60 Years Ago: Operation Overlord
Ago: Operation Overlord
Embassy of France, Washington D.C.,
June 3, 2004.
At the crack
of dawn on June 6, 1944, Allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy and
changed the course of history. Thousands of soldiers, mainly Americans, Britons,
and Canadians, landed along the Normandy coast in north-western France.
On June 6,
code-named "D-Day" by military planners, the first allied assault waves landed
on Utah beach at 6.30 A.M. The beach was rapidly cleared of its obstacles by
army engineers and most of the troops were able to land without any
difficulties, despite sporadic fire. Two hundred men were killed or wounded.
forces that landed on Omaha beach unfortunately found themselves up against much
stiffer resistance. The Germans had covered the entire area with machine-gun
nests, mortars, minefields and barbed wire, and under the punishing barrage of
German fire, most of the amphibious tanks were sunk, thus depriving the infantry
of vital cover fire. After several hours of heavy fighting, the U.S. soldiers
finally managed to gain the upper hand, and climbed the bluffs towards the end
of the morning. But by the end of D-Day, the Omaha bridgehead was scarcely two
kilometers deep, and a heavy price had been paid: one thousand lost their lives,
and 2,000 were wounded.
was also the site of a particularly impressive act of valor by a force of three
companies of 225 Rangers. They had managed the formidable exploit of reaching
the top of the cliff very rapidly, but then found themselves surrounded and
subject to German counter-attacks from all sides. They held out more than 2
days, and when they were finally relieved on June 8 by regular troops, only 90
of the Rangers were still combat worthy. Nearly 80 had perished.
One of the
two sectors assigned to the British, Gold beach lies east of the city of
Arromanches. The landings began at 7.25 A.M., and by the evening of June 6,
25,000 Britons had disembarked and were in control of a quadrilateral measuring
roughly ten kilometers by ten.
Canadians were in charge of Juno beach, which was well defended by a number of
antitank guns or machine guns located at regular intervals along the shore,
often on the sea walls, so as to rake the beaches with fire. By the end of the
day, more than 21,000 men had landed and the Canadians held a solid beachhead
about 12 kilometers deep.
was assigned to Britain's
division, supported by special tanks and two special brigades of "Green Berets."
Also among its ranks were 177 Free French marines led by Lieutenant Philippe