What are some facts about D Day

The invasion of Normandy began 70 years ago today | 44 facts about D-Day

Colleville-sur-Mer - It was the largest armada in world history, a mighty riot on the part of the Allies.

On the night of June 6, 1944, soldiers from the USA, Great Britain and Canada crossed ships from England to the coast of Normandy (northern France). Their goal: to smash Hitler's Nazi Germany.

This day went down in history as D-Day, it was the beginning of the end of the Second World War.

Numerous heads of state and government are expected in northern France to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the celebrations to commemorate the achievements of around 150,000 soldiers - and to commemorate the many victims.

Around 1000 veterans are also invited, many of whom are now in their 90s.

In addition to US President Barack Obama, Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron, Queen Elizabeth II, French President François Hollande and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Chancellor Angela Merkel is also expected to attend the celebrations.

A conversation between her and Russian President Putin is firmly planned ...


A historic day - for which BILD 44 has put together interesting facts about D-Day.

The term D-Day

"D-Day" is the term used in English for the beginning of a major military operation with a precisely planned course. The “D” is translated as “Decision” in some sources, but also as “Day” in others. The term was used before the invasion of Normandy, but it did not become known until June 6, 1944.

The BBC's wrong photo contest

In order to find the ideal stretches of beach for a troop landing, the BBC launched a photo competition: The most beautiful French beaches in Normandy. In fact, the secret services were behind it to gather information.

The beach sections

The chosen landing beaches in Normandy, which stretched from Sainte-Mère Eglise in the west to Caen in the east, were given military camouflages: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Sword and Juno.

The hurdle

The Germans' Atlantic Wall was built with great effort: around 13 million cubic meters of concrete were poured in by around 300,000 soldiers and more than 290,000 forced laborers, including prisoners of war and Jews. French companies were also involved in the construction, including Lafarge, one of the largest cement manufacturers in the world.

Roosevelt's prayer

On the day of the landing, President Franklin Roosevelt spoke not with a speech to the American people but with a prayer to God: The soldiers “will need His blessing. You will be sore and tired at night and will not rest during the day until victory is achieved. The darkness will be torn with noise and flames. The souls of men will be shaken by the violence of war. "

The nations involved

14 nations were involved in "Operation Overlord": in addition to the USA, Canada, Great Britain, contingents from France, Australians, New Zealand, Poles, Belgians, Czechs, Greeks, Dutch, Norwegians and other countries. A total of 155,892 Allied soldiers went into battle. Most of the Allies were Americans (57,500 soldiers and 13,000 paratroopers) and British (53,815 soldiers, 10,000 paratroopers). 10,000 men came from Canada and 21,400 from Poland.

A common goal

Many German Jews who had escaped persecution in Germany also fought side by side with the Allies in the 10th Command Unit.

The "Kieffer Command"

177 French also took part in the "Operation Overlord" of the "Jour J", as the day is called in France. The volunteer command under Philippe Kieffer had completed the elite command training of the British Army and wore their headgear, the green beret. However, the patch "France" was emblazoned on her uniform. On June 6th, the "Kieffer Command" captured the casino in Ouistreham, which the Germans had converted into a bunker. Ten French died in the process.

US-led invasion

The invasion was under the top direction of US General Dwigh Eisenhower. The Allied ground forces were commanded by the British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery.

The passage

The passage of US troops from England took about 17 hours.

No consideration for the soldiers

Many men were terribly seasick and frozen.

The weather factor

The D-Day was supposed to take place on June 5th, but was postponed by one day due to bad weather.

The crucial gap in the bad weather front

General Eisenhower and the British Field Marshal Montgomery discovered a gap in the bad weather front on June 6 - and gave the order to march. A risky operation. Eisenhower also considered failure, which is why he already formulated a corresponding press release: "If the company is assigned any guilt or blame, it is mine alone."

Rommel's escape from the rain

The German troops in northern France were convinced that no attack would take place in rain or fog. Even Field Marshal Rommel, head of Army Group B, relied on the weather forecast with continuous rain and drove to Germany - for his wife's birthday.

Only a few German troops in the invasion area

The Germans had only about 50,000 infantrymen and a few aircraft at their disposal in the affected stretch of coast (near Bayeux). Further north, where the landing operation was mistakenly expected, most of the divisions of the Western Army were stationed.

Anne Frank is hopeful

In her hiding place in Amsterdam, the German, Jewish girl Anne Frank (then 14) heard the news of the day of the Allied landing in Normandy on the radio. She wrote in her diary: “This is too beautiful, too magical to ever be real. The thought of freed friends fills us with confidence. "

The trick with the "wrong" troops in Kent

Fake troops were stationed in Kent, in the south-west of England, to deceive the Germans. You should think the advance was going from there in the direction of Calais, some 400 kilometers further north.

Germans ignore notice

The German spy Paul Fidrmuc reported the true location of D-Day to the Nazis - but his message was ignored by the army command. After the war, Fidrmuc worked as a SPIEGEL correspondent in Spain.

U-boats are also used

At four in the morning, mini-submarines appeared near the beaches to donate light and send a radio signal as to where the landings should take place.

The Armada

3100 landing craft with heavy weapons were used under the protection of 1200 warships and 7500 aircraft.

The battle cry

The American Admiral Robert Beer called out to his men on the USS Carmick shortly before the attack began: “This will probably be the biggest party you boys will ever go to. So go on the dance floor and dance! "

The attack

As a first step in the attack, the beaches and German positions were bombed. Paratroopers should then jump off in the hinterland to cut off supply routes. But here there were nasty surprises for the Allies: Many paratroopers drowned in artificial flood areas created by the Germans. Still others died in the hail of bullets from the Germans before they even set foot on the ground.

Improvisation on landing

The landing of the Allies did not go according to plan: The soldiers improvised in places, which in turn put the generals in dire straits. So it happened that while the British succeeded in the operation, parts of the American airborne division were dropped incorrectly: Confused by poor visibility and German defensive fire, the airmen mostly dropped their cargo too early or often too late.

A soldier in the church tower

Private John Steele was dropped with a parachute, but got stuck on the Gothic tower of the parish church in the town of Saint Mère-Église. A bullet hit him in the foot. Steele pretended to be dead. He hung with his parachute on the tower, next to the roaring bell, for over an hour. When the Germans had driven the US units out of town for the time being, a German soldier hid the apparently lifeless man - the soldier was looking for chocolate and cigarettes. Steele was captured and was deaf for weeks from the noise of bells.

The strength of the Germans

The German air force on the coast had a strength of only 90 fighters and 70 bombers and was hopelessly outnumbered. The British and American air fleets had around 5400 fighters, 5100 bombers and 2300 transport aircraft.

Hitler slept through the beginning of the invasion

When the Wehrmacht was surprised that night, the Fiihrer slumbered gently on the Obersalzberg in Berchtesgaden. Nobody dared to wake him up and deliver the bad news. “The Fiihrer receives the message when he has had breakfast,” said a wing adjutant to the excited armaments minister Albert Speer. When Hitler slept in, he didn't really want to trust the news from France - he believed it was a feint.

The first dead

Den Brotheridge was the first British soldier to die on D-Day. The platoon leader was hit in the neck by a bullet. The name of the first American soldier to be shot is Robert Mathias.

Bad ideas

In order to support the soldiers in their landing on the beach, a crazy plan was to be implemented: The Allies wanted to make some of their tanks swim with sailcloths - which failed completely.

Good ideas

To increase confusion among the Germans about the attack, the attackers dropped thousands of rubber dolls. They went down on parachutes in the middle of the German defensive fire and also sailed into the areas where no actual attack took place.

Tough start

In the first wave of landing at Omaha Beach, one unit suffered 91 percent losses. General Omar Bradley later wrote: "Six hours after the landings, we were only nine meters from the beach."

The highest losses

The 6000 meter long section on Omaha Beach is also called "Bloody-Omaha": There the Allies encountered strong German defensive fire. Around 3,000 US soldiers were killed.

Balance of the first day

On the evening of D-Day, the Allies recorded losses of around 12,000 men, including around 4,400 dead. The number of German wounded, missing and fallen is estimated at 4,000 to 9,000 men.

The final number

All in all, 23,000 parachute soldiers landed on D-Day. But only 15 percent of the airborne troops landed in the right place. Even so, the Luftwaffe failed to shoot down a single Allied aircraft.

People hope and pray

As the news of D-Day spread, the New York Daily News took its cover stories from the paper and printed the Our Father on the first page. In Ottawa, the Canadian Parliament rose and sang “God Save the King” and the “Marseillaise”.

Sex even in war

The morning after D-Day, police stormed a brothel that French women had opened in a broken ship.

Support from all sides

The French resistance sabotaged railway lines in France 950 times on June 5 and 6, so that German soldiers could only move up slowly as reinforcements.

Goebbels believed in victory

On June 7, 1944, Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels noted: “The Führer is extremely excited. The invasion is taking place exactly where we expected it ... It would have to end with the devil if we couldn't deal with it. "

Business with agents

The British secret service created a network of fake agents to feed the German government with misinformation. The Germans paid well for the clues - the money went to the British treasury.

"New" means of transport

British soldiers who entered after D-day had bicycles with them so that they could move around independently within the country.

The number of deaths can only be estimated

Today there are 27 cemeteries in the region where fallen soldiers are buried.

Chancellor Helmut Kohl declined to celebrate

In 1984 the then Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl turned down an invitation to attend the commemorative ceremony for the first time. "There is no reason for the German Chancellor to celebrate when others commit their victory in a battle in which tens of thousands of Germans perished miserably," he said at the time. In 1994 Kohl refused again.

A lot of material for a film

In 1998, director Steven Spielberg filmed the Normandy Landing (starring Hollywood star Tom Hanks): "Saving Private Ryan" won five Academy Awards.

German past still present

It was not until 2004, 60 years after the Allies landed in Normandy, that Gerhard Schröder, the first German Chancellor, and 23 other heads of state and government, took part in the central commemoration in Arromanches. He sparked a heated debate about whether he should lay a wreath in the largest German military cemetery, La Cambe. Schröder refrained from doing so, out of concern that the French might understand this as an honor to the SS soldiers buried there.

Merkel keeps thinking alive

Schröder visited the Commonwealth military cemetery in Ranville, not far from Ouistreham, where 133 German soldiers are also buried. Chancellor Angela Merkel wants to do the same on Friday and also visit the cemetery in Ranville.

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