D-Day 70 years ago

Posted on: June 6th, 2014 by Will Rodriguez 43 Comments
Photo taken by Robert Capa on D-Day at Omaha Beach

70 years ago today 150 thousand troops were flung across the English Channel in an extremely risky operation to land on the continent, open a second front and rid the world of Nazisim.  There are a myriad of great books and movies out there.  “The Longest Day”, the “Band of Brothers” miniseries and excerpts of “Saving Pvt Ryan” all come to mind with “The Longest Day” being the most complete historical depiction.

The invasion is being commemorated today in France with a plethora of heads of state.  I encourage you to remember and do something to educate yourself about this seminal event in history.  I just started reading, “The Dead and Those About to Die  D-Day: The Big Red One at Omaha Beach”.

If you’d like to do something quick to remember and commemorate the event check out this clip from “Saving Private Ryan” which is an excellent depiction of the horror on Omaha Beach based on the historical descriptions I’ve read of the battle.

Be Respectful, Candid and Pertinent. No Posers, No Trolls…
  • LawyerHandle

    Truly unimaginable. And so sad that so few are left today.

  • LawyerHandle 
    Yes.  I’ve met a lot of WWII vets in my life but it is becoming rare today.  D-Day vets?  I’ve met maybe a handful.  Just an indescribable generation.
    Their passing is a national loss.
    As is the average American’s understanding of what happened and what was risked on D-Day.

  • ArcticWarrior

    majrod LawyerHandle  I got to chaperone with some during the Airborne Days open house. I was given the task of showing the older guys around. I begrudgingly did it, I wanted to party with everyone else instead of being the Brigade welcoming committee, such is the mind of a newly minted E4. I had a gentleman in a wheel chair who had been in the 101st with the 501st. He had on his C-Cap with the chicken proudly displayed. He was in a party of 3 the other 2 wearing those goofy trucker looking caps with the 101st insignia and all the pins, one was even wearing his Ike jacket ! – all 3 Vets of D-Day. To my surprise they were more into what we had equipment wise, talked about the dangers of sharking the Sgt Maj and how proud they were of the Desert Storm guys and good naturedly ribbed me for being an All American. I pushed him around, listened to the conversations they had among themselves, got to take pictures with them, and showed them my wings that had belonged to my grandfather who was at St Mere Eglise. They told me how important it was to keep the reputation alive. Years later looking back I had so many questions that I would have asked knowing that most of those guys probably passed on like my grandfather did, but for that little shred of time I got to share something with legends even if it was just for a few hours one afternoon. And when I first put the Geronimo Thunderbird crest on my perfectly shaped and shaved beret a good bit of time later I did remember them and thought of what they told me. They were my hero’s in the truest sense and set the bar so ridiculously high for all who followed.

  • ArcticWarrior
  • KineticFury

    Germans elsewhere were under the impression that the invasion was beat back, as the movement stalled at Omaha. What made the difference is a few men getting up of their own accord and doing what the could with what they had.

    It is amazing what they were able to accomplish considering the state of disarray their units were, and with abysmal communications.

    Here’s an infographic I saw today that shows the sheer volume of men and machines in Operation Overlord. <blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” lang=”en”><p>MT: D-Day Infographic from BBC Education. <a href=”https://twitter.com/search?q=%23DDay70&amp;src=hash">#DDay70</a> <a href=”http://t.co/zFq6AeLLPd">pic.twitter.com/zFq6AeLLPd</a></p>&mdash; Royal Air Force (@RoyalAirForceUK) <a href=”https://twitter.com/RoyalAirForceUK/statuses/474900526292008961">June 6, 2014</a></blockquote> <script async src=”//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″></script>

  • ArcticWarrior

    KineticFury  When you see it like that it puts the enormity into perspective. Think about the “what if” if Overlord is called off, or the Germans repulsed the attack. Could we have endured the enormity again? If ever a day had to happen and succeed it was June the 6th, 1944

  • KineticFury

    ArcticWarrior  The second time in his life people couldn’t keep him off the beach. That’s one for the history books.
    Had a great-uncle who was in the Korean War, always had the hat and everything. He just passed away this year, after which I found out he had been at Normandy, later in the day. Lots of us never knew about it.

    There’s no way of telling all the heroism that day, the individual courage of faceless men won that day.

  • ArcticWarrior

    KineticFury ArcticWarrior  Shows you the tenacity of that generation, nothing would stop the man. It is also a generation that looked at what they did as necessary for the common good. Overall a very humble generation, proud of the weight they bore on those battlefields but generally quiet.
    As you say, no way of ever telling all the heroism that day, it was a collective effort. I think most understood this was it, failure was not an option.

    I can’t even imagine the spectacle of H-minus that morning

  • KineticFury

    ArcticWarrior KineticFury  Just recently streamed a show called “Nazi Hunters.” Where after the war they hunt down or discover what happened to some bad people under Hitler. Thank God they had film, lest we forget the horrors. The more I read, see, and hear about what went on, the more I appreciate those who fought against the Third Reich.

    I’m not saying all the gunslingers were a white-hat or a black-hat, but there was a lot of evil stopped.

  • clluelo

    ArcticWarrior  badass 🙂

  • LauraKinCA

    KineticFury  I saw that today too and was a bit overwhelmed just thinking about the scale of it all. Was talking to a good friend later about the Naval side of things… incredible.

  • LauraKinCA

    KineticFury ArcticWarrior  The shear scale of the effort and the tenacity….. film and books really are the only way to remember now…. hope we never lose that history.

  • SEAN SPOONTS(MAFIA)

    My contribution.  http://www.smithsonianmag.com/videos/category/3play_1/archival-footage-of-d-day/?no-ist

  • KineticFury

    ArcticWarrior “What if…”
    I often think that in the context, “what if Hitler didn’t waste so much on the Eastern Front?”

    Rommel was left with the defenses, which is odd, considering he was more of a lightning-fast, smaller tactics kind of guy. Read the “Humanities 360” link below, Rommel wasn’t given what he needed. Pride gave Hitler a crazy mixture of arrogance and ignorance. The German’s could have easily really beefed up the French coast, but fortunately they failed to take it seriously enough. I mean lot’s of German officers all over the place were on leave or partying on their comfortable French station. Apparently an allied deception caused them to think we would invade at Calais, to the North, closer to Dunkirk, which is a shorter distance across the channel.
     http://www.historynet.com/field-marshall-erwin-rommels-defense-of-normandy-during-world-war-ii.htm

    http://www.humanities360.com/index.php/german-defenses-on-the-normandy-beaches-during-the-d-day-invasion-60746/

    Maps of the German side from http://ftp.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/UN/Canada/CA/Victory/Victory-3.html 

    http://ftp.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/UN/Canada/CA/Victory/sk/Victory-2.jpg
    http://ftp.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/UN/Canada/CA/Victory/maps/Victory-1.jpg

  • KineticFury That’s cool.  Adding that to my personal reference library.

  • ArcticWarrior

    SEAN SPOONTS(MAFIA)  The footage of the 101st Pathfinders is priceless

  • LauraKinCA

    SEAN SPOONTS(MAFIA)  Never seen this footage… great find… thanks Sean!

  • ArcticWarrior

    KineticFuryArcticWarrior
      The one map you get to see the punch the Germans had at Calais. The more detailed map gives you an understanding of why those road intersections had to be taken and held inland from Normandy. The movement after the beachheads was actually the meat of the operation. The beachhead landing is what it is most famous for, but just a few miles in was where the plan would make or break. Without those road intersections everyone is stuck on the beach or on the ships and nobody moves.
    Those were some good links…

  • KineticFury

    majrod KineticFury  From Twitter… https://twitter.com/RoyalAirForceUK

  • ArcticWarrior

    LauraKinCA SEAN SPOONTS(MAFIA)  What struck me from seeing the German footage pre-invasion was that those weapons in the pill boxes would have been zeroed in perfectly at the beach heads. A lot of that footage in that video I hadn’t seen before.

  • ArcticWarrior

    KineticFury majrod  The 9000 bodies laid out to simulate the dead on the beach…holy crap

  • KineticFury

    ArcticWarrior KineticFury I really liked this bit from the first link. “As late as it was, Rommel’s program of emplacing beach obstacles between high and low tide so alarmed Allied planners that they changed the timing of the landings from high to low tide, which considerably increased the vulnerability of those making the initial landing — especially on Omaha Beach. In dealing with the airborne threat, Rommel ordered telephone poles and concrete posts — nicknamed ‘Rommel asparagus’.”

    And “Unlike other senior army leaders, Rommel had had experience with the air power the Anglo-American powers would bring to the battlefield, as well as with their immense logistical capabilities. For other German leaders, especially Hitler, American and British military capabilities simply did not appear nearly as threatening as they did to Rommel.”
    Also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rommelspargel

  • LauraKinCA

    ArcticWarrior LauraKinCA SEAN SPOONTS(MAFIA)  I have watched a lot of footage thru The Military Channel’s series and more…. and never seen most of that…. some great info there… will have to watch again.

  • ArcticWarrior

    KineticFury ArcticWarrior  I remember those being referred to as “glider grinders” ….

    Logistics … you can win or lose battles based on that…that is a very overlooked part of Overlord

  • KineticFury

    ArcticWarrior KineticFury majrod  2000 dead at Omaha, the beach we decided to send two divisions over. Up against the 352nd Wehrmacht infantry division, which was one of the few (if any) around that operated at full force with 9 battalions.

    For me it also puts in perspective how bloody battles were longer ago. Gettsyburg had over 50,000 casualties over a 3-day period.

  • ArcticWarrior

    KineticFury ArcticWarrior majrod  Clearing the lanes on Omaha….I couldn’t even imagine that

  • ArcticWarrior KineticFury majrod 
    FWIW they put the 9000 on one beach instead of across the 50 miles of beach head of the actual numbers on the various beaches.
    Still a striking image.
    9000 seems a little short because I think it covers the D-Day invasion and several days later.  I’ve heard over 10000.  Keep in mind the US only cemetery in Normandy holds over 9000 dead for the Normandy campaign.

  • SEAN SPOONTS(MAFIA)

    ArcticWarrior LauraKinCA SEAN SPOONTS(MAFIA) Interesting thing.  A lot of those guns were set up to interlock length wise up and down the beach, rather than pointing them out to sea.  The subs doing photo recon from the water missed that detail, with deadly results for our boys as they struggled inland.

  • LawyerHandle

    I’ll tell you, meeting with those men was worth missing probably a dozen parties with guys your age (at that time). This isn’t exactly comparable but when I was my fraternity Alumni Relations Chair in college, I would always skip the big weekend tailgates and parties to hang out w/ the Alumni, just to soak in stories about everything in life- and they had a lot of stories- from career advice & connections to time spend in Korea and Vietnam (the WW2 aged alums pretty much stopped traveling by the time I was in college. It was invaluable advice, certainly more valuable than knowing who lashed out at the regular tailgates, etc. I also just really enjoy talking with old people about the past, just always have.

  • LawyerHandle

    History’s D-Day in HD is on History again tonight (Sat) at 7 PM/EDT- 6 PM/CDT. It was pretty good.
    Quick question: from how far out did they have to ride the landing crafts in?

  • ArcticWarrior

    LawyerHandle  It was absolutely worth it, I had a great time and it really drove home the whole “Band of Brothers” thing – they taught me it transcended generations.

    However Airborne Days open house has its moments….like the time I was told by all of the Platoon Sgts that I had a choice…I could go over to the SF GP. table and point out what was wrong with the display mannequin they had, you know point out to the GBs what was wrong at their display OR I could carry rocks all around Misery until I keeled over. I chose the Group display table and I chose poorly. 
    GB E7: “Hey young trooper when you get stripes you are going to try for selection right?”
    Me: “Once I get E5 I would love to.”  I am intently looking over the mannequin in detail. ” Hey the mannequin, is his reserve on correct? And nothing is taped down – noise discipline ….. um right?? ”  The civilians at the table look at me and then them.
    GB E7 looks at GB O3 incredulously and then back at me with that E7 look that can kill… “Is that so?”
    Meanwhile all the Sgts are laughing their collective asses off about 10 yards behind me

  • ArcticWarrior

    LawyerHandle  I don’t know how far the landing craft traveled but I think when elements of the 1st ID went ramp down they had to wade/swim 100 yards to shore just to get into the fight and many drowned before getting to fire a single shot.

  • ArcticWarrior
  • clluelo

    Did you catch the interpretive dance section ??:) right after the shots of OB gum chewing shot :/

  • YankeePapa

    .
    …As an exercise in logistics and planning… an attempt to plan this critical assault in as many ways as possible… the effort was massive.  Much time and ingenuity.
    .
    …Of course, when the time came, it was a dog’s breakfast.  Inexperienced C-47 pilots dropped paratroopers all over hell and gone (unfortunately, some sticks over the ocean…)  Fortunately the Germans were even more confused than the Americans, and for some reason (obvious to the paras) they could find no “center of mass) to the American drops… and were compelled to send forces everywhere… Where they could the paras made it to their assigned targets… where they could not they raised as much hell as possible.

    .
    …Tarawa in November of 1943 had shown that high and mid altitude bombing not very productive on fortifications… Low altitude, steep dive strafing and bomb runs needed.  Lot of the last minute bombing of the Atlantic Wall in the Normandy area resulted in almost all ordinance landing in open fields behind the fortifications.
    .
    …For some reason heavy naval gunfire not as effective as it should have been.  Destroyer squadrons ditched the plan and got as close to the shore as possible without grounding and hammered the fortifications with direct fire from 5” guns.  They may have saved Omaha beach long enough for the troops to break through. 
    .
    …Entire regiments pinned down on Omaha beach while a relative handful of squads got behind fortifications and somehow delayed the reinforcements for the Germans that the paras (often dropped 8 miles or more away) not present to handle. 
    .
    …It was one of those “games” where the team that made the most mistakes would lose.  That proved to be the Germans.  Hitler refused to believe that Normandy was anything but a diversion… (when he finally woke up… had taken a sleeping pill and staff afraid to wake him…)  For all that large parts of the Allied efforts proved to be a shambles… a lot of junior officers and enlisted men “marched to the sound of the guns” and did not wait for the entire lash-up to get their act together… 
    .
    -YP-

  • YankeePapa

    .
    …Many years ago I was watching David Attenborough’s series, “Life on Earth…”  The first episode showed him in a helium balloon much higher than Mount Everest.  He was wearing oxygen mask.  Took a fine mesh net and swept it around… and even at that altitude found life…  Tiny spiders whose threads had been captured by thermals and transported around the globe (they survive much better at such altitudes than people…)  
    .
    …Thought about that back in the early 1990s when a friend gave me a massive book on Normandy invasion.  Big news at one point… Four Japanese infantrymen had been captured by American soldiers!  This was something of a “puzzlement” to Army Intelligence, since the only Japanese soldiers known to be in Europe were high ranking military attaches attached to the German high command.  
    .
    …There were a lot of “Asiatics” in the Wehrmacht… natives of places like Uzbekistan… captured by the Germans from the Soviets and incorporated into their army (usually as labor troops…)  These lads, as it turned out, were Koreans.  
    .
    …Korea had been under the thumb of Japan since 1905.  Young Korean men conscripted into the Japanese Army… usually, though not always as labor troops (almost all of the 17 prisoners taken at Tarawa were Koreans who had no desire to fight to the death for Japan…)  
    .
    …These young men were sent to fight against the Soviet Army in 1939 at Nomonhan (Named Khalkin Gol  by Soviets…Manchuria/Mongolia border)  They were captured and ultimately moved from Siberian camps into Soviet Army.  No desire to die for the Soviet Union… taken prisoner by the Germans… incorporated into their army (these poor slobs…)  After surviving various campaigns, our four heroes wound up on the Atlantic Wall in Normandy.  
    .
    …I would expect no fanatic desire to die for the Third Reich… they surrendered at the first opportunity.  For years I could find no further information on them.  Ultimately I found info on one of the Koreans who had been inducted at age 18 in 1938 into the Japanese Army.   Sent to USA after capture, he stayed and moved to Illinois… where he died in 1992. 

    .
    https://www.google.com/search?q=korean+soldiers+captured+on+D-Day&client=firefox-a&hs=wFB&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&channel=sb&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=SYGXU-iyOsn5oATFmYGIAg&ved=0CDEQsAQ   
    .
    …The above web site is for “Korean soldiers taken prisoner on D-Day…”  Like many such sites, it is contaminated by absolutely irrelevant pictures (including Ethiopian soldiers in Korea and former members of the Indian Army in the SS).  As of now, the first picture showing is of this Korean soldier being processed at the time of his capture at Normandy.

    .
    …No idea on the other three.  Probably repatriated at the end of the war.  Unfortunately still relatively young enough to be conscripted by either side in the Korean War depending on where they lived.  
    .
    …A Korean film company made a fictional story based on this sort of “heigira” premise.  Over the years I have toyed with the idea of co writing a novel with a Korean in America who would have served in the Korean armed forces… and would speak fluent English.  Thought about writing a historical novel about the actual four “captured” on D-Day.  
    .
    …I would call it “Spiders on the Wind…”
    .
    -YP-

  • KineticFury

    YankeePapa YP strikes gold again! Also I was not aware the Tarawa prisoners were Korean, do you know of that occurring elsewhere in the Pacific?

  • YankeePapa

    KineticFury YankeePapa ,
    .
    …The history of the Koreans re the Japanese is complex and messy (as is much of history…)  The Japanese are believed to be a racial offshoot of the Koreans… (but don’t ever tell a Japanese that… he will want to kill you…)
    .
    …At various times and places in history some people in a country that is occupied will cooperate with their occupiers… not because they are stinking collaborators… but because they hope that the occupier, in spite of all abuse, brings hope and change to the country.  This was found among some Spaniards who did not join the guerrillas… but rather hoped that the (recently) revolutionary French armies would bring progress and enlightenment to a country that had wallowed in oppression from their nobility and the Spanish churchmen… So too during the Russian occupation of Afghanistan.
    .
    …The Japanese occupiers pretended that the Koreans were “little brothers” who all welcomed being part of the Japanese empire.  But not only was the slightest resistance crushed… but even cooperation.  Troop of Japanese soldiers marching past Korean schoolgirls who were impressed with marching troops.  They cheered… the troops broke ranks and beat and raped them.  
    …The Japanese did in fact modernize much of the country’s infrastructure…  Roads, rail lines, telegraph and telephone…. and dams.  Most of the common people however profited little from this. 

    .
    …The Japanese decided that the Korean language, history (the Koreans had defeated the mighty Samurai who invaded them centuries before) and culture must eventually vanish.  Korean language slowly being choked out… All Koreans required to stop using Korean names and take Japanese names.  
    .
    …The Japanese conscripted millions of Korean men to be forced laborers… for use in Korea, and in Japan.  Many young girls forced into “Comfort Girl” organization and sent to most areas that Japan controlled.  
    .
    …Some Koreans managed to enlist in the Japanese Army.  A handful actually achieved officer ranks… but the unwritten rule was that if you were say, a captain, then you would be junior to all Japanese captains in your unit.  On the other end of the scale, the Japanese often took the most stupid and brutal Korean soldiers and got them out of their units by having them assigned to POW camps as guards… where many were even worse than the Japanese guards.  
    .
    …Almost anywhere that the Japanese Army served it was almost certain to have Korean labor troops.  In areas where manpower was judged to be inadequate for combat purposes, those labor troops could be used to fight.  The Japanese government claimed that these happily died for the Emperor.  Closer to reality, Japanese officers and NCOs would not hesitate to shoot out of hand any Korean soldier who hesitated in any way…
    .
    “…During World War II, American soldiers frequently encountered Korean
    soldiers within the ranks of the Imperial Japanese Army. Most notably
    was in the Battle of Tarawa
    which was considered during that time to be one of the bloodiest
    battles in U.S. military history. A fifth of the Japanese garrison
    during this battle consisted of Korean laborers….
    .

    …The Japanese, however, did not always believe they could rely on Korean laborers to fight alongside them. In Prisoners of the Japanese, author Gaven Daws wrote, “On Tinian there were five thousand Korean laborers and so as not to have hostiles at their back when the Americans invaded, the Japanese killed them…”
    .
    -YP-

  • YankeePapa

    ArcticWarrior KineticFury ,
    .
    …Had the Allied attack on Normandy been repulsed then one of two things would have happened… Either the Americans would have used their first atomic bomb on the Germans… or the Atlantic Wall would have been overrun… by the Red Army…
    .
    -YP-

  • YankeePapa

    majrod ArcticWarrior KineticFury ,
    .
    …Updated numbers for the number of Allied dead on D-Day itself (not including the following days… where heavy casualties taken) ca. 4,000  …  About the same as the total dead in one day of fighting at Antietam…  where of course every casualty was an American…
    .
    -YP-

  • ArcticWarrior

    YankeePapa ArcticWarrior KineticFury  None of those outcomes are good, Overlord had to succeed.

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