The day is known by many names: The storming of the beaches at Normandy; The pivotal moment of World War II; D-Day. June 6, 1944 became a game-changing day in the second World War, as over 150,000 Allied forces charged onto the beaches at Normandy in a coordinated surprise attack that left the German forces retreating into France. So much planning went into that day, and so much unfolded during those morning hours. Here are a few facts about D-Day:
One U.S. President’s son stormed the beaches at Normandy.
Theodore Roosevelt Jr. was the son of, you guessed it, President Teddy Roosevelt. Not only was he the only member of a First Family to storm the beach, at 56 years old General Roosevelt was also the oldest man and only general to storm the beaches at Normandy. He died of a heart attack about a month after D-Day, and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions on D-Day.
60% casualties in 20 minutes.
The losses suffered by American battalions were vast, but the A Company, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry’s losses were especially devastating. The issues began before they even got to shore, with rough seas and heavy clouds interfering with their abilities. In under 20 minutes, 60% of the men were dead or wounded, many having never experienced battle before.
Someone brought a sword to the gunfight
British Lt. Col. John Malcolm Thorpe Fleming Churchill, better known as “Mad Jack”, lived up to his name during D-Day. He jumped from his aircraft, grenade in one hand, sword in the other, and went to work. He captured 40, yes, 40 German officers with his sword in the raid.
A famous author arrived in the second wave, with pages of his famous book in tow.
The 4th Counter Intelligence Corps (C.I.C.) did not have the morning they anticipated. Originally slated to arrive with the first wave of troops around 6:30 in the morning, the current of the ocean pushed the 4th C.I.C. about 2,000 yards south of the strongest German forces. Not only did it possibly save some of their lives, it may have saved an American classic too. Author J.D. Salinger was amongst the 4th C.I.C., carrying the first six chapters of what would become The Catcher In The Rye in his backpack.
Major amphibious attacks are rare.
While attacks over water aren’t uncommon throughout the history of warfare, attacks the size of D-Day are. For comparison, one of the largest known major amphibious attacks that predated D-Day was the failed attempt to invade England by the Spanish Armada in 1588. That attack involved 130 ships and somewhere in the range of 55,000 fighters. D-Day had 5,000 vessels and more than 150,000 troops.
Meteorologists helped plan the attack.
Weather was a crucial factor in the execution of the D-Day invasion. General Dwight D. Eisenhower consulted with three teams of meteorologists from the U.S. and U.K. on dates that would yield to favorable conditions for the attack. The dates given to Eisenhower were June 5, 6, 19, and 20. Naturally there was a desire to go sooner rather than later, so troops and ships were prepared to go on June 5. When the 5th rolled around, everything was held to the 6th. Even as June 6 crept in, there was still some uncertainty, with one of the three meteorological teams voting against launching the attack on June 6. But since the other two teams voted yes, the attack was launched, and history was made.
Posted on June 3 2019 in Blog