

Utah Beach

Utah beach was a stretch of beachfront approximately five miles long and located

in the dunes of Varreville. Like most beach attacks that day, the planned

attack time was 06:30 or H hour. As early as 02:00 (H-4:30) the preparations

for attack were being made as minesweepers started working at creating a safe

path for allied battleships, frigates, corvettes, etc. At about 02:30 the

flagship for Utah beach was in place and the order was given for the landing

crafts to be loaded and placed into the water. The four waves of troops were

ready to go and the German radar had not spotted any buildup of ships. The

first gunfire occurred at daybreak when some ships were spotted and fired upon

by coastal guns. 276 planes, all B-26 Marauder’s flew in to drop their payload

of 4400 bombs on the targets. Almost all missed and nearly a third fell onto

the beaches and into the sea, far away from their targets. Although some guns

were silenced the poor accuracy of the aircraft was costly and would turn out to

be only one of the many errors made by the allied forces.

At 06:30 the first of the troops landed, the 8th and 4th infantry missed the

correct beach and landed 2,000 yards away on what turned out to be a less

heavily defended beach. This mix up was blamed on smoke and rough seas. These

first troops were all part of the twenty landing craft, each carrying thirty men

that made up the first wave. After the first wave came the 32 amphibious tanks.

The second wave of troops consisted of 32 craft carrying combat engineers and a

naval demolition team. Dozer tanks would make up the third wave. Long after

the securing of the beach 2 engineer battalions arrived. This may sound like

all the divisions made it easily to shore but that is not true. Many amphibious

tanks were unable to make the trek on the rough seas and sank. Two out of the

three control vessels for the beach hit land mines and sank and countless

landing craft were shelled by German coastal guns. There were also several

drownings involving troops being weighed down by their equipment and drowning in

water around six feet deep.

If the soldiers managed to make it to shore they were still faced with German

machine gun fire. Fortunately, the beach and it’s surroundings had become the

victim of a large sea launched missile attack clearing most of the German

defences. Once divisions had made it on the beach and secured it they had to

start moving inland on their pre-planned missions. The divisions that landed on

the wrong beach decided ?to start the war from right here.? Most of the landed

troops were supposed to secure the areas and push inland, eventually meeting up

with the 82nd and 101st airborne divisions that had dropped behind the enemy in

order to cut them off from escape and so that they could be attacked from two


In the Utah Beach attack there were six divisions involved. The 4th and 8th

divisions that landed on the wrong beaches still continued on with their

missions. The 4th, which was originally supposed to land on the islands of St.

Marcouf to destroy coastal guns thought to be there ended up moving inland and

linking up with the 101st airborne division. The other division that landed in

the wrong location was the 8th. Their mission was to reduce beach

fortifications and to move inland. The last two divisions were the 12th and

22nd. Both divisions were to work together to secure the Northern region of the

beach. The 22nd was to move northwest clearing beaches and the high ground

overlooking them while the 12th moved inland on their left flank. Unfortunately

the 22nd was unable to make it’s deep swing into the Northwest.

By the end of the day the only infantry that was able to make it to it’s D-Day

objective was the 8th infantry that had landed on the wrong beach. Most of the

area was secure except for a pocket of Germans that controlled a small area

shaped like a two mile finger on the ridges north of Les Forges. The

experimental idea of having two airborne divisions drop farther inland had

helped make the Utah Beach attack a near success.

Omaha Beach

The Omaha beach area was the largest of all the Normandy beaches at

approximately 34,500 yards in length. The beach itself had only five passable

ways off, creating another difficulty for the landing troops and vehicles.

Behind the beach were heavily defended bluffs and high cliffs.

In order to invade the area, with it’s twelve German strongpoints over 34,000

troops and 3,300 vehicles would be involved in the Omaha Beach invasion. The

large number was partly because of the fact that beginning in April of the same

year German military had started to fortify the area in hopes of deterring any

invasion from the area. The sandy beaches themselves were free of mines but

three bands of obstacles were put into place in order to create impassable

obstacles for landing sea craft. First large gate-like structures were built,

simply to get in the way. The second band were large posts and logs dug into

the beach also creating obstacles. The third and final obstacle was farther up

the beach, they were large ?hedgehogs? which were mined obstacles that looked as

though they were some sort of weird medieval art.

Like the rest of the beaches, the planned attack time (H hour) was 06:30. Many

would think that this would be when the death toll would first start to rise but

this just wasn’t so. Many men died far from the beach. Two companies of

amphibious DD tanks sank because of heavy seas. Included with the 27 tanks that

sunk were 11 landing craft that tipped. Soldiers on these transports drowned

because the weight of the equipment they were carrying held them under the water.

Other craft hit mines, losing troops, supplies and weapons. Most of the

landing craft were being fired upon by German machine gun fire even when the

crafts were still over 1,000 yards away from the beach. Some even ran aground

while still 100 feet from shore. Attempts to improve the situation were made by

groups such as the 29th division who decided to bring their tanks in on the

landing craft. 8 of the 16 tanks made it to the beach. Other craft either

missed their landing area or arrived too late. The lateral current dragged some

infantry units 100’s of yards from their objectives and a few battalions, like

the 2nd Ranger battalion arrived 40 minutes after they were scheduled to land.

Once most of the craft had managed to make it to the beach the soldiers still

faced many problems. Air strikes that were planned to knock out enemy machine

gunners were not successful enough. Most of the troops were pinned behind the

sea wall and other obstacles by machine gun fire ahead of them and the raising

tides behind them. Tides rose four feet per hour, shrinking the beach by eighty

feet in the same time period. Those soldiers who were too injured to walk or

crawl drowned as the tide sped up on them. With soldiers pinned down and not

enough vehicles being able to get off the beach other craft were unable to land

due to the lack of room.

For the first few hours at Omaha Beach things looked grim. No major advances

were being made. The real turnaround that day was when a few destroyers

actually came in as close as eight hundred yards in order to fire at enemy

strongpoints. The risk of grounding the destroyers took and the arrival of

tanks lead to the eventual fall of the German beach defences. Once the groups

could move inland their individual missions were put into place.

One of the most important missions put upon any division was the destruction of

six French-made 155mm naval guns at Pointe du Hoc. This responsibility was

given to the 116th brigade and it’s two combat teams: US 5th Ranger and US 2nd

Ranger teams. The 5th met the fate of many battalions as the landed on the

wrong beach. Luckily the remaining two teams did manage to destroy the naval

guns that were capable of attacking ships as far out as 25,000 yards (22km).

This would prove to be one of the few missions that were completed that day.

Because of the great break downs in planned assaults, the day started to look

like a chaotic day with only individual missions of survival. Most divisions

managed to stay organized and plan their survival and attack plans. Col. George

H. Taylor of the 16th regiment said, ?Two kinds of people are staying on this

beach, the dead and those about to die, not let’s get the hell out of here.?

These sort of speeches sparked other soldiers to continue with their slightly

revised missions. Originally it was planned for the area’s above the beaches to

be taken by an advance up the heavily defended bluffs but the plan was changed

to a less organized direct assault on the German gunners in the high cliffs.

Other such companies that decided on newly created missions included the 16th

infantry and the 29th division. These two groups decided on a joint mission to

save their allies who were pinned on the beach. Also involved on the Omaha

Beach invasion were the US 1 Infantry Division, and the US 18th and 115th


By the end of D-Day on Omaha Beach the advance had gone barely one and a half

miles inland. Several of the enemy strongpoints were intact and the beachhead

was still under fire. Although this beaches day sounds like a disaster the

major exits from the area were held, three villages were under allied control

and hole in the German line about two and half kilometers long was made and the

coastal guns were destroyed. The landing had been made, all the troops could do

was secure the area and organize the beach for the introduction of

reinforcements and supplies.

Gold Beach

Gold Beach was the second largest of the beaches of Normandy and was also the

middle beach: Utah and Omaha to the west and Juno and Sword to the east. Gold

beach was like most of the other beaches invaded on D-Day except it had one

characteristic which was disadvantageous to the allies. Coral reefs, ranging

from twenty to a hundred yards out could ground landing craft at low tide.

Because of this factor the Gold Beach was postponed almost an hour after most of

the other attacks that day. H hour on this beach was to be 07:25.

It turned out the this adverse condition would soon show to have it’s pro’s and

con’s. The largest pro being that this left more time for bombardment of German

defenses by RAF bombers and naval guns. The con’s were of course the fact that

with the rising tides men landing on the beach would end up facing the fate of

many soldiers on Omaha beach, being pinned behind a sea wall and being drowned

by the advancing waves. It would also turn out that, along with beach obstacles,

the rising tide would make it even harder for landing craft to make their

transport runs.

Not soon after the arrival of the first wave of landing crafts the problems

started to mount. Also, like at Omaha, regiments decided to bring their DD

Sherman tanks on their LCD transports instead of floating them in. This was

mainly because of the weather which created high seas. Unfortunately this sort

of tactic left the tanks as sitting ducks and all but one of the tanks were

disabled or destroyed. Soon one problem lead to another as those soldiers that

landed on the beach were unable to advance and were without any tanks to bail

them out of their predicament. Eventually with the help of the one tank that

survived the landing the troops at Gold Beach were able to press forward.

Not unlike any of the other beaches, Gold had a complicated battle plan

including many divisions, regiments and even a commando group. The overall goal

was to take the key points of the German defenses and secure the area. One such

key point was Port-en-Bessin which was to be invaded by the British 47th Royal

Marine Commando who would later meet up with an America regiment from Omaha.

The problem was that not everything went according to plan and they were unable

to take the city and Americans who were supposed to help in the fight inland by

moving through the North-west flank of the area never showed up. Another such

joining of teams did go according to plans as the 50th division met up with a

division of Canadians from Juno beach after coming within a mile of their D-day

objective of the taking of Bayeux. The only two groups to succeed in their D-

day objectives as Gold Beach were the 69th and 231st regiments. The 231st

successfully took the city of Arromanches while the 69th took la Riviere even

after they were forced to originally bypass the stronghold and return and

destroy it later on. Other groups involved included the British 8th, 151st and

56th regiments who aided in the push inland and the clearing of the beaches of

mines and obstacles.

Although a lot of the operations planned for Gold Beach went array, a few great

things did occur. A few of which, carried out by CSM Stanley Hollis, were so

extraordinary that they enabled him to be awarded with the only Victoria Cross

to be awarded the entire day of June 6, 1944. Col. Hollis of the 6th company

was ordered to check out some pillboxes(small German machine-gun bunkers). A

few of his officers were sent in to investigate and ?when they were twenty yards

from the pillbox, a machine gun opened fire from the slit and CSM Hollis

instantly rushed straight at the pillbox, recharged his magazine, threw a

grenade in through the door and fired his Sten gun into it, killing two Germans

and making the remainder prisoner. He then cleared several Germans from a

neighbouring trench.? Then when his company was pinned down by heavy machine-

gun fire Hollis managed to destroy the gun using a PIAT (Projector Infantry

Anti-Tank) weapon and retreated his troops. After learning that some of his men

were still cornered in a nearby house Hollis ran at the Germans with his gun

firing allowing the men to escape. By the end of the day most of the D-day

objectives had failed but three brigades were ready to push farther inland at

sunlight. The beach was secured and ready for reinforcements. Unfortunately

Bayeux was not taken but most of the area’s hidden bunkers and trenches were.

Some in fact were found to be manned by unwilling Asiatic conscripts from the

southern Soviet republics who were put there by Germans.

Juno Beach

Juno beach was Canada’s beach with over 21,000 Canadians landing there. Not

unlike other beaches Juno’s H-hour was delayed until 07:45. The reason was that

air reconnaissance had spotted some underwater ?shoals? (rocks/reefs) and they

wanted to wait until the tide had gone in to make it safer for the landing craft.

(Later on the ?shoals? turned out to be masses of floating seaweed). The beach

itself was wide enough to land two brigades side by side, the Canadian 7th at

Courseulles and the 8th at Bernieres. The decision to wait until 07:45 caused

more problems than it solved. The rising tide hid most of the beach obstacles

meaning two things: it was dangerous for the landing craft to come ashore and

the demolition crews couldn’t get at the obstacles to make room for the landing

craft. Thirty percent of all the landing craft at Juno beach on D-day were

disabled in beach obstacle related incidents. One such example was when one

craft started to disembark troops a wave threw the craft onto a mined beach


Like at most of the beaches that day, armoured divisions started to bring their

tanks in on the landing craft but like on all the other beaches this caused

problems. The Regina Rifles, one of the first groups to land, had to wait

twenty minutes on the beach without the aid of any tanks or heavy artillery.

Due to heavy seas and tanks coming in on the landing craft it ?meant that people

who should have been in front were behind.? The Canadians were smarter than

most in the setup of their landing. They chose a position at sea which was only

seven or eight miles out instead of the distance most other beach operations

were using of about eleven miles. This greatly increased the speed and accuracy

of the landings and the first Canadian wave was on the beach by 08:15.

Once on the beach the amount of German defences surprised the allied forces,

once again the air assault on the German gunneries were not as successful as

planned. However, like at Gold beach the Canadians did find out that the

firepower of their tanks were the difference between being able to push inland

and being pinned down at the beach. After the main beach defences of the

Germans were taken the inland push became slower and slower the farther south

they got.

A few of the main objectives were successful. The 3rd division reach the Caen-

Bayeux road and a lot of French towns were liberated. The French residents ?

were very welcoming and greeted us heartily in the midst of the ruins of their

homes.? The one strongpoint that would become a problem for troops at Juno as

well as Sword would be Caen. The Canadians found increased resistance the

closer they got and in that aspect their D-day mission did not succeed.

As night fell the Canadians were still well short of a lot of objectives. They

did get their tanks on the Caen-Bayeux road but that was about it. The British

3rd division from Sword beach was planned to meet up with the Canadians in order

to close the gap between Juno and Sword beaches but they never showed. This

left a two mile gap in the beaches and would be the area of the only German

counterattack of the day. The other linkup between beaches was successful as

Canadians met the 50th division from Gold beach. Overall the Canadians didn’t

get all that far but were in a good position to move inland.

Sword Beach

Sword beach was the easternmost beach in Normandy. Like at Juno Beach H-hour

was again postponed because of ?shoals? until 07:25. The main objective at

Sword beach was to advance and invade the German strongpoint of Caen. Four

whole brigades of the 3rd division were sent to Caen. There were also airborne

divisions that dropped behind lines using large gliders which could carry troops

as well as other armoured vehicles. Those groups not supposed to head toward

Caen were planned to reach the airborne divisions and secure the area’s bridges

from counterattack.

Even as the Canadians moved inland trouble was developing back at the beach.

Although all the DD tanks made it to the beach the tide was turning the already

small beach into one with only ten yards from the seafront to the water’s edge.

With only one road off the beach the overcrowding caused delay’s in most

objective’s for that day. Some of the armoured divisions like the 27th armoured

Brigade abandoned their objectives in order to bail out infantry pinned down on

the crowded beaches.

Those who did make it off the beach in time were quite successful in reaching

their D-day objectives. By late afternoon the leading troops of the brigades

heading for Caen had reached and liberated the towns of Beuville and Bieville

which were only two or so miles short of Caen. Strongpoints like the one at La

Breche were taken as early as 10:00. Those troops that didn’t make it off the

beach in time like the 185th Brigade had to leave all their heavy equipment

behind in order to catch up with the forces already nearing Caen.

The move inland was really looking quite promising until the Germans launched

the only counterattack of the day. The 21st Panzer division was sent out from

Caen, half to take on the southward allies and the other half to head right up

between Juno and Sword beach where that two mile of beach was unoccupied by

allied forces. Fifty German tanks faced the brigades heading for Caen. Luckily

the British were ready with artillery, fighter-bombers and a special ?Firefly?

Sherman tank that was fitted with a seventeen pound anti-tank gun instead of the

normal seventy-five mm. gun. Soon thirteen of the German tanks were destroyed

with only one M-10 tank destroyer damaged. This just went to show that the

British were ?slow in advance but almost unbreakable in defence.? Still the

Germans pressed forward until about 21:00 when the last wave of gliders of the

6th airborne divisions came in. The Germans looked up and saw about two hundred

and fifty gliders fly in and land behind them. The allies now were attacking

from two directions and the only German counterattack ended quickly.

By the end of the day the German resistance at Sword beach was almost

obliterated other than at Caen. A lot of the success was because of the joint

effort of airborne divisions and divisions landing on the beach. Of the 6,250

troops of the 6th airborne that landed there were only 650 casualties.

Unfortunately Caen was not taken but it’s liberation was imminent.

D-Day Air Battle

D-day was not only a day of troops landing on the beaches of Normandy and moving

inland liberating France. Without the aid of the thousands of planes Operation

Overlord could not have gone as planned. As early as the spring of 1944 planes

flew over German ruled France taking photographs of the defences. During the

ten week period before June 6 countless missions were flown with objectives of

taking out German radar installations. There were also hundreds of attacks on

the railways of the area in order to immobilize the forces. Of the 2,000

locomotives that were in the area the year before 1,500 of them were destroyed

or disabled by allied bombings.

By the eve of D-day the allies had 2,800 heavy bombers, 1,500 light bombers and

3,700 fighter planes and fighter-bombers. They also had 56 special night

bombers. When June 6, 1944 came around all the squadrons of planes involved

had their missions just as the landing infantry divisions had their’s. It took

six squadrons of RAF Mosquitoes to patrol the huge armada of ships in the

English Channel that day. Without whom there would have some serious

repercussions on the entire operation. At all times there twenty anti-submarine

planes patrolling the area and protecting the force who would have been sitting

ducks for any German U-boats that would have gotten into the area. To aid the

actual landings of the troops squadrons flew bombing missions on German

pillboxes and other gunnery installations. Flying at three hundred miles per

hour straight in at German machine gun fire in order to clear the way for others

to take the glory is what I call guts. In order to clear the three British

beaches eighteen squadrons flew missions over a nearly continuous eight hour

time period. When bombers weren’t destroying installations they were setting up

smoke screens around the land based naval guns in order to once again protect

the allied armada.

Probably one of the most important things done by the fighters was to fly ?

phantom missions? in order to make the Germans think that the invasion would by

at Pas de Calais. Without the use of air firepower as used on D-day I can say

without a doubt that June 6, 1944 would be remembered as a day of complete



By the end of June 6, 1944 one of the most complicated and the most coordinated

invasions had started. On the beach codenamed Utah the American 1st army held a

firm beachhead with several divisions already receiving the supplies they needed

and would soon be ready to move inland. On Omaha the troops there had recovered

from what had looked like an impending disaster in the first hours and started

to break through the German defences. At the British run beaches of Juno, Gold

and Sword the forces had averaged a push inland of six miles. Even with the

amount of landing soldiers numbering about seventy-five thousand, the casualties

between the three beaches were only approximately three thousand.

D-Day was the beginning of the end for the Germans in Europe and the end of the

beginning for the fight for Europe. I’m not saying that everything went

according to plan on D-day and there wasn’t any errors. I am also not saying

that it was a complete disaster. I am saying that D-Day was on paper, with

objectives for each division and a craft for each infantry unit, the greatest

battle of all time.

Table of Contents

I. Introduction pg. 1

II. Preperation for D-Day pg. 2

III. Beachfronts

A. Utah Beach pg. 4,5

B. Omaha Beach pg. 7,8

C. Gold Beach pg. 10, 11

D. Juno Beach pg. 13

E. Sword Beach pg. 15

IV. D-Day Air Battle pg. 17

V. Conclusion pg. 19

VI. Bibliography pg. 20


D-Day June 6, 1944: The Climatic Battle of World War II Stephen E. Ambrose,

Simon &