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D-Day: 06 June 1944 -The Invasion of France by the Allied Forces.

D-Day 06 June 1944, the Invasion of France by the Allied Forces

Background to the Invasion: Germany invaded France on 10 May 1940 and the battle of France began. By 26 May 1940, German troops had advanced deep into France, trapping over 336 000 British, French, Belgian, Dutch and other allied troops at the port of Dunkirk. Hitler ordered his forces to halt. This gave the British an opportunity to organise the biggest evacuation of troops in history. Historians do not agree as to the reasons why Hitler would have made such an order as the French and British troops were trapped at Dunkirk and their defeat was a foregone conclusion. There are those who argue that he was persuaded by Herman Goring, chief of the Luftwaffe, to halt the advance of the ground forces so as to give the Luftwaffe and opportunity to finish the battle and claim victory for themselves. Others would say that he wanted to give the rest of the German infantry a chance to catch up with the panzers which had advanced rapidly across France. Yet others would say that he wanted to give Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minister,  an opportunity to negotiate for peace under favourable terms, while others would say that the German panzers advanced so rapidly into France that Hitler was convinced that the French and British forces would strike back viciously while the German troops were over-stretched and vulnerable. Whatever the reason was, the British were given an opportunity to evacuate thousands of troops within a matter of days. The French sued for peace and it so happened that France, for the next four years, until June 1944, remained under German occupation while elsewhere in Europe and the World and on the Eastern Front, the war raged on.

A meeting of Allied Commanders Planning for D-Day.

Operation Overlord was the codename for the Battle of Normandy, the Allied operation that launched the successful invasion of German-occupied Western Europe during World War II. The operation was launched on 6 June 1944 with the Normandy landings (Operation Neptune, commonly known as D-Day). A 1,200-plane airborne assault preceded an amphibious assault involving more than 5,000 vessels. Nearly 160,000 troops crossed the English Channel on 6 June, and more than two million Allied troops were in France by the end of August.

The decision to undertake a cross-channel invasion in 1944 was taken at the Trident Conference in Washington in May 1943. General Dwight D. Eisenhower was appointed commander of Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF), and General Bernard Montgomery was named as commander of the 21st Army Group, which comprised all the land forces involved in the invasion. The coast of Normandy of north-western France was chosen as the site of the invasion, with the Americans assigned to land at sectors codenamed Utah and Omaha, the British at Sword and Gold, and the Canadians at Juno. To meet the conditions expected on the Normandy beachhead, special technology was developed, including two artificial ports called Mulberry harbours and an array of specialised tanks nicknamed Hobart’s Funnies. In the months leading up to the invasion, the Allies conducted a substantial military deceptionOperation Bodyguard, using both electronic and visual misinformation. This misled the Germans as to the date and location of the main Allied landings.  Adolf Hitler placed German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel in charge of developing fortifications all along Hitler’s proclaimed Atlantic Wall in anticipation of an invasion.

The Allies failed to accomplish their objectives for the first day, but gained a tenuous foothold that they gradually expanded when they captured the port at Cherbourg on 26 June and the city of Caen on 21 July. A failed counterattack by German forces on 8 August left 50,000 soldiers of the 7th Army trapped in the Falaise pocket. The Allies launched a second invasion from the Mediterranean Sea of southern France (code-named Operation Dragoon) on 15 August, and the Liberation of Paris followed on 25 August. German forces retreated east across the Seine on 30 August 1944, marking the close of Operation Overlord.

The ruins of Caen, World War 2

The battle for Caen.

Summary of the scale of the battle: The invasion took place from 06 June 1944 until 30 August 1944 in northern France and resulted in victory for the allies.  Soldiers from the following countries took part In the invasion on the side of the Allies namely, The USA, the UK, Canada, France, the French Resistance, Poland, Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Greece, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Danish sailors. On the Axis side, only Germany was involved, Italy having been taken out of action with the demise of Benito Mussolini on 25 July 1943. Japan was preoccupied with the United States in the Far East and could not come to the assistance of the Third Reich.

General Bernard L. Montgomery watches his tanks move up.” North Africa, November 1942

Field Marshal Erwin Rommel  and General Bernard L. Montgomery

The Commanders: The Allied Forces were commanded by Dwight Eisenhower as the Supreme Allied Commander, Arthur Tedder as Deputy Supreme Allied Commander and Bernard L Montgomery as Commander in Chief of Ground Forces. The German Forces on the Western Front were under the overall command of Adolf Hitler himself, Field Marshall Gerd von Runstedt OB of the Western Front and Field Marshall Erwin Rommel, commander of Army Group B. The Allies deployed just over 2 million soldiers while Germany could only manage to deploy just over 640 000, just a quarter of the troops deployed by the allies.  Close to 40 000 civilians were killed during this phase of the conflict.

TT Thete is a World War II Historian based in Phalaborwa, South Africa.

This Article is published courtesy of Wikipedia. Pictures are supplied by Goodfreephotos.

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