Your D-Day Questions Answered

The terms D-day and H-hour are used for the day and hour on which a combat attack or operation is to be initiated. They designate the day and hour of the operation when the day and hour have not yet been determined, or where secrecy is essential. The letters are derived from the words for which they stand, "D" for the day of the invasion and "H" for the hour operations actually begin. It is unnecessary to state that H-hour is on D-day.

When used in combination with figures and plus or minus signs, these terms indicate the length of time preceding or following a specific action. Thus, H-3 means 3 hours before H-hour, and D+3 means 3 days after D-day.

The earliest use of these terms by the U.S. Army seems to date from World War I. In Field Order Number 9, First Army, American Expeditionary Forces, dated September 7, 1918: "The First Army will attack at H hour on D day with the object of forcing the evacuation of the St. Mihiel Salient."
There were 156,000 men ashore in Normandy by the end of D-Day, 6th June 1944. Of these just over 130,000 had landed on the beaches, with over 23,000 being dropped by parachute or landed by glider.

Around 73,000 were British whilst 59,000 were American. At Juno beach around 21,000 Canadians landed, and at Sword Beach 177 French commandos landed with the British.

As well as those who actually landed in Normandy, many others from different nations took part in naval and air force units, including Australian, Belgian, Czechoslovak, Danish, French, Greek, Luxembourgers, New Zealanders, Norwegian, Polish and South African.

Just under one month after D-Day, on 4th July 1944, the one-millionth Allied soldier landed in Normandy.
Some of General Eisenhower's advisors had estimated that Allied casualties on D-Day could be as high as 75 percent. Fortunately, that proved not to be the case, but to this day the exact numbers are still a source for some debate. Total Allied casualties on D-Day itself were around 10,000 including 4,414 estimated to have been killed. these include around 2,500 Americans, 1,500 British, 350 Canadian and 10 French.

Records are poorer for the Germans figures, but on D-Day casualty figures are estimated to be between 4,000 and 9,000 - of which around 1,000 were killed. For the Normandy Campaign the Germans lost over 400,000 men killed, wounded or captured. This includes an estimated 55,000-60,000 killed, although some historians claim this figure could be as high as 80,000.

On the Allied side, the Battle of Normandy inflicted around 200,000 casualties including almost 37,000 killed amongst the ground forces and almost 17,000 amongst the Allied air forces.

Civilian casualties during the Battle of Normandy are estimated to be around 20,000 - almost one third of the French civilians killed during the Second World War.

Operation Overlord was the codename given to the Allied invasion of Europe, with the primary task of creating a "secure lodgement" from which further operations could be developed. In its final form, the Overlord plan comprised five phases: the preliminary phase, the preparatory phase, the assault, the expansion of the beachhead, and the securing of the lodgement.

However, Operation Neptune was the codename assigned to the cross-channel assault phase of Overlord. Executed mostly by naval forces (and often referred to as the "naval element" or "amphibious assault"), Operation Neptune also encompassed the airborne elements of the assault by paratroopers and gliderborne infantry.

Operation Neptune also included both MULBERRY (the artificial harbours) and PLUTO (Pipeline Under The Ocean). It officially ended on 3rd July 1944.
The Atlantic Wall was the name given to the thousands of miles of bunkers, observation posts and other defences constructed by the Germans to defend the coast of mainland Europe from Allied invasion.

The defences of the Atlantic Wall were constructed between 1940 and 1944, stretching from Norway to the French border with Spain. Some of the best preserved examples can actually be seen on the Channel Islands of Jersey and Guernsey.

Fortifications and other elements of the Atlantic Wall were often built by slave labourers under the control of "Organisation Todt". Records estimate that around 11,000,000 cubic meters of concrete went into constructing the various fortifications.
In the early hours of 6th June 1944, paratroopers of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions were dropped over the western flank of the invasion area. Two sticks of paratroopers from the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment were dropped directly above the village of Sainte-Mère-Église where, at that time, the town square was filled with German soldiers and civilians as they tried to extinguish a fire which had taken hold in a building.

Many paratroopers were killed whilst still descending or shortly after landing. The parachute of one of the Americans, Private John M. Steele, snagged one of the pinnacles on the church tower. Although injured in the foot during his descent, Steele was alive. For two hours he pretended to be dead hanging limply in his parachute harness. He was taken prisoner later that morning but escaped after four days and re-joined his division when troops of the 3rd Battalion attacked the village.

His story was told in the movie The Longest Day where the part of Private Steele was played by actor Red Buttons. Steele's plight also appears in the first Call of Duty video game.

John Steele died of throat cancer in 1969. The mannequin and parachute are a permanent memorial to him.
On D-Day, shortly after midnight, three gliders containing troops from the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infanty conducted a coup de main to capture the bridge over the Caen Canal. Operation Deadstick as it was designated was to capture the Caen Canal bridge and another several hundred meters to the east over the Orne River. They were amongst the first engagements of Operation Overlord.

Although not paratroopers, the 2nd Battalion "Ox and Bucks" were part of the 6th Airlanding Brigade within the 6th Airborne Division. Parachutist reinforcements from the 6th Airborne Division starting landing shortly after the Ox and Bucks captured the bridge, and later a sign was erected bearing the Pegasus emblem of the British Parachute Regiment.

Since then, the bridge has been known as "Pegasus Bridge". A replacement sign still stands at the site, and the original can now be viewed in the nearby Pegasus Bridge Museum.The smaller bridge across the River Orne is officially known as "Horsa Bridge", after the plywood gliders which delivered the initial assault force.
Yes, originally there were two artificial harbours created. Known as Mulberry A and Mulberry B, one was constructed in the American sector at Omaha Beach, whilst the other - the one from which many large sections are still visible today - was constructed at Arromanches on Gold Beach in the British sector.

On 19th June, a terrible storm battered the Normandy coastline. Both artificial harbours suffered extensive damage, however, Mulberry A was deemed beyond repair and parts that could be salvaged were used to repair Mulberry B at Arromanches.

Winston Churchill personally ordered the development of the artificial harbours, sending a directive on May 30, 1942 to Admiral Mountbatten, the head of combined operations. Hitler's architect, Albert Speer, called the Mulberry harbours 'an idea of simple genius'.

You can read more about the Mulberry Harbours here.
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