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... of the few missions that the Rangers completed that day. Because of the great break downs in planned assaults, the day started to look like a chaotic day with the only missions being that of individual survival. Most divisions managed to stay organized and plan their survival and attack plans. Col. George H.
Taylor of the 16 th Regiment said, Two kinds of people are staying on this beach, the dead and those about to die. These sort of speeches sparked other soldiers to continue with their slightly revised missions. Originally it was planned for the areas above the beaches to be taken by an advance up the heavily defended bluffs but the plan was changed to a less organized direct assault on the German gunners in the high cliffs. Other such companies that decided on newly created missions included the 16 th Infantry and the 29 th Division.
These two units decided on a joint mission to save their buddies who were pinned on the beach. Also involved on the Omaha Beach invasion were the 1 st Infantry Division, and the 18 th and 115 th Brigades. By the end of D-Day on Omaha Beach the advance had gone barely one and a half miles inland. Several of the enemy strongpoint's were intact and the beachhead was still under fire. Although this hectic day sounds like a disaster, the major exits from the area were held, three villages were under Allied control and a hole in the German line about two and half kilometers long was made and the coastal guns were destroyed. The landing had been made, all the troops could do was secure the area and organize the beach for the introduction of Gold Beach was the second largest of the beaches of Normandy and was also the middle beach: Utah and Omaha to the west and Juno and Sword to the east.
Gold beach was like most of the other beaches invaded on D-Day except it had one characteristic which was disadvantageous to the allies. Coral reefs, ranging from twenty to a hundred yards out could ground landing craft at low tide. Because of this factor the Gold Beach was postponed almost an hour after most of the other attacks that day. H hour on this beach was to be 07: 25. It turned out the this adverse condition would soon show to have its pros and cons. The largest pro being that this left more time for bombardment of German defenses by RAF bombers and naval guns.
The cons were of course the fact that with the rising tides men landing on the beach would end up facing the fate of many soldiers on Omaha beach, being pinned behind a sea wall and being drowned by the advancing waves. It would also turn out that, along with beach obstacles, the rising tide would make it even harder for landing craft to make their transport runs. Not soon after the arrival of the first wave of landing crafts the problems started to mount. Also, regiments decided to bring their DD Sherman tanks on their LCD 38 transports instead of floating them in. This was mainly because of the weather, which created high seas. Unfortunately, this sort of tactic left the tanks as sitting ducks and all but one of the tanks were disabled or destroyed.
Soon one problem lead to another as those soldiers that landed on the beach were unable to advance and were without any tanks to bail them out of their predicament. Eventually with the help of the one tank that survived the landing, the troops at Gold Beach were able to press forward. Not unlike any of the other beaches, Gold had a complicated battle plan including many Divisions, Regiments and even a commando group. The overall goal was to take the key points of the German defenses and secure the area. One such key point was Port-en-Begin which was to be invaded by the British 47 th Royal Marine Commando who would later meet up with an America Regiment from Omaha. The problem was that not everything went according to plan and they were unable to take the city.
The Americans who were supposed to help in the fight inland by moving through the North-west flank of the area never showed up. Another such joining of teams did go according to plans as the 50 th Division met up with a Division of Canadians from Juno beach after coming within a mile of their D-day objective of the taking of Bayeux. The only two groups to succeed in their D-day objectives as Gold Beach were the 69 th and 231 st Regiments. The 231 st successfully took the city of Arromanches while the 69 th took la Riviere even after they were forced to originally bypass the stronghold and return and destroy it later on.
Other groups involved included the British 8 th, 151 st and 56 th Regiments who aided in the push inland and the clearing of the beaches of mines and obstacles. By the end of the day, most of the D-day objectives had failed but three brigades were ready to push farther inland at sunlight. The beach was secured and ready for reinforcements. Unfortunately, Bayeux was not taken but most of the areas hidden bunkers and trenches were. Some in fact were found to be manned by unwilling Asiatic conscripts from the southern Soviet republics who were put there by Germans. Juno beach was Canadas beach with over 21, 000 Canadians landing there.
Not unlike other beaches, Juno's H-hour was delayed until 07: 45. The reason was that air reconnaissance had spotted some underwater shoals (rocks / reefs ) and the Canadians wanted to wait until the tide had gone in to make it safer for the landing craft. (Later on the shoals turned out to be masses of floating seaweed). The beach itself was wide enough to land two Brigades side by side, the Canadian 7 th at Courseulles and the 8 th at Bernieres. The decision to wait until 07: 45 caused more problems than it solved. The rising tide hid most of the beach obstacles meaning two things: it was dangerous for the landing craft to come ashore and the demolition crews couldnt get at the obstacles to make room for the landing craft. Thirty percent of all the landing craft at Juno beach on D-day were disabled in beach obstacle related incidents.
One such example was when one craft started to disembark troops, a wave threw the craft onto a mined beach obstacle. Like at most of the beaches that day, Armored Divisions started to bring their tanks in on the landing craft but like on all the other beaches this caused problems. The Regina Rifles, one of the first groups to land, had to wait twenty minutes on the beach without the aid of any tanks or heavy artillery. Due to heavy seas and tanks coming in on the landing craft it meant that people who should have been in front were behind. The Canadians were smarter than most in the setup of their landing. They chose a position at sea which was only seven or eight miles out instead of the distance most other beach operations were using of about eleven miles.
This greatly increased the speed and accuracy of the landings and the first Canadian wave was on the beach by 08: 15. Once on the beach the amount of German defenses surprised the Allied forces, once again the air assault on the German gunners was not 46 as successful as planned. However, like at Gold beach, the Canadians did find out that the firepower of their tanks was the difference between being able to push inland and being pinned down at the beach. After the main beach defenses of the Germans were taken the inland push became slower and slower the farther south they got.
A few of the main objectives were successful. The 3 rd Division reach the Caen-Bayeux road and a lot of French towns were liberated. The one strong point that would become a problem for troops at Juno, as well as Sword, would be Caen. The Canadians found increased resistance the closer they got and in that aspect their D-day mission did not succeed. As night fell the Canadians were still well short of a lot of objectives. They did get their tanks on the Caen-Bayeux road but that was about it.
The British 3 rd Division from Sword beach was planned to meet up with the Canadians in order to close the gap between Juno and Sword beaches but they never showed. This left a two mile gap in the beaches and would be the area of the only German counterattack of the day. The other linkup between beaches was successful as Canadians met the 50 th Division from Gold beach. Overall the Canadians didnt get all that far but were in a good position to move inland. Sword beach was the easternmost beach in Normandy. Like at Juno Beach H- hour was again postponed because of shoals until 07: 25.
The main objective at Sword beach was to advance and invade the German strong point of Caen. Four whole brigades of the 3 rd Division were sent to Caen. There were also Airborne Divisions that dropped behind lines using large gliders which could carry troops as well as other Armored vehicles. Those groups not supposed to head toward Caen were planned to reach the Airborne Divisions and secure the areas bridges from counterattack.
Even as the Canadians moved inland, trouble was developing back at the beach. Although all the DD tanks made it to the beach the tide was turning the already small beach into one with only ten yards from the seafront to the waters edge. With only one road off the beach the overcrowding caused delays in most objectives for that day. Some of the Armored Divisions like the 27 th Armored Brigade abandoned their objectives in order to bail out 52 Infantry pinned down on the crowded beaches. Those who did make it off the beach in time were quite successful in reaching their D-day objectives. By late afternoon the leading troops of the Brigades heading for Caen had reached and liberated the towns of Beuville and Bieville which were only two or so miles short of Caen.
Strongpoint's, like the one at La Bruce, were taken as early as 10: 00. Those troops that didnt make it off the beach in time, like the 185 th Brigade, had to leave all their heavy equipment behind in order to catch up with the forces already nearing Caen. The move inland was really looking quite promising until the Germans launched the only counterattack of the day. The 21 st Panzer Division was sent out from Caen, half to take on the southward allies and the other half to head right up between Juno and Sword beach where that two mile of beach was unoccupied by Allied forces. Fifty German tanks faced the Brigades heading for Caen. Luckily the British were ready with artillery, fighter-bombers and a special Firefly Sherman tank that was fitted with a seventeen pound anti-tank gun instead of the normal 75 mm gun.
Soon, thirteen of the German tanks were destroyed with only one M- 55 10 tank destroyer damaged. This just went to show that the British were slow in advance but almost unbreakable in defense. Still the Germans pressed forward until about 21: 00 when the last wave of gliders of the 6 th Airborne Divisions came in. The Germans 56 looked up and saw about 250 gliders fly in and land behind them.
The allies now were attacking from two directions and the only German counterattack ended quickly. By the end of the day the German resistance at Sword beach was almost obliterated other than that at Caen. A lot of the success was because of the joint effort of Airborne Divisions and Divisions landing on the beach. Of the 6, 250 troops of the 6 th Airborne that landed there were only 650 casualties. Unfortunately Caen was not taken but its liberation was By the end of June 6, 1944 one of the most complicated and the most coordinated invasions the world would ever witness had started. On Utah Beach, the American 1 st Army held a firm beachhead with several Divisions already receiving the supplies they needed and would soon be ready to move inland.
On Omaha Beach, the troops there had recovered from what had looked like an impending disaster in the first hours and started to break through the stiff German defenses. At the British run beaches of Juno, Gold and Sword the forces had managed to push inland an average of six miles. Even with the amount of soldiers numbering about seventy-five thousand, the casualties between the three U. S. beaches were only approximately three thousand. Overlooking the Omaha beach landing site is the Normandy American Cemetery.
Under headstones of white Italian marble lie 9386 American soldiers, airmen and sailors. Of these men whom are buried here are 307 whose names are known but to God. Their valiant soldiers unselfishly gave their lives in landing operations, the establishment of the beachheads and the drive inland towards Paris. The remains of 14, 000 others had originally been buried here but had been returned home at the request of their next of kin. This was the price paid for a foothold on Europe. D-Day was the beginning of the end for the Germans in Europe and the end of the beginning for the fight for Europe.
Bibliography: SOURCES USED Ambrose, Stephen E. D-Day June 6, 1944: The Climatic Battle of World War II, (New York New York, Simon and Schuster 1994) Golstein, Donald M. Katherine V. Dillon, and Michael Wenger, D-DAY NORMANDY: The Story and The Photographs, (Washington, New York, London, Basseys 1994) Young, Brigades Peter D-DAY, (London England, Bison Books Limited, 1981) The American Battle Monuments Commission, Normandy American Cemetary and Memorial, (A Handout; The American Battle Monuments Commission 1987)
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Research essay sample on June 6 1944 Landing Craft