Normandy Landing: Antecedents, Consequences

The Normandy landing was a military operation carried out within the so-called Operation Overlord, on June 6, 1944, during World War II. Thanks to this landing, whose code name was Operation Neptune, the Allies managed to penetrate France, then occupied by Germany.

The war had started very favorably for Nazi Germany. In just a few months, his army had managed to conquer almost all of continental Europe. Virtually only Great Britain and the Soviet Union had held out without coming under their control. However, in 1943, the trend began to change.

Landing in Normandy – Source: US Coast Guard, photo 26-G-2517, p012623 at flickr, 26-G-2517 at Navsource: USS LST-310,

That year, the Soviets managed to get the Germans to withdraw, defeated, from their territory. On the other hand, the United States had become involved in the conflict. Since 1942, the Allies were planning to enter France, but for various reasons this had been delayed.

On D-Day, June 6, a large number of naval transports carried the Allied troops to the beaches of Normandy. Despite the German defenses, the Allied soldiers managed to take all five beaches that had been targeted. From there, they continued their advance through the rest of France.

Article index

  • one

    Historical background

    • 1.1

      Change in the trend of war

    • 1.2

      Tehran Conference

    • 1.3

      Situation in Germany

  • two

    Preparations

    • 2.1

      Trident Conference

    • 2.2

      Quebec Conference

    • 23

      Operation Neptune

    • 2.4

      Enigma and disinformation campaign

  • 3

    Invasion and development

    • 3.1

      Climatology

    • 3.2

      The day D

    • 3.3

      German resistance and Hitler’s dream

    • 3.4

      Result of landing

  • 4

    Consequences

    • 4.1

      Cherbourg and Caen

    • 4.2

      The Battle of Falaise and liberation of Paris

    • 4.3

      Consequences of the following months

  • 5

    References

Historical background

After invading Poland, a fact that caused the outbreak of World War II, Nazi Germany had rapidly conquered most of the European continent.

France, despite the time it had to prepare its defenses, succumbed to German war power in June 1940. The only power that resisted, apart from the USSR, was Great Britain.

Hitler, bent on conquering the Soviet Union, began a great offensive. At first, their advance was rapid, with the Soviets retreating and using the scorched earth tactic. By late 1941, German troops were stuck in the cold Russian winter.

On the other hand, Japan, an ally of the Nazis, bombed Pearl Harbor in December 1941. The attack on its territory caused the United States to enter the war on the Allied side.

Change in the trend of war

In 1943, the allies managed to change the negative direction that, for them, the conflict had taken. The final defeat of the Germans in the Soviet Union caused, apart from the numerous human losses, that his army had to withdraw. In North Africa, meanwhile, the British had managed to defeat the Nazi army led by Rommel.

Meanwhile, the presidents of the three great allied powers, Roosevelt (USA), Churchill (Great Britain) and Stalin (USSR) planned the strategy to definitively defeat their enemy.

Tehran Conference

The leaders of the allied powers met in late 1943 at the Tehran Conference. In it, Stalin repeated a request that the Soviets had demanded for months: to alleviate the eastern front of the war, which they led exclusively, by opening a second front in western Europe.

On this occasion, the Americans and the British did seem willing to comply with this demand. The project of landing troops in France had already been put on the table in 1942, but it was at the Tehran Conference that they began planning what they called Operation Overlord.

This was to consist of the landing of a large number of soldiers on the French beaches. The scheduled date was May 1944, although it would later be delayed for various reasons. That invasion was to go hand in hand with an attack by the Soviet army on the eastern border of Germany.

Situation in Germany

The Germans, thanks to their spy network, knew that the Allies were planning a massive operation in France. For that reason, they began to prepare to try to repel the attack.

His High Command, with Hitler at the head, thought that the place chosen by the allies to attack would be Calais, since it was the area of ​​France closest to Great Britain. Thus, they began to deploy a large number of forces in the area.

In addition, they appointed one of their most talented generals to lead the Western Front: Erwin Rommel.

Preparations

As noted above, the option to invade France from its northern coast had been raised for the first time in 1942, although it could not be carried out until two years later.

Trident Conference

The Trident Conference, held in Washington DC in May 1943, brought together the Americans and the British to begin planning the opening of a western front.

Although Churchill was in favor of that the allied troops concentrate in the Mediterranean and that they begin the attack from there, it was the Americans who imposed his idea: to attack from the English Channel.

However, it was a British Lieutenant General, Frederick E. Morgan, who was chosen to plan the entire operation.

In order to carry out the landing successfully, the Allies realized that they needed both adequate artillery and ships that could approach shore, as well as the air force providing cover from the air.

The first option they considered as a place of entry into France was Calais, but the Germans reinforced the security of the area. For that reason, the Allies chose the beaches of Normandy.

Quebec Conference

The date to start was chosen at a new conference, this time held in Québec, Canada. Initially, the selected day was May 1, 1944.

At the same meeting, General Dwight Eisenhower, an American, was appointed as commander of the Headquarters of the allied forces that were to carry out the operation. On the British side, General Montgomery assumed command of the group of ground troops that were to participate in the invasion.

Both military leaders met on the last day of 1943 to analyze the plan proposed by the High Command for the invasion.

The proposal included the participation of three divisions that had to disembark from the sea, in addition to another three that would be dropped by parachute. The intention was to take Cherbourg, one of the most strategically important French ports, as soon as possible.

The initially scheduled date was delayed due to the fact that many boats were needed to carry out the action and the Allies were forced to build or buy them.

Operation Neptune

The landing in Normandy was called Operation Neptune. This, in turn, was part of another larger operation, the Overlord, which was to end with the liberation of France.

The allies began to bombard the towns in the area that were in the hands of the Germans to facilitate the subsequent landing.

The general plan for the operation detailed the final objectives of the operation. To begin with, the Allies wanted to destroy the bridges that crossed the Loire and the Seine, preventing the Nazis from sending reinforcements to Normandy.

Another fundamental point was to destroy the German aircraft factories in the area, as well as the fuel depots.

The allied High Command needed accurate information on the location of their targets. For this reason, for several months before the attack, many planes flew over the area to map and reconnoitre the terrain.

Enigma and disinformation campaign

In addition to the purely military preparations, another fundamental aspect in every conflict took on special importance for the landing to be successful: information and espionage.

On the one hand, the British managed to decode the codes that the Germans used to communicate with each other. The famous Enigma machine, the device used by the Nazis to encode their messages, was analyzed by an English team to decipher its encryption methods, in March 1944.

At the same time, the Allies planned a campaign to confuse the Germans. By sending false messages intended to be decoded by the enemy, they managed to convince the Nazis that the invasion was going to begin in the Pas de Calais.

Invasion and development

The Normandy landing involved an enormous mobilization of human and material resources by the Allies. Thus, 2000 boats and 4000 plates were used so that the soldiers could access the land. In addition, as air support, 11,000 aircraft participated

Climatology

Finally, the Allied High Command had set June 5, 1944 as the date of the assault. However, that day had adverse weather conditions, so they had to postpone the disembarkation until the next day.

What the bad weather did not prevent was that, during the early hours between the 5th and 6th, the Allied planes began to bombard the German defenses. That same night, a paratrooper brigade was launched into French territory to take some important positions for the success of the operation.

For its part, the French Resistance, informed about the imminent landing, began a campaign of sabotage in the German positions.

With the soldiers already on the ships and a weather forecast that pointed to a slight improvement in the weather, on the 6th, known thereafter as D-Day, the operation began.

The day D

On the morning of June 6, the Allies began heavy bombardments against the German defensive posts. In the same way, they began to place some floating posts.

Still very early, around 6:30 in the morning, the allied troops began to reach the coast. They were British, American and Canadian soldiers, whose destination was five different beaches on the Norman coast. The code names for these landing points were Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword.

The attempt to reach land was not without its problems. There were errors in timing the arrival, as well as erroneous calculations in the weight of the equipment of some soldiers, which caused many to drown before reaching the beach.

Meanwhile, from the sea, the Allied ships dropped their bombs against the coast to destroy the enemy’s defenses, although with little success.

German resistance and Hitler’s dream

German resistance to landing was uneven depending on the area. On some beaches, the Allies were able to take up positions with almost no resistance, while on others they were met with a firm response from German soldiers.

The most difficult point was Omaha Beach, which had the most defenses. There, the men of the Wehrmacht, Nazi infantry, caused heavy casualties to the allies.

Overall it is estimated that nearly 10,000 Allied soldiers died during the landing. Proof of the advantage that the defenders had is that the Germans only counted 1000 deaths.

A fortuitous event favored the Allied landing in Normandy. Nazi officials in the area were unable to contact Hitler to announce what was happening because he had ordered that no one wake him up.

This caused a certain lack of response in the German ranks. Until several hours after the invasion began, they received no instructions on how to act.

Result of landing

Despite the aforementioned casualties among the allies, these, little by little, were gaining ground from the defenders. In this aspect, the large number of soldiers who participated in the landing was fundamental, around 155,000 on the first day, which made them have numerical superiority.

At night, four of the beaches were controlled by the Allies and only Omaha remained in dispute. However, the allies failed to meet all the objectives set for the 6th, as they could not take several towns as planned.

Until the 12th, the allied troops could not connect the five beaches. In those moments, he had managed to control a line of 97 kilometers long and 24 wide.

From that moment on, the objective was to continue penetrating French soil and to free the country from Nazi control.

Consequences

By the end of July, in order to complete its mission, about a million and a half Allied soldiers had been deployed on French soil. A few weeks later, the number grew to two million.

Cherbourg and Caen

The next Allied targets were the port of Cherbourg and the city of Caen. The first, due to its strategic importance, was strongly defended, so the allies organized a blockade to prevent the arrival of more reinforcements.

The capture of that town was not easy for the allies. After several unsuccessful attacks, it was not until the 26th that they were able to take control of the post. However, the Germans had completely destroyed it, so that it was not able to be operational again until September.

On the other hand, the Nazis managed, at first, to stop the Allied advance towards Caen. After various attempts, the British launched Operation Epsom, planned to take the city. Although they did not succeed, they did cause extensive material damage to the Germans.

After this, the allies organized a massive bombardment on the city starting on July 7. Despite this, the Germans resisted until July 21, when they had to abandon a completely devastated city.

The Battle of Falaise and liberation of Paris

The German army tried to launch a counterattack to force the Allies to retreat. After several strategic moves by both sides, the two armies clashed at the Battle of Falaise.

The allied triumph in that confrontation allowed his troops to advance towards the capital, Paris.

On August 24, the allies reached the outskirts of the city. Hitler gave the order to destroy it before it passed into the hands of his enemies. Only the initiative of the marshal, who decided to disobey the Führer, prevented Paris from being devastated.

On the 27th, the allies were able to enter the French capital without encountering any resistance, something that had also been ordered by Von Kluge.

Consequences of the following months

Thanks to the Normandy landings and Operation Overlord, the Allies managed to open a western front in the war. This forced the Germans to divert part of the troops that were in the east, allowing the Soviets to advance towards Berlin.

On January 12, 1945, the Soviet Union was able to begin a great offensive, advancing from Poland without the Germans having the possibility of stopping them. On May 2, Berlin fell, bringing the war in Europe, in practice, to an end.

References

  1.  Ocaña, Juan Carlos. The Landing of Normandy. Obtained from historiaiglo20.org
  2. BBC Mundo newsroom. D-Day in numbers: how was the largest military landing in history successful? Retrieved from bbc.com
  3. Prieto, Javi. The Normandy Landing. Retrieved from lemiaunoir.com
  4. Keegan, John. Normandy Invasion. Retrieved from britannica.com
  5. Tillman, Barret. D-Day: The Invasion of Normandy. Recovered from historyonthenet.com
  6. Foot, Richard. D-Day and the Battle of Normandy. Retrieved from thecanadianencyclopedia.ca
  7. Pascus, Brian. What is D-Day? Remembering the storied 1944 invasion of Normandy. Retrieved from cbsnews.com
  8. Carter, Ian. Tactics and the Cost of Victory in Normandia. Retrieved from iwm.org.uk

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button