Operation Neptune – D-Day

D-Day:

D-Day 75th Anniversary Commemorations - Utah Beach
D-Day 75th Anniversary Commemorations – Utah Beach

The Allied invasion of Northwest Europe, code named Operation Overlord, was decided on June 4, 1944 by General Dwight Eisenhower, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces.

Operation Neptune, the code name of the naval operations or assault, was the first phase of the Operation Overlord.

Operation Neptune – D-Day was of course preceded by a thorough preparation to support the successful landing of the Allied troops during the Battle of Normandy.

D-Day Preparations

June 4

D-Day 75th Anniversary Commemorations - British Normandy Memorial in Ver-sur-mer - Gold Beach
D-Day 75th Anniversary Commemorations – British Normandy Memorial in Ver-sur-mer – Gold Beach

11pm: The submarines X23 and X24 (Operation Gambit) were positioned off Ouistreham Riva-Bella and Le Hamel beaches, the towns delineating the area affected to the Commonwealth forces

June 5

Early afternoon: The sweepers cleaned the channels leading to the beach allowing the Navy to set off a few hours later 9.15pm onward.

The BBC issued the coded messages.

11.30pm: Start of the first aerial bombardment

D-Day – June 6, 1944

0.15am

The pathfinders in charge of the marking out of the US drop zones on the right bank of the river Orne were dropped (Operation Tonga).

Operation Tonga - Pathfinders getting ready on D-Day
Operation Tonga – Pathfinders getting ready

0.20am

Six Horsa gliders from the Operation Deadstick – Operation Coup de Main – Airborne Assault on Pegasus Bridge (181 British men under the command of Major John Howard) were dropped 2000m above Cabourg.

Their objective was to seize two bridges: Benouville Bridge over the Caen Canal (code named Ham) and Ranville Bridge (code named Jam) over the river Orne.

These two bridges, located 8km inland, were the only access to Caen.

They, therefore, had to be seized intact in order to provide an eastwards route for the troops who will be landing on Sword beach at 7.30am.

Their capture was really essential to the success of the D-Day landings.

The Pont de Benouville will be later renamed Pegasus Bridge after the emblem of the British airborne forces, and the Pont de Ranville renamed Horsa Bridge.

D-Day Planned Airborne Assault
Planned Airborne Assault

0.50am

400 RAF aircraft, mainly Dakota and Albemarle, which had taken off from the south of England for the estuary of the Orne dropped 2000 paratroopers from the Pegasus Division over the drop zones in Ranville, Merville, Trouffeville and Troarn.

Their objective (Operation Tonga) was to:

1- Neutralise the battery of Merville situated to the southeast of Cabourg

2- Destroy the bridges

3- Occupy the crest of Troarn in order to prevent the arrival of German reinforcements during the landing of the infantry on the nearby beaches of Ouistreham, Colleville and Hermanville.

1.30am

The first paratroopers of the US 101st Airborne Division were dropped over Veys, inland from Utah Beach.

2.10am

The first paratroopers of the US 82nd Airborne Division (Mission Boston) landed west of the route linking Sainte-Mère-l’Eglise to Neuville-au-Plain.

3.00am

The assault began with aerial bombardment of the German defence and artillery sites.

The naval bombardment would start later at 5.50am.

Allied invasion on D-Day
Allied invasion

3.30am

The 6th Airborne under the command of Major-Gal Richard Gale landed at Ranville, which had been freed at 2.30am.

4.30am

The 3rd Battalion of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the US 82nd Division entered Sainte-Mère-l’Eglise and engaged in the assault.

4.45am

The battery of Merville was neutralised.

5.00am

Sainte-Mère-l’Eglise was liberated by the 505th PIR.

5.30am

An American commando reached the Saint-Marcouf Islands, which were surprisingly free of any enemy occupation.

5.50am

Congestion on Juno on D-Day
Congestion on Juno

The Allied Forces’ 137 warships started to bombard the coasts of Normandy.

5.58am

The sun rose.

6.00am

End of the British air raid on the ten German batteries that posed the greatest danger to the troops who will be landing between the Orne and Vire rivers.

D-Day’s first assaults started at 6.30am

6.30am

The first American troops landed on the Grande Dune (western most side of Utah) and on Omaha Beach.

7.10am

The US Rangers landed at La Pointe du Hoc.

7.30am

The British and Canadian forces landed on Gold, Juno and Sword sectors, taking advantage of the rising tide from Le Hamel to the west to Ouistreham near the estuary of the River Orne to the east.

Pointe du Hoc - D-Day
Pointe du Hoc

7.50am

The 177 French Commandos of Captain Kieffer, who had been integrated into the Brigade of Lord Lovat, landed on Sword.

Their objective was to capture the German defence along the beach and the casino.

9.30am

The Canadians took control of Meuvaines (inland from Gold) and the British of Hermanville (Sword).

10.00am

Two breaches were eventually opened on Omaha Beach.

11.30am

A third breach was opened in Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer.

12.00pm

Congestion on Juno.

1.30pm

The British Commandos and paratroopers linked at the Pont de Benouville – Pegasus Bridge.

2.00pm

The engineering units cleared a path on Omaha in order to allow the tanks and other vehicles to leave the beach and move inland.

4.00pm

Gold Beach - Troops moving inland on D-Day
Troops moving inland

Rommel rushed back to La Roche-Guyon on the river Seine.

He had been away to celebrate the birthday of his wife, thinking that the Allied landing was unlikely given the weather conditions and the intelligence reports he had.

The British (2nd King’s Shropshire Light Infantry) retreated as their access to Caen was blocked by German tanks at the exit of Bieville.

Caen would not be freed as planned on June 6!

The British captured the coastal village of Le Hamel on Gold.

7.00pm

Omaha Beach was under American control, Vierville was freed but St-Laurent was still occupied.

8.00pm

British patrols (56th Brigade) managed to enter Bayeux, and the 151st took control of the Caen-Bayeux road allowing the 69th to position itself 9.5km farther south inland.

Mulberry Harbour A - US Army vehicules rolling off the floating harbour on D-Day
Mulberry Harbour A – US Army vehicules rolling off the floating harbour

General de Gaulle broadcast his speech from the BBC in London: “La bataille suprême est engagée -The supreme battle has begun

9.00pm

The British had taken full control of a 3km coastal strip and the city of Arromanches.

11.30pm-3.00am

The Germans struck back against the US Rangers on La Pointe du Hoc.

D-Day – The following hours

Night of June 6/7

Caen was severely bombed and basically reduced to a pile of rubble.

7 June 12.30am

War Memorials:

Juno Beach: Bernieres-sur-merCorseulles-sur-merGraye-sur-merDouvres-la-Delivrande

Gold Beach: Arromanches – Ver-sur-mer

Sword Beach: Ouistreham-Riva Bella

Landing Beaches:

SwordGoldJunoOmahaUtah

Rediscover all the landing beaches during the 75th Anniversary Commemorations

Photos via Wikimedia Commons: Pathfinders getting ready –  Congestion on Juno Allied Invasion  – Mulberry Harbour A  – Pegasus bridge

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