Operation Neptune – D-Day
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.
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
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
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).
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.
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.
The first paratroopers of the US 101st Airborne Division were dropped over Veys, inland from Utah Beach.
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.
The assault began with aerial bombardment of the German defence and artillery sites.
The naval bombardment would start later at 5.50am.
The 6th Airborne under the command of Major-Gal Richard Gale landed at Ranville, which had been freed at 2.30am.
The 3rd Battalion of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the US 82nd Division entered Sainte-Mère-l’Eglise and engaged in the assault.
The battery of Merville was neutralised.
Sainte-Mère-l’Eglise was liberated by the 505th PIR.
An American commando reached the Saint-Marcouf Islands, which were surprisingly free of any enemy occupation.
The Allied Forces’ 137 warships started to bombard the coasts of Normandy.
The sun rose.
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
The first American troops landed on the Grande Dune (western most side of Utah) and on Omaha Beach.
The US Rangers landed at La Pointe du Hoc.
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.
The Canadians took control of Meuvaines (inland from Gold) and the British of Hermanville (Sword).
Two breaches were eventually opened on Omaha Beach.
A third breach was opened in Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer.
Congestion on Juno.
The British Commandos and paratroopers linked at the Pont de Benouville – Pegasus Bridge.
The engineering units cleared a path on Omaha in order to allow the tanks and other vehicles to leave the beach and move 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.
Omaha Beach was under American control, Vierville was freed but St-Laurent was still occupied.
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.
General de Gaulle broadcast his speech from the BBC in London: “La bataille suprême est engagée -The supreme battle has begun“
The British had taken full control of a 3km coastal strip and the city of Arromanches.
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
Gold Beach: Arromanches – Ver-sur-mer
Sword Beach: Ouistreham-Riva Bella
Rediscover all the landing beaches during the 75th Anniversary Commemorations