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" In England, hundreds of fake tank and truck-shaped balloons simulated non-existent tank battalions to Nazi recognizance flights.
As preparations neared combat readiness for Operation Overlord, Allied counterintelligence units even went so far as to float the corpse of a soldier outfitted in a high-ranking uniform and equipped with fabricated plans for an invasion of the Calais, in many way, the most logical invasion point because of its geographical proximity to the English coast (Penrose, 2004). Likewise, American aircraft steadily increased their bombardment of Calais to simulate pre-invasion operations in preparation for the actual landings planned for June 4, 1940. Severe weather required a postponement to June 6th, and even then, the operation was nearly cancelled out of concern for the unfavorable conditions at sea (Commager & Miller, 2002).
Luckily, by 1944, the once-mighty German war fleet had been decimated by the U.S. Navy and Hitler's remaining U-boats had gone from being feared predators of the open ocean and seas to becoming prey for Allied warships and planes especially designed to track and destroy them (Bishop & McNab, 2007). Similarly, the Nazi Luftwaffe had largely been defeated over the skies of England in 1940 and, to an even greater extent, by the ferocious and persistent bombing campaigns that destroyed aircraft factories and ball bearing plants across Europe throughout 1943. These successes came at a tremendous cost of the lives of Allied airmen, particularly before the introduction of the P-51 Mustang to escort Allied bombers all the way to Germany. Without the destruction of the German air force and the incapacitation of her navy, the Normandy Invasion would never have been possible at all (Ambrose, 2001). Before the launch of nearly 3,000 ships carrying more than 150,000 men on the morning of June 6th, Allied aircraft and battle ships conducted a sustained bombardment of the French coast and of Nazi facilities and armaments located inland. Unfortunately, many of those efforts missed their targets; furthermore, because of an unplanned delay in between the preparatory shelling and bombing and the landings themselves, German troops were also able to return to the targeted areas where they made use of bomb craters for additional sheltered ambush positions.
The First Allied Victory in Occupied France:
On the night before the landing, thousands of gliders carried Allied soldiers behind German lines to assist with the breakout from the coast after the initial landing forces established a beachhead. Before dawn, 156,000 troops disembarked from the South coast of England toward Normandy. The British Second Army landed at the beaches code-named "Gold" and "Sword," British and Canadian forces landed at "Juno," while "Utah" and "Omaha" were attacked by the American First Army (Ray, 2003).
Fighting was most difficult on Omaha and among all five landing beaches, Allied casualties amounted to 2,500 killed, 10,000 wounded on D-Day.
The landing points were chosen principally for their surprise by virtue of the logical tactical advantage of landing at Calais instead, as well as for their proximity to the port city of Cherbourg (Ray, 2003). However, it would be weeks before the Allies could count on capturing that crucial port; in the meantime, one of the most ingenious concepts implemented in the entire war played a significant role in allowing the off- loading of troops and heavy equipment from large transport ships.
British engineers had come up with an inflatable harbor system known as Mulberry bridges that were connected in hundreds of sections with a solid surface placed above as a roadway. Meanwhile, American "Higgins" boats (named after their inventor) carried personnel in hundreds of smaller landing craft and larger versions that carried vehicles and light armor directly to the beaches (Ambrose, 2001).
Although Operation Overlord was a tremendous success, but Allied armies would suffer 100,000 casualties just in the next six weeks in the breakout from Normandy into Nazi-occupied France. In many respects, the intense battles that followed across Europe for nearly another full year were equally important in their own right to the eventual liberation of Europe in 1945. Nevertheless, historians widely regard the Normandy landing as the beginning of the end of the Second World War.
Ambrose, S. (2001). The Good Fight: How World War II Was Won. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Bishop, C., McNab, C. (2007). Campaigns of World War II Day by Day. London, UK: Amber Books.
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