Operation Overlord

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Operation Overlord
Plan for Operation Overlord and the accompanying bomber offensive, with the German positions on June 6, 1944
Plan for Operation Overlord and the accompanying bomber offensive, with the German positions on June 6, 1944
date June 6 to August 25, 1944
place France
output Allied victory
consequences Withdrawal of the Greater German Reich from France
Parties to the conflict

United States 48United States United States United Kingdom Canada France Poland Norway Other allies
United KingdomUnited Kingdom 
Canada 1921Canada 
France 1944Provisional Government of the French Republic 
Poland 1944Poland 

German Reich NSGerman Reich (Nazi era) German Empire


United States 48United States Dwight D. Eisenhower
(Commander in Chief SHAEF ) Bernard Montgomery (Commander in Chief of the Ground Forces) Bertram Ramsay (Commander in Chief of the Naval Forces) Trafford Leigh-Mallory (Commander in Chief of the Air Forces)
United KingdomUnited Kingdom

United KingdomUnited Kingdom

United KingdomUnited Kingdom

German Reich NSGerman Reich (Nazi era) Adolf Hitler
(Commander in Chief of the Wehrmacht) Gerd von Rundstedt ( Commander in Chief West ) Erwin Rommel (Commander in Chief of Army Group B )
German Reich NSGerman Reich (Nazi era)

German Reich NSGerman Reich (Nazi era)

Troop strength
about 1,530,000 soldiers (June 11) around 350,000, but probably around 1,000,000 soldiers spread across France (beginning of June)

(estimated) 65,700 dead (37,000 dead in the land forces and 28,714 dead in the air force), 18,000 missing and 155,000 wounded

(estimated) 200,000 dead, wounded and missing
(50,000 dead)
200,000 prisoners of war

The Allied Invasion of Normandy or Operation Overlord from June 6, 1944 ( English for Oberherr , Lehnsherr ) as an alias for the landing of the Western Allies of the anti-Hitler coalition in Northern France in the Second World War led to the establishment of the second front against the German Reich . The landing, mainly with the help of ships and massive air support, took place mainly on the French coast of the English Channel east of Cherbourg in Normandy . The first day is also called D-Day (possibly after the word Débarquement ) or the longest day . The successful landing brought the Soviet Union the long-desired relief for the Red Army in the fight against the Wehrmacht .

The German leadership had built a system of defensive fortifications on the Atlantic coast, the so-called Atlantic Wall , and expected - also because of the Allied deception operation Fortitude  - an Allied invasion further east on the Pas-de-Calais , since the sea route across the canal is much shorter there was.

"Using 6,400 ships [...] 326,000 men, 104,000 tons of material and 54,000 vehicles landed between the mouth of the Orne near Caen and Cherbourg by June 12th (850,000 men by June 30th)."

After securing a bridgehead , the first part of the invasion plans (Operation Neptune) was successful with the breakthrough at Avranches at the end of July 1944. Paris was liberated on August 25, 1944 .

Troops from the United States , Great Britain , Canada , Poland , France , New Zealand and other countries took part in the fighting .

For the company, the largest landing fleet of the war was assembled and a large number of aircraft made available (see also Sea Warfare during Operation Overlord and Air Warfare during Operation Overlord ).

To commemorate the fallen and the events , former combatants built several cemeteries, memorials and museums in the former operational area after the war. Operation Overlord plays a central role in the American and British culture of remembrance of the Second World War and is the subject of numerous non-fiction books, novels and games as well as documentaries and feature films.

Short chronicle

After the first days of landing, the Allies continued to build their bridgehead.

  • In the west of the invasion area it obstructed the Bocage terrain , which was difficult to penetrate . The main destination was the port of Cherbourg. Captured on June 26th, after 15 days of clearing work, it was used for the invasion.
  • The German elite tank units were concentrated in the east ( Battle of Caen ), as a breakthrough there could lead directly to Paris.
  • The Germans held Brest and its port until the end of September.

After weeks of fighting, Operation Cobra (July 25th to August 4th) succeeded in breaking through the German positions in the west of the invasion area near the Atlantic coast after a major attack by US troops.

The Americans immediately advanced in different directions: further west into Brittany , partly south to the Loire ; with the main body to the east to (Paris) and with some divisions against the Canadians, Poles and British, in order to enclose the defending 7th Army (Wehrmacht) in the Falaise pocket. Paris was liberated on August 25th and was saved from war damage ( Dv Choltitz ).

Marshal Walter Model , who was briefly commanded to the West by Hitler from the Eastern Front , which was also attacked in the summer , immediately organized the withdrawal of German troops from most of France without asking. From autumn 1944 onwards, more stable fronts began to form again on the German western border .

Essential for the victory was the securing of supplies for the Allied troops through two floating harbors on the coast, through pipelines for fuel laid under the canal and the truck columns of the Red Ball Express to behind the ever-advancing front.

Prehistory and Allied Planning

The rescue of most of its expeditionary army from France during the Battle of Dunkirk at the beginning of June 1940 put England in a moral and personal position to endure the battle for the island against the German air force and thus avert Hitler's threat of invasion .

Immediately after the armistice between Germany and France on June 22, 1940 - the following night - "British commandos undertook a reconnaissance expedition to the French coast near Boulogne." There was a brief engagement, but no further results. A symbolic new beginning was made. As early as July 1940, Churchill "formed a command for amphibious operations" and on October 5, 1940 commissioned the planning staff to "examine the possibilities of offensive operations in Europe, including the formation of a bridgehead on the Cherbourg peninsula."

In mid-September 1940 the Royal Air Force had achieved superiority in the air and had already smashed parts of the German transport fleet, so that Hitler decided to “postpone ' Operation Sea Lion ' for an indefinite period”.

Events in the period 1940–1941

Towards the end of 1940 Hitler took an initiative to continue the war against England offensively and proposed a "four power pact" to the Soviet Union (still with Italy and Japan ) for the "distribution of the British Empire" and the "delimitation of their spheres of interest in the world " in front. The discussion about this took place on November 12th and 13th, 1940 in Berlin between Ribbentrop and Molotov and at times also with Hitler. While the Germans didn't play with open cards (it was about " pulling Russia out of the Balkan sphere and orienting it east" - Hitler to Mussolini on November 20, 1940), Molotov had clearly defined Soviet interests - Black Sea and Baltic Sea as well the Balkans - and specifically asked about German intentions and demands guarantees for the Soviet Union. Hitler then kept a low profile and when, two weeks after the conference, Stalin confirmed the above-mentioned definition of Russian interests, “Hitler's answer [...] was not sent to Moscow, but on December 18 [1940] went to his commanders-in-chief: 'Die German Wehrmacht must be prepared to defeat Soviet Russia in a quick campaign before the end of the war against England '( Barbarossa case ). "For Hitler it still looked as if he could put the British on a strategic defensive by conquering the Mediterranean region But this plan was severely dampened by Franco's cancellation of the alliance on February 26, 1941.

On February 8, 1941, after the Senate , the House of Representatives also approved Roosevelt's Lending and Lease Act in support of Great Britain. This made it clear to Hitler that he had to overthrow the Soviet Union as quickly as possible if he wanted to avoid a two-front war.

After the German attack on the Soviet Union began on June 22, 1941, Churchill said on the same day: “We have only one goal, one single irrevocable task. We are determined to destroy Hitler and every trace of the Nazi regime. Nothing will dissuade us from that - nothing. ”Soon afterwards Roosevelt reiterated this statement.

On October 3, 1941, Hitler had already announced his victory in the east and at the end of September 1941 ordered the necessary re-equipment to build up the air and sea power necessary for an immediate attack on the British Isles. When the Red Army launched a counter-offensive off Moscow on December 5, 1941 , the illusion that the campaign would end quickly was destroyed.

Tug of war around the second front

In June 1941, when "Russia was transforming itself from an unfriendly neutral to an ally in need of help, Stalin sent Churchill the first of a series of letters urging the immediate formation of a second front in France."

When Stalin's letter of September 4, 1941 became a reproachful demand, a sharp controversy arose with Churchill. Nevertheless, Churchill immediately instructed the planning staff to complete the planning for operations on the mainland, which was also done in December 1941 as a draft with reference to the summer of 1943.

Two weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor , the US naval base in Hawaii , on December 7, 1941 and the associated entry into the war by the US , Churchill and Roosevelt and their management staff met for the Arcadia Conference in Washington DC (December 22, 1941 to January 14, 1942). "They decided to pool all of the military and economic resources of the two nations under the direction of a joint command, the 'Combined Committee of Chiefs of Staff' ." British fears that the Americans would change their goals after Pearl Harbor was dispelled by General George C. Marshall , the chairman of the committee: “Despite Japan's entry into the war, it is still our view that Germany is the main enemy and that her defeat is the key to victory. Once Germany has been defeated, the collapse of Italy and the defeat of Japan must follow. "

On March 9, 1942, Roosevelt took the initiative again, and on April 8, Marshall and Harry Hopkins , the President's personal adviser , arrived in London. The preparations for Operation Roundup , which provided for a landing in northern France in 1943, were followed by a resolution of April 14, 1942, the planning of Operation Sledgehammer as an “emergency measure” (Churchill) in the event “to attempt a landing in France in 1942 if a A desperate undertaking should be necessary to save the Soviet Union from collapse. ”
To“ take advantage of the time, ”Roosevelt accepted Churchill's proposal to carry out the Anglo-American landing in Tunisia , then called Operation Torch .

The "desperation" was also due to the fact that in addition to the advance of Japan and the unclear situation in Africa, the naval war in particular began to develop catastrophically for the Western Allies.

In May 1942 Molotov arrived in London "to negotiate an Anglo-Russian alliance and to learn our views on the opening of a Second Front." After Molotov had been to Washington for a while, a communiqué was published in London on June 11, 1942 , which contained the sentence: "In the course of the negotiations, full understanding was reached on the urgent task of establishing a Second Front in Europe in 1942."

Churchill continues: “But it seemed to me above all important that this attempt to mislead the enemy not also mislead our allies. I therefore handed Molotov [...] an aide-mémoire in which I made it clear that we tried our best to make plans, but we were not committed to an action and could not make any promises. "

During the summer of 1942 they worked on "Sledgehammer", but this only led to the realization that the company was hopeless. The file was closed: “We were all for the great canal crossing in 1943. But the question inevitably arose: What are we doing in the meantime? […] President Roosevelt was determined that as many Americans as possible should face the Germans as early as 1942. Now where could that be achieved? [...] in French North Africa. "

Landing in Dieppe

Burning British landing craft on Dieppe Beach

The Allies also planned to launch an attack on the French city of Dieppe , the main aim of which was to investigate whether it would be possible to hold a port on the occupied mainland for a short period of time. In addition, intelligence information should be collected and the behavior of the German occupiers analyzed. This Operation Jubilee was largely led by Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten , Chief of Combined Operations , and took place on August 19, 1942. Mostly Canadian soldiers were selected for the attack, who were to return to combat after a long period of time.

In Great Britain the realization solidified that the second front called for by Josef Stalin in Western Europe could not be built in 1942. The Dieppe attack also provided important information for the later Operation Overlord. The extent to which the mock attack was intended to convince Stalin that the 1942 invasion he had called for was not yet possible is a matter of dispute among historians.

The Nazi propaganda tried to play up the failed Allied advance as a failed attempt a large-scale invasion. Allied casualties totaled 4,304 dead, wounded and prisoners, including 907 Canadians. Of the 4,963 Canadians, 2,210 returned after the mission, many wounded. A total of around 2,000 Allied soldiers were taken prisoner by Germany. 119 Allied aircraft were lost (106 of them, the highest daily loss in the history of the RAF). In contrast, the Wehrmacht had suffered losses of around 591 men (at least 311 killed and 280 wounded), as well as 48 aircraft.

Planning for 1944

At the Casablanca Conference in January 1943, after the first successful invasion of the North African coast, Operation Torch , the Combined Chiefs of Staff came to the conclusion that the preparations for Operation Roundup would not be finished before mid-August. This would mean that the invasion could not start before late autumn 1943, which would mean that Roundup would not be able to support the Soviet summer offensive. The landing on the Italian coast in Sicily was to be brought forward and the invasion of Western Europe was postponed until 1944, with the British still reserving the option of a small beachhead from late 1943. In addition, it was decided to destroy the German Air Force through air raids in 1943 and subsequent attacks on supply facilities that were supposed to prepare for the big landing in 1944.

At the American-British Trident Conference in Washington in May, Churchill and Roosevelt set May 1944 as the invasion date. After this conference, Stalin was informed that there would be no more invasion in 1943. The first detailed plans for Operation Overlord were presented at the Quadrant Conference in Quebec in August.

First plans as Operation Skyscraper

SHAEF Planning Commission (from left to right): General Omar Bradley , Admiral Bertram Ramsay , Air Chief Marshall Arthur Tedder , General Dwight D. Eisenhower , General Bernard Montgomery , Air Chief Marshall Trafford Leigh-Mallory and General Walter Bedell Smith

The Roundup plan was expanded significantly from March 1943 by the British Lieutenant General Frederick E. Morgan , later the COSSAC . A first version, called Operation Skyscraper , called for a landing on the beaches at Caen and the eastern Cotentin beaches, with four divisions forming the first wave and another six immediately following. In addition, eleven Sonderkommandos were planned for special missions, as well as four airborne divisions to attack German supplies. After the first bridgehead , which also included Cherbourg , the conquest of further ports to secure their own supplies was planned. The advance should be in the direction of the ports on the Seine estuary, with a necessary further landing at Le Havre . In the further course Antwerp was to fall in order to raise the Allied troops between the Pas-de-Calais and the Ruhr . Skyscraper's planning was shaped by the uncovering of the main problems for a canal crossing, which essentially lay in the provision of a sufficient number of landing craft . The absolute minimum was considered to be ten divisions, which would be just enough to fight the current enemy units in the west. Should the Allies not succeed in preventing additional German troops from being transferred to France, the invasion fleet had to be increased to transport further divisions. Two additional divisions had to be available for coastal defense.

Operation Skyscraper made high demands, not least to unravel the dependencies on troop strengths, material availability, timing and costs, which contributed significantly to the standstill of Roundup planning. However, the planners also urged a quick decision in order not to have to enforce their demands against an emerging enemy armament. The longer the planning phase dragged on, the more it turned out that the Allies were not yet ready for an invasion. After all, the goals for Operation Skyscraper were set too high. The British planners withdrew from the staff because the thought of "firm resistance" did not seem sufficient to determine the number of attack divisions. So there was a break in invasion planning.

Operation Overlord

Since some of the planners moved to the COSSAC staff, many of the skyscraper ideas were not lost and were carried over into Operation Overlord. But General Morgan also saw that a fresh start with a new approach was inevitable. While a great deal of usable data had been collected, a consistent, workable plan was still lacking. Morgan instructed his planning staff to consider the existing plans as much as possible in order to save time but consider the planning work as something entirely new.

The planned expansion of the bridgehead - documents of the 21st Army Group from February 1944

The overall concept that was then presented consisted mainly of a large-scale land offensive, the climax of which was the invasion and occupation of Germany with around 100 divisions . The opening scenario was to fight a Canadian army in the southwest, while the main force in the US was ready to cross the Atlantic. In view of the necessary air support, the attack should be carried out on the left flank, opposite the British units. More American forces were to expand the bridgehead and capture the ports through which the main US units should go ashore. To avoid confusion of administrative responsibilities, it was better to refer to the Canadian bridgehead as the American left flank. In any case, the opening of the Atlantic ports meant a relocation of the invasion site from east to west. It quickly became clear to Morgan that the landings could only take place in France. Capturing the ports in Belgium and the Netherlands would have meant that the landing forces would have to take up the fight for Germany directly.

Assuming the Germans would establish the best possible defenses on the coast, and given the resources available to the Allies, Commodore John Hughes-Hallett , the British naval chief planner, estimated in May that the landing forces from four divisions would be an additional 16,000 Soldiers in armored dropships and around 12,000 vehicles in LSTs and similar ships would have to exist. Another division would have to go ashore within 24 hours.

But the main problem, the availability of DropShips of all kinds, was still not resolved. The British tried to wrest an assurance from the Americans that the ships would be available on time. By the then current situation in the Pacific War , the Americans but for now could not be persuaded to such assurances, although the mass production of amphibious units due to the Marshall - Memorandum was in full swing since the 1942nd The responsibility for this was borne by the US Navy , which built all kinds of ships from gunboats to aircraft carriers in its shipyards , but had no experience with landing craft. In addition, the shipyards were still heavily burdened with older orders. For this reason, they gave the orders to smaller shipyards in the American interior. But it became difficult to find and train the crews who drove the boats to the Atlantic coast. This task was eventually taken over by the American Coast Guard with poorly trained personnel. For example, a serious accident that a young commander of an inland ferry almost caused could only just be prevented. He steered a landing craft down the Niagara River at night and missed the junction into the Erie Canal , so that he was heading straight for Niagara Falls . Disregarding all warning signs from the shore, his boat ran aground a few hundred meters from the waterfall. When questioned later, he testified that he had seen the light signals, but did not know their meaning. This inexperience delayed the program, but did not seriously jeopardize it. In February 1943, the program ended as planned with a record number of 106,146 displacement tonnes of ships built. The program continued thereafter, but production figures were reduced and in May 1943 only 60,000 tons per month were being produced.

The British urged the US to increase production in order to have the planned landing fleet at the scheduled time in the spring of 1944. Since the British production facilities themselves were fully utilized, the boats had to come from the USA. In return, the Americans argued that their other shipbuilding programs had been delayed due to the high emissions of landing craft since 1942. They were unwilling to accept any further procrastination for the next six months.

Tehran Conference

Left to right: Josef Stalin , Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill in Tehran

At the Tehran Conference in November 1943, a conference of the anti-Hitler coalition in which Josef Stalin took part for the first time , US President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill announced Operation Overlord would land in northern France in May 1944 .

Operation Dragoon was under discussion for a second landing in southern France .

Churchill wanted to postpone this second landing and first conquer northern Italy and then land in the Balkans in order to counterbalance the Soviet advance there. He couldn't get through with it. While the British and Americans proposed two separate actions, Stalin wanted to see them as a simultaneous pincer attack from the south and north of France on the German occupiers. This put the Western Allies under pressure and began to work out both Operation Overlord and Operation Dragoon in every detail. As early as the beginning of 1944 they began the first exercises for the landing in Great Britain, which, however, could not yet follow the drafts for Operation Neptune , the plan of attack for the Normandy coast, as this only existed in its basic features at the time.

For this purpose, a joint command post was considered, which had to take over the coordination for the preparation and implementation of the action. This was established with the establishment of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) in mid-February 1944. In addition to the management staff and operational departments, SHAEF also included a reconnaissance department, which was extremely important for spying on the German positions for the planned landing.

The staff of SHAEF took the outline of the plan developed by Frederick E. Morgan and shaped it into the final version, Operation Overlord, which was launched on June 6, 1944 by General Dwight D. Eisenhower and the Land Forces Commander for the initial part of the invasion, General Sir Bernard Montgomery was started.

The planning essentially comprised the following operations:

German measures

  • Hitler's 'directive No. 51' (of November 3, 1943; before the Tehran Conference, the last strategic directive he issued) provides for a strengthening of German forces in the west to ward off an Allied invasion. ('The danger in the east has remained, but a greater one is looming in the west; the Anglo-Saxon landing! […] If the enemy succeeds in breaking into our defense on a broad front, the consequences are incalculable.' [Hitler]).
  • Mid-December 1943: Field Marshal Rommel begins to review the defense measures in France, Belgium and the Netherlands. On January 1, 1944, Rommel took over as mayor of H. Gr. B - under Mayor West (v. Rundstedt) "the leadership of all German forces north of the Loire ."
  • June 6, 1944: At breakfast, Hitler receives news of the invasion of France. He remarks to Keitel: 'The news couldn't be better. As long as they were in England, we couldn't believe them. Now we finally have her where we can beat her. '


Special Allied equipment

M4 Sherman - mine clearance tank with rear-facing turret in action. The flail device attached to the front causes mines to explode.

At the beginning of 1944 Major-General Percy Hobart , Eisenhower and Montgomery were able to demonstrate a brigade of buoyant DD tanks , Crab mine clearance vehicles and AVRE tanks, as well as a regiment of "Crocodile" flame throwing tanks, all of which were Hobart's Funnies . Montgomery was convinced that they should be made available to the US armed forces as well and offered them half of the vehicles available. The Americans reacted cautiously to this proposal. Eisenhower liked the armored vehicles , but left the decision to other executives, such as General Omar Bradley , who in turn referred them to his officers. The Americans did not accept any of the other drafts.

Rommel during an inspection of Hemmbalken on the Atlantic Wall, April 1944

Given the need for some new experimental vehicles to help advance the French invasion beaches, Field Marshal Alan Brooke decided in 1943 to develop them. It was necessary to remove the obstacles on the British landing beaches as quickly as possible, as the relatively flat hinterland made an early German counter-attack possible. Some of the ideas were a bit older, tested and already used, such as the Scorpion “flail” tanks, converted Matilda tanks that had paved the way for the British through the German minefields in North Africa .

The invasion plan also envisaged the construction of two man-made "Mulberry" ports to bring troops and equipment ashore during the first weeks of the invasion. Furthermore, pipelines running under the water should be laid to supply the Allied forces with fuel ( Operation PLUTO ).

Reconnaissance operations

The Allies created a profile of the landing area using aerial photographs , drawings by the Resistance, the collection of private vacation photos in Great Britain and individual command operations, during which sand and rock samples were also taken.

The British Admiralty contacted the population via the BBC on May 19, 1942, with the request that they be sent postcards and photos showing the French coast. Within a short period of time, the Admiralty received nine million photos and maps, of which around 500,000 were copied and evaluated by experts. In this way, a multitude of geological details were discovered that were not shown on any map.

In the autumn of 1943, the Allied cartographers discovered that the maps of Normandy were based on surveys from 1895/96 and were therefore of limited use. All landing sections were therefore photographed both from a height of 10,000 meters and at low altitude. As a distraction, two were made in the Pas de Calais for each flight over Normandy. The aim was to create a "D-Day Invasion Map" that should make orientation easier for all units. The map series was finished in June 1944 and went into production with a total circulation of over 18 million copies.

On the night of July 3rd to 4th 1943 ten members of the so-called "Forfar Force", a special unit from the X. "German" troop of the 10th Inter-Allied Command and the Special Boat Section (SBS), landed near the Norman Onival seaside resort near Le Tréport . The landing was the first of a total of seven reconnaissance attacks in the course of Operation Forfar Easy, the aim of which was to identify the German units stationed near the coast, determine the extent and type of beach obstacles, record German positions and take soil samples. The German-speaking soldiers of the special unit were equipped with German uniforms and weapons. Sometimes the troops stayed for a long time in the villages in the Pas-de-Calais area and in Normandy and exchanged postcards with the locals with German positions drawn in for chocolate. By August 1943, the special unit had finished its operation.

In preparation for the Normandy landings, British chariots (manned torpedoes) and combat divers were also used to search the seabed along the Normandy coast for obstacles. They examined the water and inspected the beach as much as possible, which is why the Allies had good information about the landing area. In addition, models of the area were built based on aerial photographs from the Royal Air Force (RAF) and reports from French resistance fighters .

On January 12, 1944, the Combined Operations Pilotage Parties (COPP) determined that there might be some problems with the landing beaches as peat and clay were found during samples . The physicist Professor JD Bernal described possible effects of the peat and clay:

"A large part of the area between Asnelles and la Rivière will prove impassable even to lightly equipped infantry without vehicles."

"Much of the area between Asnelles and la Rivière (both municipalities in the canton of Ryes ) will prove to be impenetrable, even for lightly equipped infantry without vehicles."

Based on Bernal's report, further scouting missions were ordered to take additional samples. In addition, French geologists were sent to Paris to look for geological maps of Normandy. Four maps were found and smuggled into England, where they were examined by the Inter-Services Topographical Department in Oxford . Bernal's warnings turned out to be too pessimistic, although the loss of some armored vehicles was still to be expected.

On January 17th, an Allied submarine , HMS X20, set sail from England during Operation Postage Able to scout the French coast for four days. During the day, the crew analyzed the shoreline and the beach with the periscope and sounded out the seabed with an echo sounder . During the nights, two of the crew members swam to the beach - each with special equipment, including an underwater notebook with a pencil, a compass, a .45 revolver and an auger. Soil samples were collected in condoms . The divers went ashore for two nights to survey the beaches at Vierville , St. Laurent , Les Moulins and Colleville , which would form the US-American stretch of beach Omaha Beach. On the third night they were supposed to go ashore at the mouth of the Orne , but could not do so due to exhaustion and bad weather conditions, whereupon they returned to England on January 21st. They brought information about the geological nature of the beaches, the position of rocks and the tides.

On March 31, the entire coast of northern France was under the observation of specially equipped Allied aircraft with horizontal and vertical cameras. Reconnaissance flights showed that the number of German batteries had risen from 16 to 49 artillery batteries (for the entire coast of northern France) within eight weeks .

Exercises and planning gaps

Invasion training on the English coast - maneuvers with real ammunition
Invasion training on the English coast - landing maneuvers

The Allies rehearsed the invasion months before D-Day. Allied forces practiced a landing on April 28, 1944 south of Devon during Exercise Tiger . When the convoy was discovered and torpedoed by German speedboats , 749 American soldiers lost their lives.

The ban on travel to and from the Republic of Ireland (which was neutral and partially cooperated with the Germans) also posed a threat to the success of Operation Fortitude (see Allied deception measures ("Operation Fortitude") ) and thus also the entire invasion such as the ban on moving in the coastal areas used for Operation Overlord. In order to devalue this clear indication of an invasion, the Allied secret services showered the German consulates with misinformation, so that the bans were ultimately ignored by the Germans.

In the weeks leading up to the invasion, the planners of Operation Overlord were upset by the surprisingly large number of crosswords in the British Daily Telegraph , which were also codenames during the invasion. The British secret service MI 5 thought this was a coincidence, but when the word "Mulberry" appeared, people became restless and sought out the creator of the puzzle. The creator, a teacher, did not know about the operation, but it later turned out that the words had been suggested by his students, who in turn had heard them from soldiers but did not know what they meant.

There were several planning gaps before and on D-Day. A major Allied mistake revolved around General de Gaulle's radio message after D-Day. He found there, unlike all other Allied leaders, that the invasion of Normandy was the correct and only invasion. This statement could undermine the overall impact of Operations Fortitude North and South. Eisenhower, for example, referred to the invasion as just an initial invasion. The Germans, however, did not believe de Gaulle; they remained expecting a second invasion elsewhere and therefore did not move additional units to Normandy.

Operation Anvil / Dragoon

In addition to Operation Overlord, which was still called Operation Hammer at the time, the Allies planned Operation Anvil (= anvil). Winston Churchill feared that Anvil would distribute the fighting power of the Allied forces to too many theaters of war at the same time and that the units of the Western Allies would advance towards Berlin more slowly than the Soviet allies . He later complained that he had been harassed until he accepted the invasion, which would then take place under the code name Operation Dragoon .

The American supporters hoped that the operation would lead to the rapid conquest of two large ports - Toulon and Marseilles , with whose capture the supply of the troops fighting in France , including those fighting in Normandy, would be considerably facilitated. In fact, until the capture of Antwerp in December 1944, around a third of the total supply of troops to the Allies could be transported from Marseille to northern France via the Rhône route, including repaired bridges and railway lines. Operation Dragoon was to begin on the Côte d'Azur between Toulon and Cannes on August 15, 1944.


Map of Normandy and the allied front with drawn Bocage landscape
Bocage landscape

In the west of Normandy the coast consists of granite and in the east of limestone cliffs, which rise up to 150 meters high. In some places, mainly in the middle of the region, you can also find miles of sandy beaches. Due to special coastal phenomena , the water level at the peak of the high tide can be more than ten meters above that at low tide ( tidal range ). That is why the current often reaches a speed of 35 kilometers per hour. All year round, westerly winds prevail in Normandy, often at hurricane strength .

In the north, Normandy is bounded by the English Channel and crossed by several rivers such as the Seine , Orne and Vire . The Orne was tactically important because it represented a natural border between the German 7th and 15th Armies that could only be crossed over the bridges. It was therefore useful for the Allies to destroy these bridges and thus prevent the armies from joining together.

Celtic farmers built wall hedges in the western part of Normandy about 2000 years ago for the purpose of delimiting fields. This so-called bocage landscape comprised many fields, small paths, rivers and creeks that provided good defensive positions during Operation Overlord. In the past two millennia, ramparts about one to three meters wide and up to three and a half meters high had developed from the hedgerows. These walls were mostly overgrown with blackberry and other thorny shrubs and bushes, so that they could reach a total height of up to 4.5 meters. Surviving Allied soldiers reported that every single field had to be conquered through fierce fighting. In addition to the Bocage, there was another natural obstacle for the Allies in the west: extensive swamps stretched in the area of Carentan and made it impossible to cross by vehicles. Of these swamps there are five larger ones and several smaller ones in the Carentan plain, which the German defenders expanded through artificial flooding. Because of this impenetrable swamp landscape, the Allies ultimately had to advance through the Bocage landscape.

In the area from Arromanches to the Orne estuary, the Germans had bricked up the windows of the houses facing the sea and provided them with loopholes so that they could offer resistance from there in an emergency. The Germans had blocked all the streets that led into the beach promenades with concrete walls that formed a line with the house fronts.

In the east of Normandy - in the area of ​​Caen - the ground was mostly flat, dry and firm. Therefore, it was well suited for large tank maneuvers. In addition, because of the hardly hilly country, you have a good and above all far-reaching overview. The Germans knew the tactical value of this area and therefore stationed most of their armored divisions in Normandy in the Caen area. They also posted observation posts on high buildings or towers in order to take advantage of the good overview of the site.

Allied deception measures ("Operation Fortitude")

With the help of the German
Enigma radio messages deciphered in Bletchley Park , the Allies were able to better coordinate their deception undertakings.
British aircraft dummy in October 1943

To make the Germans believe that the invasion would take place on the Pas-de-Calais or in Norway, the Allies launched the so-called Operation Fortitude . The large-scale deception was split into two operations: "Fortitude North" (Norway, British) and "Fortitude South" (Pas-de-Calais, American).

In the southeast of England, therefore, the fictional First US Army Group ("FUSAG") was set up under the command of Lesley J. McNair and George S. Patton . False radio communications reinforced the German suspicions that the invasion should take place in the Pas-de-Calais area. The recruitment of soldiers from various US states was reported. Fictitious commanders were invented and entire baseball and football games were broadcast between departments. Private messages from the non-existent soldiers back home were also read out. The phantom divisions belonging to this army group were each represented by a few soldiers with fake troop badges.

The Germans had installed a network of spies in Great Britain, which, however, were largely exposed by the British MI5 during the course of the war and some of them were used as double agents. As part of the “Double Cross System”, these defectors provided the Germans with false information about the location and concentration of the Allied troops. At the same time, dummies of landing craft were placed in the harbors in south-east and east England, which were photographed by the German Air Force, thus confirming the assumption of an invasion in the Pas de Calais area.

During Operation Fortitude North, radio traffic was simulated from Scotland to make the Germans believe that an invasion of Norway would take place. As a consequence, the German troops left in Norway that would otherwise have been relocated to France. The British also created a non-existent army, the British 4th Army , which was to serve as a fictitious association to carry out this invasion of Norway.

German situation

Command structure in the west - 1944
German soldiers in deck chairs in front of fortifications in Normandy (1942)

The Germans had been concerned about an adequate expansion of the Atlantic Wall since 1941, as they expected an Allied invasion, especially in France, which they occupied. They suspected it was on the Pas-de-Calais , but could not rule out other areas and therefore did not concentrate on preparing countermeasures for an invasion. Nevertheless, the preparations for coastal defense ran under the lowest priority level until 1943.

The Eastern Front took its additional toll as troops were repeatedly withdrawn from the western defense zones.

The Wehrmacht High Command (OKW) worked out a detailed plan towards the end of 1943, which included all possible hostile scenarios that could arise from an invasion on the various coasts of the West. In the event of an invasion of France, the plan saw the relocation of three infantry divisions from Norway and Denmark, an infantry division, a throwing corps and a corps headquarters from Italy, as well as four infantry and hunter divisions and smaller units from the Balkans in front. This was to be done against the background that the allies in the west were planning "one" major invasion attack. In January 1944 the OKW began to doubt this "one" major attack. Although everything pointed to an attack at the narrowest point of the canal, they also believed that they had seen signs that accompanying invasions could also occur, for example in Portugal or the Balkans. The German doubts were fed even more by the Allied landing near Anzio on January 22nd. General Alfred Jodl was of the opinion that this landing was not connected with the Italian front, but was the beginning of several smaller operations that were intended to split the German forces and divert them from the main landing in northern France. For France, he foresaw landings in the Bay of Biscay and southern France that would cut off the Iberian Peninsula (he was right: Operation Dragoon began on August 15, 1944 ). The considerations were taken so seriously that as a result, two new infantry divisions were set up in February and assigned to the 19th Army in the south. The 9th SS Panzer Division was withdrawn from OB West and relocated to Avignon in reserve. The 1st Army received a new division to guard the Spanish border and the Biscay coast .

Briefing of the situation by officers, etc. a. Colonel General Friedrich Dollmann (left), Lieutenant General Edgar Feuchtinger (2nd from right) and Field Marshal Erwin Rommel (r) in Northern France, 1944
Atlantic Wall - Gun Exercise (Spring 1944)
The 12th SS Panzer Division "Hitler Youth" in parade position on the occasion of the inspection by Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt (January 1944)

Because the situation on the Eastern Front and in the Mediterranean theater of war was subject to rapid changes, the OKW could hardly work out any long-term plans for the future, but only plan from day to day. As early as March, the order was issued to withdraw the previously issued defense plan and the associated troop transfers. The commanders were also instructed that the relocation of troops would only be approved in detail after the enemy had launched a major invasion attack. For this purpose, relocation plans of the reserve units were drawn up for possible invasion scenarios. According to this, OB West would have a corps headquarters, two reinforced armored infantry regiments, a reinforced infantry regiment, combat groups from three infantry regiments as the basis for a new division as well as a motorized artillery regiment, five land rifle battalions and a smoke thrower battalion. These newly established units were of course not comparable in experience and combat strength with the eight divisions expected according to the old plans. Since the top guide emanating from multiple locations invasion instead of a large attack, the existing published dislocated forces to be sufficient.

At a management level meeting with Adolf Hitler in March 1944, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel attempted to expand his authority, which would have led to the de facto replacement of Gerd von Rundstedt and Leo Geyr von Schweppenburg as commanders of the defense forces. In particular, Rommel demanded that all motorized and tank formations as well as the artillery be subordinated to his high command. Hitler was taken with his contributions and promised to review the current situation. A study by the OKW's operations staff, which supported a letter of protest written later by Rundstedts, caused Hitler to return to the old course. However, some changes had already taken effect and were not revised again. The 2nd , 21st and 116th Panzer Divisions were placed under Rommel's position as reserves for Army Group B with full tactical control . However, von Schweppenburg remained responsible for their training and organization.

At around the same time, the OKW in the OB West sector was given four more tank units. These were the 1st and 12th SS Panzer Divisions , the 17th SS Panzer Grenadier Division and the Panzer Lehr Division . They should serve as a central mobile reserve.

The last change in the command structure took place in May when v. Rundstedt ordered the establishment of a second army group that took over command of the 1st and 19th Armies. The Army Group G was under Colonel General Johannes Blaskowitz and took over besides the two armies, the remaining three armored divisions in France, the 9th, 10th and 2nd SS Panzer Division . About the establishment of the new headquarters tried v. Rundstedt to redefine his position. It was therefore clear that in the critical phase of defense preparations the orders would come from OB West or directly from Hitler. Hitler was at the Berghof and only traveled to the West after the invasion. Apparently he himself could not make any direct tactical suggestions; its decisions were lost in details and contained hardly any political definitions. Hitler's authority to issue orders continued to disturb the already disturbed relationship between Rommel and v. Rundstedt.

The focus of the German defense preparations was in the Pas-de-Calais area, because there, due to the short distance from England to the mainland, an attempt to land was most likely to be expected. These assumptions were reinforced by an Allied deception operation (" Operation Fortitude "). The Germans suspected that the Allies would attack during the day, in good weather and at high tide , as they had seen this in previous Allied invasions.

Role of France

"Free France" and Occupied France

General de Gaulle and General Mast in Tunis (1943)

On June 25, 1940, the French General Charles de Gaulle founded the " Free France " committee in London and became head of the "Free French Armed Forces" (force française libre, FFL) and the "National Defense Committee" . Thereupon de Gaulle was sentenced to death in absentia by the council of war of the Vichy government in August 1940 for high treason.

Most states recognized the Vichy regime, Marshal Pétains, as the legitimate government of France. Winston Churchill initially tried diplomatically for the Vichy regime, but supported de Gaulle and had the French navy with about 1,300 men on board anchored in North Africa in Mers El Kébir under the command of Pétain's Naval Minister Admiral François Darlan destroyed ( Operation Catapult ).

During the war, several French colonial possessions, primarily in Africa (including Cameroon and Chad , later Diégo-Suarez in Madagascar and Dakar in French West Africa from 1942 ) submitted to the Free France created by de Gaulle, which was ruled by his Comité National Français . He made sure in particular that France was always present in the Allied camp through its " Free French Armed Forces " (FFL), which continued the fight on various fronts. I.a. Thanks to Colonel Passy , Pierre Brossolette and especially Jean Moulin , he stimulated and promoted the movement of the “ résistance intérieure”, which he transformed from “France libre” to “France combattante”, the fighting France.

Role of the Resistance

The British Special Operations Executive (SOE) had been in contact with the French resistance movement, the Résistance , as early as the beginning of 1941 , when their first agents jumped over France to establish a sophisticated structure for transmitting messages. After central communication control had proven to be ineffective, 17 radio operators were dropped off in France along with 36 other agents in 1942. In addition, there were additional supplies via Gibraltar and southern France , so that a relatively secure communication structure could be established. The greatest obstacle to the supply of the Resistance with weapons and ammunition for the underground struggle were the few available planes.

Only when COSSAC considered the participation of the Resistance in the Overlord Plan as a bonus did the number of supply flights to France gradually increase. COSSAC initially wanted to include a French uprising in the planning, but rejected this again as too uncertain. The British Army and the SOE finally convinced the planners of the extensive possibilities that an integrated Resistance operation offered during the invasion. Due to the many successful actions carried out by the Maquis organization in particular , the planners came to the conclusion that the Resistance should be fully equipped for guerrilla operations. Now the USA also flew supplies to the Resistance.

The most effective blows were carried out by the Resistance against the French road and rail network in order to prevent the Germans from transporting supplies and troops. For example, it was able to sabotage 808 locomotives in the first three months of 1944 . The Vichy Police cited more than 3,000 attacks on the rail system in a report. The closer the day of the invasion approached, the more the SOE coordinated the attacks of the Resistance. Specially selected road and rail connections should be interrupted immediately before D-Day. Then further actions should follow. To inform the resistance of the exact date of the landing, SOE used the British broadcaster BBC . Months before the organizers of the Resistance had received instructions to listen to the station on the 1st, 2nd, 15th and 16th of every month and to wait for a prepared, coded message. As soon as they heard this, they had to wait for the second verification message to be sure, which followed shortly afterwards. 48 hours after the announcement, the BBC sent coded messages relating to the exact locations and actions to be carried out. Since the attacks of the Resistance were mostly planned regionally, they could easily be coordinated with the respective operations of Overlord or Neptune .

Throughout June, and especially in the days following the landing, the Resistance destroyed 486 tracks and 26 telegraph lines , including the links between Avranches and Saint-Lô , Saint-Lô and Cherbourg and between Saint-Lô and Caen .

The fighters of the Resistance even incorporated further planning into the subsequent operations as permanent French units. The number of members of the resistance was difficult to calculate, but the headquarters of the FFI ( Forces françaises de l'intérieur ) was founded in London under General Marie-Pierre Kœnig , who in turn set up a three-state high command consisting of French, British and Americans . The FFI was then directly subordinated to the Supreme Allied Commander Eisenhower. Here, too, there was again the problem of supply, especially with heavy weapons such as artillery pieces . These eleven special units of the found themselves in the days following D-Day SAS together, five from Britain and six from North Africa under the command of Lieutenant General Browning using parachutes started off Erten appropriate weapons and guns from the air.

Operations of the French SAS

Map of the operations and sabotages of SAS troops and members of the Resistance in Brittany

During the night of June 5-6, 1944, four groups of the French 4th SAS (36 soldiers) jumped over southern and northern Brittany to set up the Dingson, Samwest and Grog bases from which the French Resistance supported and landing and jump areas should be marked for the rest of the battalion. The task of the French SAS was to destroy all communication lines and routes and to prepare ambushes and acts of sabotage to prevent the Germans from advancing towards Normandy .

On the night after D-Day , eighteen French SAS teams (58 soldiers) called "Cooney teams" were tasked with jumping out in large areas of Brittany and sabotaging railways, roads, bridges, etc. previously by the other units had been prepared to execute. The associations marched through the country from June to July 1944 and equipped the local members of the Resistance with weapons. They also trained them to fight.

Night after night, further SAS groups and supplies were flown into the area of Saint-Marcel "Dingson", which enabled the Allied forces to successfully end the sabotages in most cases. The SAS teams grouped around 10,000 Resistance fighters there to help them carry out their tasks. On June 18, 200 men from the French SAS, together with four armed jeeps and around 2500 members of the Resistance fought with an estimated 5000 German soldiers, who were supported by teams of mortars . The SAS troops and the Resistance held their positions into the night and then withdrew under cover of darkness. After these battles, the Germans hunted down the SAS units by all means, so that many were killed. Today a museum in Saint-Marcel commemorates the fighting.

On August 1, the VIII Corps of the 3rd US Army began the battle for Brittany . The 2nd Squadron of the 3rd SAS was flown into Brittany to replace the men of the 4th SAS. In addition, many vehicles were by glider to Vannes and Morbihan brought. The French SAS (532 soldiers) counted 77 dead and 195 wounded after the fighting in Brittany.

Eve of the invasion

Order of the day from Eisenhower to the soldiers, sailors and airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force
Loading the landing units in an English port (June 1944)
Eisenhower's note in case the invasion fails

The start of Operation Overlord with Operation Neptune was originally scheduled for a May date. Due to bad weather conditions, the landing day ( D-Day ) had to be postponed several times. On May 8, 1944, the Allied Commander-in-Chief of the SHAEF, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, set D-Day as June 5, 1944. When bad weather was forecast for the next day on June 4th, Eisenhower postponed the date to June 6th. At the decisive meeting at 4:15 a.m. on June 5, the company was given the green light (→ weather forecast for June 5 and 6, 1944 in the English Channel ).

For reasons of secrecy, not only the individual operations themselves and their start date were given military camouflages, but also the beach sections intended for landing on the coast of the Cotentin peninsula . The 1st US Army landed on the beaches of Utah near Sainte-Mère-Église and Omaha near St. Laurent . The British 2nd Army went ashore in the Gold sections at Arromanches and Sword at Ouistreham , the Canadians in the Juno section at Courseulles-sur-Mer .

When Eisenhower visited the 101st Airborne Division on the evening before D-Day , he had already formulated his official press release in the event that the invasion failed:

“Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt, it is mine alone. "

“Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area could not form a sufficient bridgehead and I withdrew the troops. My decision to attack at this time and in this location was based on the best information available. The land, air and naval forces have shown every possible bravery and duty. If the company is given any blame or blame, it is mine alone. "

Operation Neptune (D-Day)

On June 6, 1944, the strongest landing forces in war history were deployed. These were supported and carried by the largest collection of ships of all time with a total of more than 6000 ships (see naval warfare during Operation Overlord ).

To secure the fleet and to support the ground troops, the Allies provided around 4,190 fighters , 3,440 heavy bombers , 930 medium and light bombers, 1,360 troop transports and cargo planes , 1,070 coastal command machines, 520 reconnaissance planes and 80 rescue planes . A total of 11,590 aircraft were used on D-Day on the Allied side. The attack took place over a width of 98 km between Sainte-Mère-Église on the Cotentin peninsula in the west and Ouistreham in the east. In the western sections of the American troops (code-named Utah and Omaha Beach) three infantry divisions landed, in the adjacent sections Gold, Juno and Sword Beach two British and one Canadian divisions landed, a total of about 170,000 men that day.

To conceal the Normandy landings of June 6 rose in the morning in 1944 allied aircraft from airfields at Dover and threw off the British coast over the English Channel tinfoil ( chaff from). The radar echoes generated in this way simulated the approach of hundreds of aircraft and the passage of many ships in the direction of Pas-de-Calais.

Airborne Operation

The Pegasus Bridge under Allied control
Soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division behind cover in Normandy

The Allied airborne divisions, which jumped off on D-Day, aimed to secure the flanks and capture or destroy important key points and batteries.

Sixteen minutes after midnight began the operation of the British 6th Airborne Division , the Operation Tonga with the landing of gliders to the bridges over the Orne and the Caen Canal at Bénouville . The 6th Airborne Division had the order to land with paratroopers and glider troops in three landing zones (K, V and N), to take and hold the Orne-Caen Canal bridges, to destroy bridges over the Dives, to switch off the Merville coastal battery and to hold the space between Orne and Dives, protecting the left flank of the Allied landing. The importance of the operation was very important, since it was the only area in which a tank attack had to be expected after a few hours ( 21st Panzer Division ): "If the 6th Airborne Division failed, the whole landing head could happen was rolled up from the eastern wing before the divisions landing by sea were able to gain a foothold. ”Due to the poor visibility, the pilots confused the two rivers Orne and Dives, so that many paratroopers jumped off in the flooded area west of the Dives on Rommel's cause. With their heavy equipment they got stuck in the swamps and lakes and drowned. Instead of the 6,000 expected soldiers, only a few hundred were available in the early morning hours to switch off the artillery battery at Merville . Nevertheless, the paratroopers managed to capture the landing zones during the day and prepare for the landing of the reinforcements. The bridges over the dives at Troarn , Bures, Robehomme and Varaville were also blown up . By the evening of June 6th, the division had achieved all of its objectives.

The US 82nd Airborne Division was to land on the western flank of the invasion area during Operation Detroit and the US 101st Airborne Division during Operation Chicago . Due to partially unmarked landing zones, bad weather and bad terrain, the paratroopers were widely dispersed and often could not join together. After 24 hours, only 2500 of the 6000 members of the 101st Airborne Division had banded together. Many of the soldiers were still wandering the grounds days later. The 82nd Airborne Division had already captured the city of Sainte-Mère-Église on the morning of June 6th , making it the first city controlled by the Allies during the invasion.

A special group of the 101st Airborne Division , which consisted of twelve men to let their hair to Iroquois cuts hair done to the German forces to intimidate. This group called itself "Filthy 13", and the members were notorious for being tough fighters and for their great courage. The idea for the action came from paratrooper Jake McNiece, a half-Indian from Oklahoma . The group was captured by a photographer from Stars and Stripes magazine putting war paint on their faces prior to D-Day , making them famous - the material was later used in several films. The "Filthy 13" fought until the end of the war, with a total of about 30 different soldiers replacing fallen or wounded members. The Germans are said to have suspected that the "Filthy 13" were criminals who the Americans released and sent into battle.

An Allied paratrooper described his experiences on D-1 (June 6, 1944) as follows:

“Small wars broke out to my right and left. They usually lasted between fifteen minutes and half an hour, but one could only guess who came out victorious. I couldn't make out either friend or foe. If you sneak along hedges alone, deep in enemy territory, knowing that the sea separates you from your closest ally, you feel like the loneliest person in the world. "

Sword Beach

The landing zone was about eight kilometers long and was divided into four sections named Oboe , Peter , Queen and Roger . It was the easternmost of the Allied landing zones.

British infantry on Queen White beach

Troops of the British 3rd Infantry Division with a strength of around 30,000 soldiers landed on D-Day at 7:25 a.m. on this stretch of beach east of the Orne and the Caen Canal. They had been assigned British commands to reinforce them . In order to also involve the French in the landing of their own coast, Charles de Gaulle had campaigned in London for participation and had received confirmation of participation. So French troops went ashore on Sword Beach. For defense, parts of the German 716th Infantry Division , the 736 and 125 regiments as well as forces of the 21st Panzer Division , which could intervene from the nearby hinterland, lay on Sword Beach . To the east, behind the Dives , the 711th Infantry Division was also stationed.

Despite the German resistance, the British were able to penetrate inland and unite with the soldiers of the 6th Airborne Division. Since the storm on Caen could not be carried out by a few paratrooper units alone, the troops waited for the units of the 1st Commando Brigade under the command of Lord Lovat , which arrived at the Pegasus Bridge late in the morning . The advance on Caen was considerably hindered by the 21st Panzer Division and later by the 12th SS Panzer Division "Hitler Youth" . It took until mid-July before Caen could be consumed completely. The losses of the British on the Sword stretch of beach are put at around 700 soldiers.

Juno Beach

Canadian troops land on the 'Nan White' beach section near Bernières-sur-Mer
A Canadian military policeman regulates the passage in Bernières-sur-Mer, behind the Juno beach, on the late afternoon of June 6, 1944

The landing zone was divided into two sections called Mike and Nan . Juno Beach was between the Sword and Gold sections . Canadian troops under Major-General Rod Keller landed on this stretch of beach, which is therefore often called the Canadian beach . Juno Beach was the second most heavily defended beach after Omaha Beach . The section was defended by the German 716th Infantry Division under the command of General Wilhelm Richter .

In the first hour after the attack, Canadian losses amounted to about half of all soldiers who went ashore, roughly comparable to the American losses on Omaha Beach. However, the landed floating tanks succeeded in fighting the defensive positions of the Germans. After the Canadians had managed to overcome the wall from the beach after an hour, they were able to quickly advance further inland and fight the Germans much better than the Americans on Omaha Beach.

By noon, the entire Canadian 3rd Division had advanced ashore and several kilometers into the hinterland to take bridges over the Seulles . The city of Saint-Aubin-sur-Mer was in Canadian hands at 6:00 p.m. A group of the 6th Canadian Tank Regiment was the only one able to achieve the set goals in Normandy. They had advanced 15 km inland and were crossing the main road between Caen and Bayeux . Without the supporting infantry, however, they had to withdraw again.

At the end of D-Day, the Canadians had managed to penetrate further into French soil than any other Allied unit, although they encountered similar resistance on landing as the Americans on Omaha Beach. Here were a total of 340 soldiers, more 574 were wounded. The alliance with the British troops who had landed on Sword Beach took place on the evening of the next day.

Gold Beach

Cromwell tanks with soldiers on their way to Gold Beach
Universal Carriers of the 50th Division arrive at Gold Beach

The landing beach was divided into four sections, How , Item , Jig and King . The last two were further divided into the subsections Green and Red , so that in the end there were six sectors.

British troops of the 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division under the command of Major General Graham, part of the British 2nd Army under Lieutenant General Miles Dempsey , landed on this stretch of beach on June 6, 1944. They consisted of the four regiments of Devonshire , Hampshire , Dorsetshire and East Yorkshire . In addition, the 231st Brigade in the Jig sector and the 69th Brigade in the King sector were assigned to the landing forces, as the beaches were long enough to accommodate the number of soldiers from two brigades on landing. In the item sector, the 47th Royal Marine Command fought together with the 50th Division. Parts of the German 716th Infantry Division and a battalion of the 352nd Infantry Division , the combat group Meyer, were located here for defense .

The main task of the Allied troops was to form a beach head and then take the town of Arromanches , which had been chosen as a location for a port of Mulberry . Then contact was to be made with the US units at Omaha Beach and the Canadian troops at Juno Beach .

Although the German resistance became increasingly violent, the 50th Division managed to break through with relatively few losses. This was not least due to the lavish equipment of the landing forces with tanks and armored vehicles of the British 79th Armored Division . These included the so-called Hobart's Funnies , which were equipped with 290 mm mortars to clear obstacles such as minefields and larger fortifications out of the way.

La Rivière fell at 10:00 in the morning and Le Hamel was in British hands in the afternoon. The British were able to bring around 25,000 men ashore by early evening and recorded a total of around 400 deaths. The bridgehead could be expanded up to ten kilometers inland, and contact was made with the Canadians from Juno Beach to the east. Arromanches was fully occupied at around 10:30 p.m., and the British soon reached the outskirts of Bayeux .

Omaha Beach

The Omaha Beachhead on June 6, 1944
Stationary use of a Panzer IV gun turret (7.5 cm caliber) in a German position near Omaha Beach
US soldiers rest on the Omaha cliff, are taken care of and prepare for the next attack.
Men of the 2nd US Infantry Division at E1 Beach Exit and the resistance nest WN 65 on June 7, 1944

Omaha Beach was the most extensive with more than ten kilometers long landing section and once again divided into eight landing zones from west to east as Charlie , Dog Green , Dog White , Dog Red , Easy Green , Easy Red , Fox Green and Fox Red were called . Easy Red was the longest section at around 2.2 km.

The 716th Infantry Division was used to secure the coast. It was commanded by General Wilhelm Richter with headquarters in Caen . The 716th Infantry Division had been used on the coast as a so-called static division since June 1942. From mid-March 1944, the 352nd Infantry Division also came to the beach and took over half of the defense area of ​​the 716th Infantry Division.

The landing troops suffered the greatest losses on Omaha Beach, as the 448 B-24 bombers with 1285 tons of bombs from the 2nd Bombardment Division of the 8th Air Force missed the German positions due to poor visibility and the defenses remained largely intact. 117 B-24 bombers even returned to England with their cargo because they could not find their targets.

The first major breakthrough came at 9:00 a.m. on the Dog White section. Here the defense consisted only of light, non-concentrated machine gun fire from the resistance nest WN 60. About 20 minutes later, the C Company of the 116th Regiment and rangers of the 5th Ranger Battalion, under the command of General Norman Cota , managed to reach the steep stretch of beach climb and advance into the hinterland. General Cota led his men east to Vierville and then fought his way down to the beach (D1 Beach Exit).

In other parts of Omaha Beach, much more armed and fortified German defenses had to be overcome. General Bradley received news around noon that large units were stuck on the Easy Red stretch of beach . More reinforcement waves arrived on the Easy Red and Easy Green sections and the wounded were evacuated.

The German resistance nest WN 72 surrendered around 1 p.m., so that the beach exit D1 to Vierville-sur-Mer was free. From 8:00 p.m. onwards, further landing waves arrived, bringing additional material such as tanks and artillery. On the west side of Omaha Beach, the 1st US Division failed to meet the daily goals. On the morning of June 7th, parts of the German 915 Grenadier Regiment made another advance towards the coast. This venture failed and led to the final collapse in the beach sector.

From June 7, 1944, the remaining German troops only withdrew because fighting with hand weapons and the isolated tanks was no longer possible against the superior strength of the Allied tanks, artillery and air force.

Pointe du Hoc

Rangers climb up the cliffs ...
... and rest on the Pointe du Hoc (June 6, 1944).

At Pointe du Hoc (often incorrectly spelled “Pointe du Hoe” in documents of the US Army ) there were six German positions with 155 mm artillery pieces that guarded the beach and thus had the American landing forces on the beach sections of Utah and Omaha Beach under fire can take. Although the positions were often attacked by bomber groups and ship artillery, the fortifications were too strong and withstood the fire. Therefore, the US 2nd Ranger Battalion was given the order to destroy the guns on the morning of D-Day .

The ranger battalion, consisting of 225 men, was led by Lieutenant Colonel ( Lieutenant Colonel ) James Earl Rudder . The plan provided for the three ranger companies (D, E and F) to land from the sea at the foot of the cliffs and then climb the cliff walls with ropes, ladders and the like. After that, the troops should conquer the upper cliff. The attack was to be carried out before the main Allied landings. The attack was scheduled to begin at 6:30 a.m. Half an hour later, a second group consisting of eight companies was to follow. They were then to be relieved of troops who landed at the "Dog Green" section of Omaha Beach .

After some initial setbacks due to bad weather and navigation problems, the Americans landed at the foot of the cliffs 40 minutes later than planned while the attack was supported by Allied destroyers . However, the Germans resisted doggedly and threw boulders and hand grenades at the Americans climbing up. At 7:08 a.m., all the rangers had arrived on the cliffs and stormed the German positions. After about 40 minutes of action, the cliffs were taken with relatively little losses.

The guns had already been removed, however, possibly because of the bombing that started the invasion. The rangers regrouped on the cliff, set up defensive positions and sent some men further inland to look for the guns. One of the patrols found the guns unguarded and without ammunition in an orchard about a kilometer southwest of Pointe du Hoc. The patrol destroyed some of the guns with thermite - grenades , was destroyed so that the height and tilt mechanism. The second patrol came in and destroyed the remaining guns.

After the rangers had captured Pointe du Hoc, they were attacked several times by German troops on June 6th and 7th and encircled 200 m from the top of the cliff. The 116th US Infantry Regiment and the 5th US Ranger Battalion , which came from Omaha Beach, moved approx. 900 m closer to the rangers. On the night of June 7th to 8th, the commander of the German troops surrounding the rangers ordered to withdraw, whereupon the American reinforcements were able to break through.

By the end of the second day, the unit had shrunk from more than 225 men to 90 men still fit for action.

Utah Beach

Landing on Utah Beach
Swimming tanks roll onto the beach

The landing plan included four waves. With the first wave , two landing heads were to be established in a total of 20 landing craft , each manned by a 30-man combat team of the 8th Infantry Regiment of the 4th US Infantry Division .

The entire operation built on the first wave of landing, which was scheduled for 6:30 in the morning. Around the same time, eight landing craft, each equipped with four floating tanks , were to be dispatched.

However, the first wave landed 1,800 meters south of the planned landing section. This was the result of a strong sideways current that pushed the landing craft to the south. Since the coastline was covered by clouds of smoke as a result of the previous bombardment, the landing craft crews lacked orientation points for course correction.

The wrong landing location could actually have led to great confusion, which however did not occur. Although the individual orders could not be carried out in detail, Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. , the deputy commander of the 4th US Infantry Division, had the situation under control and attacked the strong German positions that could be reached. This enabled the Americans to quickly advance to the main roads in the hinterland and attack the Germans from there.

The soldiers faced relatively little resistance, so that the losses of 197 men could be estimated as very low. Some German artillery positions shot at the ships at sea, but were unable to cause any damage.

By the end of the day, more than 20,000 soldiers had set foot on French soil with 1,700 vehicles on Utah Beach.

German reactions

Since bad weather had been forecast for June 5th and 6th, 1944, many generals were absent. Some, such as the commander of the 7th Army , Colonel General Friedrich Dollmann , were in Rennes during simulation games (staff exercise) . Rommel visited his wife in Germany on June 6th as she was celebrating her 50th birthday.

The German Abwehr knew of two lines from Paul Verlaine's poem Herbstlied , which were intended to trigger disruptive actions by the French resistance movement shortly before the invasion and which were read out via the BBC . The crucial second line announced the invasion within the next 48 hours, calculated from midnight on the day following the announcement. “The broadcast with encrypted messages to the Resistance, which began on June 5 at 9:15 pm, was twice as long on that day and aroused suspicion in Rundstedt's headquarters. From 10 p.m. onwards, radar stations between Cherbourg and Le Havre reported that they were being disturbed, and stations from Fécamps to Calais reported unusually strong ship movements in the canal. [...] Despite all the increasingly clear signs, v. Rundstedt's chief of staff, Blumentritt, agreed that this was the beginning of the invasion, and Commander-in-Chief West ordered no special precautionary measures. At Rommel's headquarters, however, they had already acted. At 10:00 p.m. the highest alert was ordered for all troops, but only for the 15th Army , the divisions between Orne and Schelde. The 7th Army on the stretch of coast that the invasion fleet was now approaching received no warning. ”The invasion was not expected there.

The 7th Army was only informed of the report from the LXXXIV command at 1:20 a.m. on June 6th. Corps surprised that "parachute jumps in the area east of Caen [... to] east coast of Cotentin" have been taking place since 0.30. At 2:40 am the chief of staff was informed: “In the opinion of the Ob. West is not a major action. "

While the German radar stations north of the Seine were 'allowed to work' to report the simulated convoys, the disturbance in Normandy was of such magnitude that “The invasion fleet was only discovered when the ships destined for Utah were at 2:00 am had reached their 'transport section' 12 miles from the coast of the Cotentin peninsula [for reloading to small landing craft], and then not by radar, but by directly perceptible noise! ​​"

Soldiers of the 1st British Special Service Brigade digging defensive positions near the Orne, June 7, 1944

As a result, Rundstedt's headquarters were overwhelmed by reports, but the deception between Le Havre and Rouen had not yet been discovered. “At 4:00 am, when the situation was still unclear, Blumentritt asked Jodl by telephone in Berchtesgaden for Hitler's permission to call in the 12th SS Panzer Division and the Panzer Lehr Division to fight the landings in Normandy. Jodl replied that the Fuehrer did not want to tie up the operational reserve too quickly. ”The 7th Army also reported to Rommel in the morning at 6.45:“ It is possible that it was a diversionary attack. ”

The catastrophic information situation meant that coordinated measures were hardly possible on site until midday on June 6th, and defensive successes also happened more by chance.

The allied force faced a relatively small German air force . In the early morning of the landing, two German fighters, flown by Lieutenant Colonel Josef Priller and Sergeant Heinz Wodarczyk , attacked the Allied landing forces on the beach with on-board weapons. At around 10:00 a.m., twelve Fw 190 of the I./JG 2 attacked the landing fleet with BR-21 projectiles , and a landing ship was hit. Many aircraft had been moved inland on June 4, as the previous airfields were considered too threatened. Some units were moved back to the combat zone during the day. In the evening there were several attacks by SG 4 with fighter bombers on the Allied landing fleet and on vehicles, with two direct hits on landing ships being reported. During the D-Day, the Allies had absolute control of the air (→ air warfare during Operation Overlord ).

“Hitler's order of 4:00 a.m. prohibiting the use of the strategic tank reserve was in effect for almost 12 hours. [...] and the 7th Army did not find out until 4:00 p.m. that [the two tank divisions] had been placed under their command. At that time it was too late for any of these divisions to intervene in the Battle of Caen. [...] The delays caused by the weather were compensated for by the indecision of the German Supreme Command, and when the X day came to an end, [the Allies] still had the initiative. "

On the evening of June 6th it was “the only time that Hitler, v. Rundstedt and Rommel agreed: This attack was a diversionary maneuver in order to tie up the German reserves west of the Seine and then proceed to a main attack on the Pas de Calais. ”With a few exceptions, only the local forces were initially used to repel the invasion .

"On the evening of June 9th, Rommel told Dollmann that he did not expect any more air landings on the peninsula (Cotentin) because the OKW was expecting major landings on the Channel coast in the next few days."

- 7th Army telephone diary , June 9, 5:30 p.m. In: Wilmot: Europa , p. 314.

When the first reports of the invasion reached Germany, the official reaction of the population was relief, even joy. It was believed that the enemy, who was now within reach, could finally be decisively defeated. But others (e.g. on the Eastern Front, where Army Group Center collapsed in the summer of 1944 ) were of the opinion that the war, which was already lost after the Stalingrad catastrophe , was now (a year and a half later) will end soon. In any case, in the days after the Allied invasion of Normandy, the entire population suddenly lost confidence in the Atlantic Wall, which had been touted as insurmountable by Nazi propaganda since 1942 . With other "walls", e.g. B. the Siegfried Line , it was the same later.

Days following the landing

Resupply landings at Omaha Beach

During their amphibious landings in the Mediterranean , the Allies had recognized that a well-thought-out organization was required on the beaches to coordinate the movements of ships and vehicles and to store and dispose of supplies. Therefore, they deployed beach masters, with a Beach Naval Officer-in-Charge (NOIC) per landing section (Omaha, Utah Beach, etc.) who was supposed to organize the supply. The Allies even provided bakery and barber stands and other facilities on the beaches. Admiral Ramsay later said:

“The beach masters are faced with a superhuman task the first time they land. The beaches are long and difficult to inspect quickly and thoroughly. The beach troops are extremely endangered, the situation is changing quickly everywhere. "

To coordinate the arrival and return of supply and convoy trains, two floating command posts were established in each area, named Captain Southbound Sailings and Captain Northbound Sailings . After D-Day, Omaha Beach served as a port facility, while the fastest possible assembly of the two Mulberries began just three days after landing, first Mulberry B near Arromanches and shortly afterwards Mulberry A on Omaha Beach near Vierville / Saint-Laurent. This secured supplies from the British Isles. Although Mulberry A was destroyed by a severe storm on June 19, 628,000 tons of supplies, 40,000 vehicles and 220,000 soldiers had landed by October 31.

In order to build a secured bridgehead, the nearest cities had to be captured and the landing forces had to join forces. At the same time, the beaches had to be protected in order to be able to bring the supplies safely ashore. For these reasons, patrols and entire combat units were sent into the hinterland to advance and conquer the cities, which the Germans tried to prevent. As a result, heavy fighting broke out behind the beaches. The 12th SS Panzer Division "Hitler Youth" tried from June 7th to 8th to push the Canadian units back to the beach, but it did not succeed.

During the Battle of Carentan (June 8th to 15th) the German resistance was finally broken and Carentan was taken by the Allies.

Soviet Union offensive

Operation Bagration

The great summer offensive of the Soviet Union in the central sector of the Eastern Front , Operation Bagration , which began on the third anniversary of the German invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1944, the German units were enormously weakened.

Due to the Allied invasion of Normandy, German units had been withdrawn from the Eastern Front, which is why fewer troops were available on the German front lines in the east. Four Soviet " fronts " (army groups), together with more than 120 divisions and 2.15 million soldiers, advanced against the poorly inferior and poorly equipped German troops of the 9th and 4th Armies and the 3rd Panzer Army with around 600,000 soldiers .

The Red Army used its superiority and made breakthroughs all along the line, which were then penetrated by armored wedges . In operational terms , it was the first time that the Germans had used the Blitzkrieg method against them three years earlier . This was facilitated by Hitler's orders to hold and form “ fixed places ” instead of moving to mobile defenses. So it came to boilers and ultimately to the destruction of Army Group Center with three German armies (a total of 25 German divisions).

This was followed by a German retreat of 500 kilometers to the west, where the front only came to a standstill in front of the German border in mid-August. The Army Group North was cut off from all land connections, but held until the capitulation in May 1945 in Kurland. According to the latest estimates, the Germans lost over 670,000 men and the Red Army around 765,000 men in the operation, which lasted until August 19. The losses of the Wehrmacht could not be made up again, especially since Germany was at this point in a three-front war. The supplies for German troops on the invasion front in northern France became less and less, which favored the advance of the Allied troops to the east.

Extension of the bridgehead

The situation in Normandy until June 30, 1944

By June 12, the Allies succeeded in connecting the bridgeheads with each other over a length of around 100 km and a depth of around 30 km inland. In just seven days they managed to land 326,000 soldiers, 54,000 vehicles and more than 100,000 tons of war material. Despite this success, they ran behind their Overlord plans. For example, the capture of the city of Caen was planned for Landing Day. The advance through the Bocage area of ​​the Cotentin Peninsula in the direction of the inland towns, such as Carentan (→ Battle for Carentan ) and the important canal port of Cherbourg , was also extremely difficult. The hedges and trenches offered the German defenders excellent cover. The area was particularly suitable for snipers .

June 21: A German machine gunner, whose field of vision is restricted by clouds of smoke, guards a road blockade during a training mission.

But not least because of the Allied air superiority and the destroyed French railroad tracks , the German side did not succeed in relocating additional units to the battlefield of Normandy as quickly as possible. On June 14, the 4th US Infantry Division managed to break through the German main line of defense in the north despite strong resistance. In the west, US VII Corps also made slow progress as they had to cross the Merderet and Douve rivers . With an intensified Allied bombardment of the German positions, the Americans succeeded in sealing off the Cotentin Peninsula on June 18 with a quick advance to the west. On June 20, the Germans withdrew to the city of Cherbourg, which was converted into a fortress (→ Battle of Cherbourg ).

A German army officer in conversation with two US officers in Cherbourg after the surrender

Cherbourg under the fortress commander Karl-Wilhelm von Schlieben fell on June 26th after heavy American artillery fire and heavy street fighting. Now the Allies also had a deep-water port , which enabled them to bring in even larger numbers of troops and military equipment by sea.

The Battle of Normandy by this time had broken up into a number of small battles in which Allied infantry units, supported by artillery, had gotten bogged down and only very slowly advanced against the German defenses. For example, US VIII Corps complained of more than 10,000 casualties between July 2 and 14, with a gain of only eleven kilometers.

Since the Germans were still lying on the east bank of the Orne and from there bombarded Sword Beach with motorized artillery and grenade launchers, the Allied supply of supplies via this stretch of beach was made considerably more difficult. The area east of the Orne had been the landing area of ​​the British 6th Airborne Division during Operation Tonga ; however, this had not been able to conquer or hold the section. Originally, the beach section in front of this area was also planned as an Allied landing beach with the code name Band Beach, but was later discarded. When the German bombardment became more and more precise and more and more ships, landing craft and supplies were lost, the Allies gave up Sword Beach on July 1, 1944, as no meaningful supplies were possible from there.

Securing supplies

The construction of the two artificial Mulberry harbors began immediately after landing on June 7th. Mulberry “A” was supposed to be in front of Vierville-sur-Mer (Omaha Beach) by the Americans and Mulberry “B” (location coordinates: 49 ° 21 ′ 2 ″ N, 0 ° 38 ′ 22 ″ W | |) before Arromanches (Gold Beach ) to be built by the British. The first ships could be unloaded after just three days. Completion should be on June 20th. A violent storm that began on June 19 and only weakened after three days almost completely destroyed Mulberry "A", which was structurally unsecured. The Americans decided not to repair it, so that the parts that could still be used were used to complete the slightly damaged Mulberry "B" port. In the years that followed, the Americans unloaded transport ships ashore off Omaha Beach, near Vierville-Saint-Laurent, which later turned out to be even more effective than unloading at sea. The British port of Mulberry "B" went into full operation shortly afterwards.

The capture of Caen (→ Battle of Caen ) turned out to be much more difficult for the Allied troops of the British and Canadians on the east side of the Normandy bridgehead. Caen was resolutely defended by strong German units. Montgomery therefore carried out several military operations to conquer the strategically important city and to control its surrounding area. Control over Caen and the surrounding area would have enabled the Allies to build runways for replenishment planes and to use the airfield at Carpiquet .

Furthermore, the crossing of the Orne would have been made easier by taking the city and its bridges. For defense, the Germans moved 150 heavy and 250 medium tanks to the Caen area. This and also the at times unfavorable weather conditions made it difficult for the Allies to take the city. It was not until July 8, more than a month later than planned, that the all-important airfield near Carpiquet was captured. This brought the front line within less than a kilometer of the city of Caen. The next morning the Allied troops advanced into the northern end of Caen, but were stopped by snipers as they continued their advance. The pioneer Arthur Wilkes described the state of the city as follows: "Mountains of debris, [about] 20 or 30 feet [≈ 6 or 9 m] high [...] the dead lay everywhere." . In the war diary of the 1st Battalion King's Own Scottish Borderers there is also an entry for July 9th: “In the abandoned-looking houses a revival slowly began when the [French] civilians realized that we were conquering the city. They ran out of their houses with glasses and bottles of wine. ” It was about nine more days before the British and Canadians captured the southern and eastern parts of the city and the area and suburbs south and east of the city on July 19, 1944 were.

Expansion of the Normandy bridgehead by July 24, 1944

Outbreak from the Caen area

The Allies suffered a major setback during Operation Goodwood , during which Montgomery tried to use tanks to break the German resistance and break out of the area around Caen. More than 430 British tanks were destroyed and the Allied troops lost more than 5,500 people and had to withdraw. The Germans were able to hold their most important positions with a loss of 109 tanks, which was high for them, since they, unlike the Allies, found it difficult to replace the losses. Tactically, the operation was a defeat for the Allies, but strategically the operation managed to make the Germans suspect the main Allied attack to break out of the beachhead in the British sector.

Operation Spring for the conquest of the high plateau at Cramesnil and La Bruyers and the capture of the town of Verrières southeast of Caen was one of the Canadians with the most losses in World War II. The Canadians lost about 1,500 men.

On July 25, the Allies had only reached the D + 5 line, that is, they were holding positions that, according to Overlord's planning, they wanted to have reached on June 11. This revealed a lack of Allied planning for the days following the invasion. They had been so preoccupied with the problems that the invasion itself brought with it that an adequate concept for expanding the bridgehead was lacking. In particular, the tactical problems on the front in the west of the invasion area, with the 1st US Army, were not expected in this way.

Outbreak and persecution

Outbreak in the American sector and encirclement of the Wehrmacht units

American tank destroyers firing near Saint-Lô

After the capture of Saint-Lô (→ Battle of Saint-Lô ), the Americans attempted to break out of their bridgehead sector (→ Operation Cobra ) at the same time as the advances of the other allies on July 25th Eruption from the Cotentin Peninsula near Avranches .

On July 30, the US Army regrouped and reorganized its units in Normandy. With the 3rd US Army under the leadership of General George S. Patton , a new army was set up, which together with the 1st US Army , now commanded by General Courtney Hodges , was placed under the command of Bradley's 12th Army Group . At the same time, the 1st Canadian Army under General Henry Crerar was assigned to General Sir Bernard Montgomery's 21st Army Group .

The unforeseen great success of Operation Cobra led to a change of plan by the Allies on August 4th, who postponed a further advance west to the Atlantic ports in favor of a rapid advance to the Loire and Seine and only part of the 3rd US Army , the VIII US Corps under Lieutenant General Troy H. Middleton , sent to Brittany . Cobra clearly marked the path from trench warfare to war of movement and was the beginning of the pursuit of the German armies through northern France, which eventually led to their encirclement in the Falaise pocket .

Surprisingly, the bridge near Pontaubault over the Sélune fell into the hands of the Americans undamaged shortly before the end of Operation Cobra, so that Patton managed to cross seven complete divisions with around 100,000 soldiers and 10,000 vehicles over the bridge into eastern Brittany in just three days respectively. With the advance of the VIII US Corps of the 3rd US Army into Brittany (→ Battle of Brittany ), the Americans succeeded in taking the important Atlantic ports of Saint-Malo and Brest from the German occupiers and in delivering supplies for the Allied troops in To use Northern France. Lorient and Saint-Nazaire were surrounded for a long time. In addition, the troops stationed there under the command of the German units in Brittany, General Wilhelm Fahrmbacher , could be prevented from stabbing the Allies in the rear as they marched towards Germany.

The Allied breakout from the Normandy bridgehead by August 13, 1944

On August 6th, the Germans started a counterattack near Mortain under the leading Mayor West , Field Marshal Günther von Kluge (→ Liege Company ). Many small and scattered elements of the US 6th Armored Division were worn out between the Sée and Sélune rivers on the way to Mortain . Around noon, however, the clearly superior Allied air forces, called for help, intervened and brought the advance to a standstill. On the night of August 8, von Kluge decided to suspend the attack for the time being, as parts of the 3rd US Army were moved to the area between Laval and Le Mans and threatened the German southern flank. Hitler reacted extremely indignantly and threatened to relieve von Kluge of the command, which he did on August 17th with the appointment of Walter Model as the new OB-West.

In mid-August there was a decisive battle between the Allies and the Germans near Falaise and Argentan (→ Kessel von Falaise ). The Allies were able to weaken the German units so severely that they could no longer recover from this defeat.

Advance to the Seine

It was not until the Allied advance towards the Seine from August 21st to 25th that the area east of the Orne was conquered, from where Sword Beach was shelled by German artillery about a month earlier and therefore had to be abandoned. The British 6th Airborne Division advanced 40 miles to Pont Audemer from August 17-27, while successes were also achieved along the entire front. Sword Beach was not reactivated, however, as a sufficient number of ports were already under Allied control.

The German Wehrmacht lost 45,000 men in the fighting in Normandy on June 6th alone, by July 15 the number rose to 97,000 dead and wounded, by the end of July to 114,000 men and 41,000 prisoners, after the end of the fighting for Falaise on 21 July. August were a total of 240,000 men in Allied captivity. The Wehrmacht lost 1,500 tanks and assault guns, 3,500 guns and 20,000 vehicles in terms of material. The Allies put their losses by August 21 at 209,672 men, including 36,976 dead.

Allied front until August 25, 1944, the end of Operation Overlord

Since the Allies were now hardly in the way of German resistance, they were able to liberate Paris on August 25 (→ Battle of Paris ). The original plan was to bypass the city and only conquer it later. However, the Parisians in particular expected the city to be conquered. There were riots in Paris in which French resistance fighters of the Résistance took over some streets and buildings, including the town hall. On the evening of August 24th, Major General Jacques-Philippe Leclerc de Hauteclocque had a small column of tanks from the French 2nd Armored Division drive into the city and advance to the town hall. At 10:00 a.m. on the morning of August 25, Leclerc's division and the 4th US Infantry Division were inside the city. On August 26, Charles de Gaulle , leader of the French Free Forces ( force française libre , FFL ) and the Comité français de la Liberation nationale (“French Committee for National Liberation”) , moved to the War Ministry on Rue Saint-Dominique a. Afterwards Charles de Gaulle gave a speech to the Parisians from the balcony of the Hôtel de Ville. On September 9th he formed a provisional new French government.

Situation at the end of the operation

The tenacious forward defense - brought about by Hitler's principle of the 'fight for every foot's breadth' - resulted in the German associations 'bleeding out' due to the lack of supplies. The strategy of Montgomery to tie up the strong German tank divisions almost entirely on the eastern side of the landing head - opposite the British and Canadian troops - led to the planned breakthrough of the Americans on the western side from July 25th.

On the part of the German leadership, the assassination attempt on July 20 worsened the situation, as Hitler not only wasted his time budget through his “angry reaction” against all “conspirators”, but was no longer able to rationalize current developments consequences. His delusion to intervene in detail in troop movements or to determine them in advance resulted in disastrous orders - such as the counterattack by Mortain, which the local commanders interpreted as a death sentence. General Paul Hausser protested against the order to withdraw the 9th Panzer Division from the threatened Le Mans to Mortain: “Since the whole thing is a closed combat operation, the withdrawal of 9th Panzer Div. at the moment when strong hostile To hit the Pz. Forces in the flank, not just the army, but the entire western army. ”The laconic answer from v. The clever thing was: "The Fiihrer ordered it."

In addition, Generalfeldmarschall v. Because of the constant fear that his connections to resistance groups might be exposed, Kluge became increasingly uncertain, and he no longer dared to object to Hitler's orders. After v. Hitler was unable to reach Kluge for most of the day on August 15 (according to his account, he got caught in artillery fire and fighter-bombers had smashed his radio car, after which he spent most of the day in a ditch), Hitler reported to him the attempted contact with the enemy and relieved him of his command. He then sent Model to the Western Front as the new Commander in Chief.

Field Marshal General Walter Model in the theater of war

Model was summoned by Hitler from the Russian front on the morning of August 16. The next day he arrived in Normandy and took over v. Clever command as OB West and Commander of Army Group B.

It was a "desperate situation that Model faced as the new Commander-in-Chief West on the first day: [...] In the Falaise pocket, while bombs and grenades beat them mercilessly, hundreds of thousands of German troops, the remains of 15 divisions and Scattered by another dozen bandages. ”There were two more narrow exits, out of the air and under fire from both sides.

"It was lucky for the Germans that in Model they had got a commander-in-chief who wasn't afraid to take on Hitler."

Lieutenant General Hans Speidel , an opponent of Hitler and Chief of Staff of Army Group B, said on August 17, when Models arrived at the headquarters of the Army Group in La Roche-Guyon Castle, to the Field Marshal (known to him from earlier times): “The best was to come to terms with the Allies in the west in order to get a free hand in the east. [...] Model agreed, was silent for a moment, then said: 'Oh, let's leave political things behind.' ”His job was to get as many of his soldiers as possible out of Normandy.

Characterizations Models

The description of the actions of Field Marshal Model are mostly uniform.

"Model dealt with Hitler in a way that hardly anyone else would have dared, and even refused to execute orders that he did not approve." Model merely communicated his decisions to Hitler - for example a little later: "The bridgehead south of the Seine will become its own change of bank and hostile for as long as possible. Maintained strength ties. It will only be withdrawn when the disadvantages outweigh the advantages. "

He "[...] brought the Russian winter offensive directed against the Baltic states to a standstill in 1943." He "[...] had restored the extremely critical situation near Lemberg [...] in July, when Zhukov broke into Poland [...] in the spring of 1944, when the Russians approached Warsaw [...] brought the Red Army to a halt again. "

It is alleged against Model that after the assassination attempt on Hitler on July 20, he immediately responded with a 'surrender telegram' to the Führer. This is often taken as proof that he was a man closely linked to fascism. But it speaks more to the fact that Model did not want to have any trouble with this matter and - as always - reacted pragmatically. He had enough to do at the front. With this telegram the matter should be settled.

“When the field marshal finally appeared in Lomza (then his quarters in northern Poland) on the evening of July 20th [...] and listened to Hitler's radio address [...] the only thing he said was: 'Even worse prepared than Kapp - Putsch '. […] The next day, with other officers, Hauptmann v. Steinäcker from the center staff made an even stranger statement: 'If you ask me, gentlemen - the greatest disgrace for the Prussian-German general staff'.
Did he mean to say that if the General Staff had already orchestrated such an undertaking, at least 'everything should have worked out'? "

- Walter Görlitz : : Model - strategy of defensive. P. 188f.

As a result, Model consistently covered threatened officers around him and also put a word for Generalfeldmarschall v. Smart one. He later warned General Graf von Schwerin (who was the commander of the 116th Panzer Division in Normandy) and then - when Himmler ordered his arrest - had him "temporarily arrested" himself until the danger was over.

From Falaise to the Seine

Retreat road in the Falaise basin

In the Falaise pocket he immediately transferred "without asking the Fuehrer [General] Hausser command of all encircled forces and ordered him to break away from the Orne and form a new front on the Dives." He put the remaining armored groups in and out of the boiler to counter attacks and caused that a larger number of German [remaining] units could escape. Above all, a significant number of troop commanders escaped capture.

"They left 50,000 men for captivity and 10,000 dead: sacrificed on the altar of blind obedience to the orders of the Führer."

- Chester Wilmot : Europe. P. 448.

There wasn't much more to Model and his staff than to save what could still be saved. This was only possible via the lower Seine. The American 2nd Panzer Division tried with a push from Verneuil to the north to cut off those who were retreating from the river bank, “but on August 24, near Elbeuf, it encountered strong resistance from armored forces, which covered Rouen and the numerous ferries further down. The Germans held Elbeuf for two days, led a skilful rearguard battle against the British and Canadians, who were closing in from the west, and prevented the withdrawal movement from becoming a flight. "

Bad weather made it difficult for the Allies to deploy the air force, but "according to General Dietrich , who led the retreat [...], the passage over the Seine was almost as devastating as the Falaise pocket in terms of material losses" ".

“These two catastrophes culminated in ten weeks of heavy fighting in which the Germans lost half a million men, 210,000 of them as prisoners. The most serious side of the two defeats was the destruction of the armored forces. About 2,300 German tanks and self-propelled guns had been used in Normandy; As Blumentritt reports, only 100 to 120 of them were brought back across the Seine. "

- Wilmot : Europe. P. 460.

Already at the beginning of the fighting for Elbeuf on August 24th, Model “Hitler opened: 'For the Somme-Marne-Line a total of 4 AOK, 12 Gen.-Kdos are needed. and at least 30–35 div. in front. […] Furthermore, similar to what is now happening on the Eastern Front, in addition to the Somme-Marne Line, further rear positions, up to and including the Siegfried Line, must be considered and prepared '”.

Model must have realized that Hitler could not possibly comply with this demand, and he used the situation to make it clear that it was now only a matter of withdrawing and building the much-maligned "rear positions".

On August 29, he sent a telex to Jodl at midnight about the status of the Wehrmacht in the west:

“After that, the Panzer and Panzergrenadier divisions that fought in Normandy were on average '5 to 10 tanks' strong. From these 11 divisions he could form 11 combat groups of regimental strength, but only if he was immediately given replacement men and equipment. From the remnants of the 16 infantry divisions brought across the Seine, he could set up 4 divisions, but he could not equip them. Model also pointed out that 'the necessary intervention reserves in assault guns and other heavy anti-tank guns are completely lacking.' "

This gradually opened the Fiihrer's eyes. "By August 31, Hitler believed that his allies could be stopped on the Somme-Marne line and had done nothing to put the Siegfried Line in a state of defense" [...] but then there was "after General Walter Warlimont , Jodl's deputy, [...] in the OKW great effort and excitement before it was found out who was keeping the keys! "

"On September 4th, Model reported to the Fuehrer's headquarters that the line Antwerp - Albert Canal - Maas - Westwall - French-Luxembourg border, if Army Group B were to hold it, would be carried by 25 fresh Inf.-Div. occupied and with a sufficient tank reserve of 5-6 Pz.-Div. be supported ". [...] " Otherwise the gate to West Germany is open."

General situation at the front in late summer 1944

At the time of the last fighting in Normandy, the situation for Hitler and the Wehrmacht had deteriorated dramatically on all fronts: In mid-August the Red Army had its summer offensive deep in the Baltic states and as far as the East Prussian border, in southern Poland as far as the Vistula and carried forward to the Carpathian oil fields. All the quick reserves were in use here. In barely two weeks the Russians had overpowered and almost destroyed two armies of Hitler, deprived him of three of his allies (Finland, Romania, Bulgaria), deprived him of his main source of natural oil, reached the northern border of Romania and taken the lower Danube in hand. A little later in the north they stood before Warsaw and Riga.

The German troops had to carry out a difficult withdrawal from Greece. Only the fact that the Allied invasion of Provence from August 15 onwards did little to change the strategic situation - Churchill had insisted in vain on a landing in the northern Adriatic - and that the front in northern Italy was not further endangered, gave Hitler some relief .

Advance of the Allies in September 1944

The Allied headquarters SHAEF was able to react to the new situation in Western Europe as early as August: The expected complete collapse of the German front made a new plan possible and Montgomery suggested taking the Ruhr area after a direct, concentrated thrust through northern France, Belgium and Holland. Montgomery made this proposal on August 17th to Bradley, who appeared to agree, but reported Eisenhower's skepticism on August 19th.
It wasn't until August 23 that Montgomery had the opportunity to discuss the overdue decision directly with Eisenhower:

Generals Patton, Bradley and Montgomery (from left to right) in Normandy

"Eisenhower replied that he still intended to proceed on a broad front because it was essential that Patton advance eastward and shake hands with the forces approaching from southern France."

- Wilmot : Europe. P. 489.

It is true that Montgomery tried with the forced advance of the British-Canadian 21st Army Group, which took place on August 31st to capture Amiens, on September 2nd to cross the Belgian border, on September 3rd to occupy Brussels and a day later the port of Antwerp led to the practical demonstration of the possibility of his plan, but since Patton received the other half of the supplies to proceed via Reims to Metz, both ventures lacked the strength for a quick success. Hitler was able to counter Patton troops in Italy and Montgomery did not have sufficient forces for the airborne operation near Nijmegen and Arnhem.

"Eisenhower had shied away from actually deciding on one of the rival plans, and gave both of them his limited approval in the hope that the necessary supplies would be available in time.
The result was that both plans were foiled. "

- Wilmot : Europe. P. 578.


"On August 23, Hitler chased out the second of his hatred orders against the French capital: Paris had to be stopped and, if necessary, turned into a 'field of rubble'."
Model passed the order on and then no longer cared about it.
“His boss Speidel and General von Choltitz regulated the non-compliance with the notorious 'Fuehrer's order' by mutual agreement.” He dutifully applied for a court martial against Choltitz, but dictated “the IIa, Colonel Freyberg, strange keywords for the reason. [...] In any case, there was never a conviction. "

"Paris was the fulcrum for General Kurt von der Chevallerie's 1st Army, which was returning from southwest France ." This was originally intended. Instead of trying to use these troops to defend Paris, Model directed them east.

“The partly hasty withdrawal from France and Belgium, the dissolution of numerous land and land organizations of the Navy and Air Fleet 3 in the west, the evacuation orders for countless field commanders, supply services and field directorships had led to conditions previously unknown in German war history were. [...] To bring order in chaos - the Field Marshal was made for that. [...] the vague news that Model was there [...] generated just as much horror as confidence in the units still willing to fight. His name had a fabulous effect. "

- Goerlitz: : Model. P. 206.
Field Marshal Walter Model in October 1944

“He knew very well that he would never receive the forces (requested by Hitler on September 4th). [...] He emphatically pointed out that it was only possible to stop the Allied advance in front of the approaches to the Reich. […] Model came to the aid of the fact that the American tank divisions had to make a stop on the heavily overstretched supply lines from the Norman coast because of an acute shortage of fuel. [...] Model used the respite to consolidate its associations. "

Model succeeded in repelling the Allied air landing - Operation Market Garden - near Arnhem, continuing to block the supply port of Antwerp from the Allies, returning the bulk of the 15th Army across the Westerschelde and building a closed line of defense.

The war could not be ended for the Allies in 1944.

Consequences of Hitler's Decisions

It was the merit of Models, with a 'sense of reality', to clear most of France as quickly as possible, to bring back the German troops, the hawser and the large number of staff of the occupation authorities in a reasonably united manner. He had brought about Hitler's insight into the hopelessness of a renewed struggle for “every inch of floor” and undermined his tendency to “hold on” and the destruction that was inevitably associated with it.

In Wilmot's view , it was Hitler's wrong decisions -

"By insisting on the counterattack at Mortain and staying too long at Falaise, Hitler had
sacrificed the only divisions that could have held the front together and covered a general retreat."

- Wilmot : Europe. P. 487.
The destruction in Mortain after the American reclamation

- which led to the almost complete annihilation of the German western army and made a defensive front on the Seine and a fight for Paris and even a defense on the Somme and Marne impossible.

There was no longer any way to let Paris 'burn'.

Hitler's tactical leadership, which was recognized by his own commanders as unrealistic, had the result that - apart from the land area in Normandy and the later battle zones in Alsace-Lorraine - France was saved from extensive destruction, which from a German point of view was appropriate Defense strategy would have brought with it.

Aspects of warfare

Naval warfare

USS Nevada fires its guns at German coastal positions to secure landings on Utah Beach
Three British motor torpedo boats return from searching for German speedboats near Cherbourg.

For Operation Overlord, the Allies put together a large repertoire of ships - seven battleships , two monitors , twenty-three cruisers , three gunboats , 105 destroyers and 1073 smaller warships  - which wore down the German units on the beaches during or shortly before landing and destroy their positions. They should also provide protection for the entire invasion fleet and supply transports.

The American Captain Anthony Duke remembered the Allied Armada:

"By God, I'll never forget the feeling of power - power about to be unleashed - that welled up in me as I viewed the long, endless columns of ships headed toward Normandy."

"By God, I will never forget the feeling of strength - strength waiting to be released - that rose in me as I saw the long, endless columns of ships headed for Normandy."

The capabilities of the German navy against the Allied landing operations were limited (→ Situation of the German armed forces in Normandy in 1944 ). In June 1944, the Navy had no major surface units in the bases in France. The entrances to the canal were also protected by strong warship formations of the Allies , and the Allies had control of the air over the canal (→ air warfare during Operation Overlord ). It was therefore obvious that the Kriegsmarine had no chance of interrupting the Allied supply lines across the canal, nevertheless units of the Kriegsmarine were sent into this, from today's point of view, pointless endeavor.

On June 6, 1944, the Kriegsmarine owned only five torpedo boats , 39 speedboats  - five of which were not operational -, 163 minesweepers and clearing boats , 57 outpost boats ( war fish cutters ) and 42 artillery ferries in the entire canal area . There were also five destroyers, a torpedo boat, 146 minesweepers and clearing boats and 59 outpost boats that were stationed on the Atlantic coast between Brest and Bayonne . In the central canal - where the Allied invasion took place - they only had four torpedo boats, fifteen speedboats, nine outpost boats and six artillery ferries.

The fights were costly for both sides. Most of the time the skirmishes were between German speedboats and British motor torpedo boats ; however, the Germans used their five destroyers, but this was unsuccessful.

For example, the Allies succeeded in building artificial harbors - the so-called Mulberrys  - and conquering the port of Cherbourg, which is important in terms of supply technology, and thus securing important supply positions. One of the most important supplies was fuel . To bring this to Normandy, Operation Pluto ( P ipe- L ines U nder T he O cean) was started. At the beginning of the campaign, fuel was pumped ashore from tankers lying off the coast and filled into the vehicles. When Port-en-Bessin was conquered by the Allies, the first tank farms were built there. At that time, the construction of the first subsea pipeline was already in full swing. It went into operation in Cherbourg in August. More followed later in the Pas-de-Calais. A total of 21 fuel pipelines were laid through the English Channel. Up until April 1945, 3100 tons of fuel flowed into Normandy's supply bases every day. In this way the Allies were able to support their units in the country and help them to expand the bridgehead.

Air war

A Hawker Typhoon is armed with air-to-surface missiles, May 1944
An air-to-surface missile is a Typhoon of 181. Squadron of the Royal Air Force over the Airfield Carpiquet fired

The aerial warfare during Operation Overlord is  one of the most important aerial battles of the Second World War , alongside the Battle of Britain , the porter battles in the Pacific and the strategic aerial warfare against the German Reich . The Allied landing in Normandy was made possible by the air sovereignty of the Allied forces.

Before D-Day, the Allies bombed German supply lines, artillery batteries and supplied parts of the French Resistance with ammunition and equipment from the air.

During D-Day, Allied fighters secured the airspace over the landing area, while bomber squadrons bombed German positions in the hinterland. At the same time, Allied warplanes searched the sea for German submarines and bombed them so as not to endanger the armada and supply ships. Since the Germans largely believed in a landing near Pas-de-Calais until June 1944 (→ German situation in Normandy in 1944 ), they were only able to oppose the Allies with a few fighters and fighter-bombers on D-Day. Most of the planes had been moved further inland to protect them from deep attacks and bombs and had now to be moved back again.

After D-Day, the Allies supported their offensives on the ground with concentrated bombing, but also destroyed the countryside and cities and killed many French civilians. A Welsh soldier told the bomber squadrons that appeared in the sky during the Battle of Caen :

“The entire northern sky, as far as the eye could see, was filled with them [the bombers] - wave upon wave, one upon the other, expanding east and west, so that one thought it would go no further. Everyone had now left their vehicle and stared in amazement [up into the sky] until the last wave of bombers dropped their bombs and started their return flight. After that, the guns began to complete the work of the bombers with increasingly louder gunfire. "


In addition, Allied fighters searched Normandy for German troops and fired at them to avoid being used against the land forces. Since the Germans could not initially fly useful reconnaissance flights, they had little to counter the Allied air superiority.

At the end of August 1944, when the Falaise Pocket was disbanded, the Allied losses amounted to 499 aircraft and 16,674 crews. In contrast, the German Air Force lost fighters in 1522. The loss rate of the fighters in direct aerial combat was 3: 1 to the benefit of the Allies; the loss rate per deployment in the German Air Force was six times higher than that of the Allies. While the Allies were able to compensate for their material losses via intact supply routes, the loss for the German Air Force remained largely unrepaired.


On the German as well as on the Allied side, the imminent invasion was accompanied by propaganda as well as press reports - mostly colored propaganda. For their part, the Germans were confident that the invasion would go well for them, as can be seen in the following excerpts from speeches by the German Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels . Goebbels said in a speech on June 5, 1943 in the Berlin Sportpalast :

“One speaks today of the invasion of Europe as if it were the most natural thing in the world [...] But the English and American soldiers will have to pay a bloody bill. Our Wehrmacht is ready to receive you! "

Allied pass that guarantees good treatment for German troops if they surrender

On June 4, 1944, Goebbels gave another speech in Nuremberg at a large rally on the occasion of the district assembly of the Nuremberg-Stadt district of the NSDAP :

“Even the invasion will not play out as one imagines it in London or Washington. For example, it was not us who lost the first round, but the enemy side, because they thought they were making us nervous with constantly reinventing news. I don't get the impression that you are all insanely nervous [laughter]. But people in London are nervous. The English newspapers themselves write that a new disease has broken out: invasionitis [laughter]. Yesterday again in America there was a direct hysterical mass mood because a telex typed in London to New York - she had practiced telex typing and had written down a sentence as exercise material that the invasion had already begun, whereupon one in all of America Sensation breaks out. The British and Americans may think that such reports make us nervous. You are probably thinking that I am speaking here now, in order to slowly turn you off again - that I say: Well, it's not that bad, don't be so nervous and not so hysterical! [Laughter]"

The precautions were also praised in German magazines. The Atlantic Wall was often depicted heroically, for example on the cover of the German weekly newspaper Das Reich , which depicted a steadfast German soldier with a shield on which it reads “Atlantic Wall” and against whom a powerless Briton rushes. Other newspapers also made sensational comments, such as the Brussels newspaper of April 13, 1944:

"In a pale fear of the invasion
'The Great Bloodbath of World History'
The USA.-Publicist Reynolds shows the real face of the Second Front. If a million men land, he reckons every second man to be lost. The guns of the Maginot Line are built into the Atlantic Wall today. "

The Allied Commander in Chief Dwight D. Eisenhower, however, was confident that the Allies would achieve victory. In his speech before D-Day he said:

“You will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world. [...] The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeat in open battle man to man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our home fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men. The tide has turned. The free men of the world are marching together to victory. I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty, and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory. Good luck, and let us all beseech the blessings of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking. "

“You will bring destruction over the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe and security for us in a free world. [...] The United Nations inflicted great losses on the Germans in open man-to-man combat. Our air offensive has seriously weakened its strength in the air and its ability to wage war on the ground. Our home fronts have given us an overwhelming supply of weapons and ammunition, and have provided large reserves of trained fighting men. The luck has turned. The free men of the world march together to victory. I have complete confidence in your courage, the fulfillment of your duties and your experience of combat. We will not accept anything other than total victory. Good luck and let us all seek the blessings of Almighty God for this great and noble endeavor. "

The Germans reported mostly positively about the invasion and propagated that heavy losses would be inflicted on the enemy. A German editor reported on instructions on how to deal with communications from the Allied invasion:

"[...] We have been instructed to write very happily about this long-awaited event."

The propaganda referred not only to the soldiers or populations of the parties, but also to the respective opponent. In this way, the Allies guaranteed the German soldiers who would surrender voluntarily a comfortable and safe life. These messages were distributed through leaflets . The first Allied aircraft were on the move over the Normandy skies on June 5 and 6, 1944, dropping leaflets, and only then did the machines with the paratroopers on board follow. The leaflets were written in the language of the respective opponent. In some cases, however, commands were also printed in the language of the distributors in order to ensure that the prisoners were treated comfortably. In addition to guarantees and the like for the soldiers, these leaflets sometimes also contained bomb warnings etc. for the civilian population. The Allies dropped several million copies of these leaflets.

Magazines were also dropped from the air behind enemy lines. From April 25, 1944, the Allies threw a new edition of the newspaper “ Nachrichten für die Truppe ” on a daily basis , which initially consisted of two and later of four pages and contained news about the military situation and other things. This campaign was developed by a combined American and British staff for Operation Overlord. In addition to this magazine, the British and Americans also produced the magazines “Frontpost” and “Frontbrief”.

According to the book Overlord by Max Hastings, the most effective method of this propaganda was, however, operated by the British radio station Radio Calais, which almost reached the half German army. According to Hastings, the Germans listened carefully to the Allied announcements about captured German soldiers, which were read over the radio.

The Germans tried to convince the German population of the possibility of still winning the war with their “wonder weapons” like the V1 or V2 , and to demoralize the British population by shooting down London.

The hot-blooded voice of Mildred Elizabeth Sisk Gillars , who became known as a propagandist for Großdeutscher Rundfunk , Radio Berlin under the pseudonym Axis Sally , was also well received by the Allied troops . Her infamous radio feature , called Vision of Invasion, consisted of her playing an American mother who had lost her son in the English Channel on May 11, 1944, shortly before the planned invasion of Normandy . An announcer's voice got to the point, with the words: The D of D-Day stands for doom ... disaster ... death ... defeat ... Dunkerque or Dieppe .

Civilian population


French civilians after the invasion of the Caen area
A British soldier helps an old woman after the conquest of Caen. The ruins of the city can be seen in the background.
A French family returns to their village of Buron on July 18th, which was completely destroyed during the fighting.

Due to the conditions for the civilian population in Normandy ( artillery fire and bombardment ), the number of civilian casualties was particularly high. To escape the bombs and grenades, people sought refuge in cellars, caves, quarries and trenches covered with bundles of firewood.

Several thousand residents fled south on streets and paths that were regularly bombed. Among them were men, women, and children, including the elderly and the sick, who set out on foot, in carts, and sometimes with their cows. Some did so spontaneously to escape the fighting, while others received orders from the German army to leave their homes. The refugees headed south, sometimes alone and sometimes in convoys, mostly on routes that the Vichy regime had worked out.

The majority of the civilian casualties died as a result of Allied air bombing aimed at destroying roads in order to stop German supplies. Leaflets were dropped in advance of bombing to warn the population. The deadliest attacks took place on the evening of June 6th and during the night of June 6th to 7th, with the cities of Lisieux , Pont-l'Évêque , Caen , Argentan , Flers , Condé-sur-Noireau , Vire , Saint -Lô and Coutances were partially destroyed. More than 3,000 people were killed. In the days that followed, bombs devastated L'Aigle , Avranches , Valognes , Vimoutiers , Falaise and Alençon . Air strikes then subsided , although smaller towns and villages such as Aunay-sur-Odon and Evrecy continued to be heavily bombed.

Many other residents died as a result of the Allied artillery bombardment and the bombardment from the sea (→ naval warfare during Operation Overlord ). Many of the towns and villages on the landing beaches were destroyed and many residents were killed. Alexander McKee said the following about the bombing of the city of Caen (→ Battle of Caen ) on July 7th:

“The 2,500 tons of bombs made no distinction between friend and foe. If the British commanders believed that they were able to intimidate the Germans by killing the French, they were seriously mistaken. "

When the city of Caen was captured by the British and Canadians on July 9th, many of Caen's residents were dead or homeless . The pioneer Arthur Wilkes described the state of the city as follows: "Mountains of debris, [about] 20 or 30 foot [≈ 6 or 9 m] high [...] the dead lay everywhere." .

That destroyed Oradour-sur-Glane today

Various residents were killed by Germans, either for resistance actions or because they refused to obey orders (there were 650 for Lower Normandy alone). So on D-Day in many of the were prison imprisoned Caen people executed. On June 10, 1944, the so-called Oradour massacre occurred , in which the town of Oradour-sur-Glane was destroyed as a reprisal against partisan activity and the inhabitants were murdered (see Oradour massacre). 642 people died in the massacre , of whom only 52 could be identified. 207 children and 254 women were among the dead. Only six residents survived the massacre.

Months after the fighting, large numbers of Normandy residents - farmers, sailors, and often children - fell victim to mines and misfired bombs.

In total, around 20,000 Normandy residents lost their lives - considerably more than the number of British and Canadian soldiers killed in combat (approx. 16,000) and about the same as the American dead (approx. 21,000). An increased number of civilian casualties can be found in the area around Caen, which was particularly hard hit by the heavy fighting during the Battle of Caen. In 1989 civilians died in Caen alone, compared with just 72 in the suburbs and surrounding villages.


French civilians celebrate the arrival of Allied forces in Carentan, the first city to be liberated by US troops.
Allied soldiers talk to French civilians (23 August 1944).

The official view that was widespread after the war is that when the Allies arrived in the cities of Normandy, flags were used to celebrate, and parts of the population even dressed in the colors of the Union Jack . The Allies were greeted with bottles of wine and open wine cellars, while they in turn gave the residents of the cities chocolate , tobacco and chewing gum . For example, the 1st Battalion King's Own Scotish Borderers war diary has an entry for July 9th:

“The abandoned-looking houses slowly started to revive as the [French] civilians realized that we were conquering the city [Caen]. They came out running with glasses and bottles of wine [from their houses]. "


After the city of Paris (→ Battle of Paris ) was under Allied control on August 25, 1944 , Charles de Gaulle held a triumphal procession on August 26 and then spoke to the Parisians from the balcony of the town hall. On the same day, a French victory parade followed over the Champs-Élysées . A bookseller from Paris, Jean Galtier-Boissière, described the scenes in Paris on August 25, 1944 as follows:

“An excited crowd huddles around the French tanks, which are decorated with flags and flowers. On every tank, on every armored vehicle, girls, women, boys and Fifis with armbands [fighters of the FFI] stand next to the men in khaki overalls and kepi. The people lined the street, threw kisses, raised their clenched fists, and showed their enthusiasm for the liberators. "

Indeed, the reception of Allied soldiers in Normandy was frostier as the French people were reminded of the horrors of war through bombing, looting and sexual assault by Allied soldiers.

War crimes

An Allied soldier guards two German prisoners of war near Caen , July 11, 1944
Canadian soldiers guard a French woman and German prisoners near Caen , July 19

War crimes were committed by both the German and Allied sides during Operation Overlord , with those of the Americans, Canadians and British only recently being uncovered through research by British historian Antony Beevor, based largely on eyewitness accounts . Prisoners of war were killed on both sides, either some time after they had already been captured, or when soldiers were clearly about to surrender. The fact that these were not just spontaneous actions or reactions to bitter, loss-making battles shows the verifiable existence of appropriate orders not to take prisoners. The shooting of German prisoners by Allied soldiers was practiced, for example, when their own rapid advance would have been delayed by the necessary evacuation of the prisoners. Furthermore, according to Beevor, German soldiers killed the wounded and medical personnel, while Allied pilots shot German medical vehicles from the air. The following units were mainly involved in such crimes: On the German side, the 12th SS Panzer Division "Hitler Youth" and, conversely, the Canadians fighting against them; In the first few days alone, 187 Canadian prisoners were killed, including 18 in the night of June 7th to 8th in the massacre in the Abbaye d'Ardenne near Caen. For the American side, several incidents are reported from the 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions, whose paratroopers had to endure particularly heavy fighting on the first day; For example, 30 prisoners of the Wehrmacht were shot at Audouville-la-Hubert on D-Day.

In addition, during Operation Overlord there were several massacres of the French civilian population carried out under the guise of "fighting terrorism" by members of the following Waffen SS divisions: 1st SS Panzer Division "Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler", 2nd SS Panzer Division “Das Reich”, 12th SS Panzer Division “Hitler Youth” (including SS Panzergrenadier Regiment 26), 17th SS Panzergrenadier Division “Götz von Berlichingen.” After Beevor lost among the 26 worst Massacres in France in 1944 killed a total of 1,904 people, including 642 (including 207 children, 254 women) in Oradour-sur-Glane on June 10, 1944; the place was almost completely destroyed. In August, SS men retreated and killed hundreds of civilians in Buchères near Troyes, in Maillé as well as in Tavaux and Plomion . In view of the impending German defeat, the Gestapo murdered 600 members of the Resistance who had already been arrested.

The former SS-Standartenführer Kurt Meyer reports on the treatment of German prisoners of war by Canadian troops as follows :

“On June 7th, I was given a notepad from a Canadian captain. In addition to handwritten orders, the notes instructed, 'no prisoners were to be taken'. Some Canadian prisoners were asked [then] if the instructions were true [...] and they said that if the prisoners were obstructing progress, they were ordered not to capture them. "

Meyer is said to have ordered: “What should we do with these prisoners? They just eat our rations. No more prisoners will be taken in the future. "

The Canadian company commander and Major Jacques D. Dextraze confirmed Meyer's allegations after the war:

“We passed the river - the bridge had been blown up. […] We took 85 prisoners of war. I picked an officer and said, 'bring them back to the PW cage'. He went back and ordered them to run to the bridge [...]. These men had run a few miles. They arrived at the bridge exhausted, [but the officer said:] No no, you don't take the bridge, you swim. Now the men fell into the water. Most drowned. [...] Then they were taken out of the water by the pioneers who repaired the bridge. I felt very bad when I saw them all piled up next to the bridge. "


The exact number of soldiers lost during Operation Overlord cannot be reconstructed. Even before D-Day - between April and May 1944 - the Allies lost nearly 12,000 men and more than 2,000 aircraft. Since D-Day, the Allies had around 53,700 dead (37,000 dead in the land forces and 16,714 dead in the air force), 18,000 missing and 155,000 wounded, the Germans 200,000 dead, missing and wounded and a further 200,000 prisoners of war. Of the Allies, a total of 32,807 of the fallen are buried in war cemeteries in Normandy, while the Germans have 77,866. The casualties among the French civilian population amounted to around 20,000 people.


The 82nd Airborne Division over the landing zone at Grave during Operation Market Garden

Operation Overlord was relatively successful for the Allies, so that they were able to expand their bridgehead in Normandy and create a solid base for a further advance eastwards towards Germany. In addition, their second landing in southern France helped the Allies, Operation Dragoon , to conquer France and advance more powerfully.

Due to the enormous amount of material and absolute mastery of the air, German troop concentrations could be broken up at any time, which is why the Allies made rapid progress after the end of Operation Overlord. Although they overstretched their supply lines during their rapid advance to the German Siegfried Line, the establishment of new, faster supply routes (→ Red Ball Express ) made it possible above all to provide the fuel required in large quantities. Brussels fell on September 3, 1944 , and Antwerp was occupied the next day .

Field Marshal General Wilhelm Keitel signs the ratifying document of surrender in Berlin-Karlshorst in 1945

In the Market Garden airborne operation , the II. SS Panzer Corps was able to inflict another heavy defeat on the British and US Americans in Arnhem . The operation took place between September 17 and 27, 1944 in the Dutch provinces of Noord-Brabant and Gelderland and had the aim of bypassing the German Siegfried Line and enabling the British and American troops to advance rapidly into the German Empire. As Eisenhower later analyzed, it was "50% a success". The Allies moved the front line from Belgium north to Nijmegen , but the goal of bypassing the German defense lines by crossing the Rhine at Arnhem was not achieved. The unexpectedly strong German resistance in Arnhem prevented the capture of the important Rhine bridge. The Allies finally had to withdraw with high losses of people and material.

In order to be able to use the port of Antwerp , the Canadian troops switched off the German positions on the islands of South Beveland and Walcheren in the Scheldt estuary in October . The important battle at the Scheldt estuary lasted over a month, then the way was clear for the Allied supplies.

On October 21, the Allies captured the first German city after fierce fighting with Aachen . On November 22, 1944, US forces further south reached Metz and Strasbourg . In December the Germans tried to gain the upper hand in the west with the Battle of the Bulge . The objective of the operation to split the lines of the Allies and to advance on a broad front to Belgium, however, failed to the same extent as to exploit the forced reclassification of the Allied forces within the framework of the operation Nordwind carried out in January 1945 .

The Western Allied troops continued to advance towards Germany and met with Soviet troops on April 25 in Torgau an der Elbe ( Elbe Day ); the last sphere of influence of the Germans was now divided into two parts. On April 26, Bremen fell to the British, who moved on to the northeast. In quick succession they took Lübeck (May 2) and Hamburg (May 3), and finally Wismar ; probably also to prevent the Red Army from advancing to Schleswig-Holstein . After Eisenhower had rejected the request for a separate armistice with the Western Allies at the operational headquarters of the SHAEF in Reims, the German Colonel General Alfred Jodl , who had previously been authorized by the last Reich President Karl Dönitz , signed the unconditional total surrender of all Germans in the morning hours of May 6, 1945 Troops that entered into force on May 8 at 11:01 p.m. Central European Time.


The Pointe du Hoc Ranger Monument
The American War Cemetery in Brittany

After the end of the war, many cemeteries, memorials and museums were opened in the former area of ​​operations in northern France, which are intended to commemorate the fallen, the survivors and also the events.

The best-known burial and memorial site is the American military cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer . There are also many other cemeteries and memorials of the British, Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders in Normandy, some of which are also buried in common sites. German soldiers' graves have been brought together in the war cemetery in La Cambe and in Saint-Désir- de-Lisieux.

The beaches of the operation are codenamed on maps and street signs, and many of the bunkers are still standing. Many of the streets are named after the units that fought in their area or after the commanders, while busts, memorials and, in some cases, museums have been erected in places such as the Pegasus Bridge .

One of the most famous memorials is the rock needle at Pointe du Hoc, about ten kilometers west of the American memorial on Omaha Beach . It is intended to remember the rangers who fell there and as a reminder to future generations of the events of D-Day.

The Musée de la paix (Peace Museum ) in Caen was built on the initiative of the local city administration and opened in 1988. There are numerous other museums that are scattered all over Normandy and some are even located in very small towns.

Remains of one of the originally two artificial harbors are still off the coast at Arromanches. In Sainte-Mère-Église, a paratrooper dummy on the church tower reminds of the deployment of this unit. On Juno Beach, Canadians built the Juno Beach Information Center in Courseulles-sur-Mer , while the Americans built their “ National D-Day Museum ” in the United States in New Orleans (today's name National World War II Museum).

Every year on June 6, the American cartoonist and veteran of the Second World War, Charles M. Schulz (1922-2000), remembered his comrades who fell in Normandy with his cartoon " The Peanuts ".

See also


Some of the books are available in German, English and other languages. Books that have been published in German are only listed under “In German Language”. Specific literature on the landings on the beaches or on individual operations etc. can be found in the respective articles.


  • Antony Beevor: D-Day - The Battle of Normandy. C. Bertelsmann, Gütersloh, 2010, ISBN 978-3-570-10007-3 (English original, 2009: ISBN 0-670-88703-X .)
  • Federal Archives - Military Archives of the Federal Republic of Germany, Freiburg, role BA-MA RL 10/358.
  • Fliegerblatt, official organ of the Association of Fliers of German Armed Forces e. V./Issue No. 5/2006, report by Lieutenant Fischer 3./JG 2 about his attack on the landing ships on June 6, 1944.
  • Will Fowler: D-Day: The First 24 Hours. Amber Books Ltd., London 2003, ISBN 3-85492-855-6 (Fowler's book only describes Operation Neptune, but with good illustrations and lots of maps).
  • Walter Görlitz : Strategy of the Defensive - Model. Limes-Verlag, Wiesbaden and Munich 1982, ISBN 3-8090-2071-0 .
  • Tony Hall (Ed.): Operation "Overlord". Motorbuch Verlag, Stuttgart 2004, ISBN 3-613-02407-1 (English original, 2003: ISBN 0-7603-1607-4 . Comprehensive work by international authors. The book is structured thematically.)
  • Helmut K. von Keusgen: D-Day 1944, The Landing of the Allies in Normandy. IMK-Creativ-Verl., Garbsen 2000, ISBN 3-932922-10-7 .
  • Yves Lecouturier: The Beaches of the Allied Landing. Morstadt, 2003, ISBN 3-88571-287-3 .
  • Peter Lieb : Overlord company. The invasion of Normandy and the liberation of Western Europe. (= Beck series , 6129). Verlag CH Beck, Munich 2014, ISBN 978-3-406-66071-9 .
  • Winfried Mönch: decisive battle "Invasion" 1944? Prognoses and diagnoses. Franz Steiner Verlag, 2001, ISBN 3-515-07884-3 .
  • Janusz Piekałkiewicz : Invasion. France 1944. Südwest-Verlag, Munich 1979, ISBN 3-517-00670-X .
  • Friedrich Ruge : Rommel and the invasion. Memories. Koehler, Stuttgart 1959.
  • Cornelius Ryan : The longest day. Kaiser, Klagenfurt 1994, ISBN 978-3-7042-2026-4 .
  • Dan Parry: D-Day. Vgs Verlagsgesellschaft: Cologne, 2004, ISBN 3-8025-1618-4 .
  • Brian B. Schofield : The jump over the canal. Motorbuch Verlag, 1978, ISBN 3-87943-536-7 .
  • Percy E. Schramm (Ed.): War Diary of the High Command of the Wehrmacht 1944–1945. Part 1, ISBN 3-7637-5933-6 (Annotated edition of the war diary, a total of eight volumes, one of which deals with the situation on the Western Front in 1944, among other things.)
  • Dan van der Vat: D-Day. The Allied landing in Normandy. Collection Rolf Heyne, Munich 2004, ISBN 3-89910-199-5 .
  • Chester Wilmot : The Struggle for Europe. Gutenberg Book Guild, Zurich 1955.


  • Omar Bradley , Clay Blair : A General's Life. Autobiography, 1983.
  • Anthony Hall: Operation Overlord. D-Day Day by Day. New Line Books, 2005, ISBN 1-84013-592-1 - Diary of the planning, preparation and execution of Operation Overlord, but only until about fifteen days after D-Day.
  • Stephen E. Ambrose : D-Day. Simon & Schuster Inc., 1994, ISBN 0-7434-4974-6 - This book is based on various interviews with contemporary witnesses and deals exclusively with D-Day, the day before and after (D-1 and D + 1). In addition to this book, Ambrose wrote various other books, such as the book Band of Brothers , which was the model for the television series of the same name .
  • Robin Niellands: The Battle of Normandy - 1944. Weidenfeld & Nicholson military, 2002, ISBN 0-304-35837-1 - Nielland's book on the Battle of Normandy deals with various aspects of Operation Overlord with many quotations as background.
  • Fritz Kramer, Fritz Ziegelmann , Heinrich von Lüttwitz , Heinz Guderian : Fighting in Normandy. The German Army from D-Day to Villers-Bocage. Stackpole Books, 2001, ISBN 1-85367-460-5 .
  • Ronald J. Drez: Voices of D-Day. The Story of the Allied Invasion Told by Those Who Were There (Eisenhower Center Studies on War and Peace). Louisiana State University Press, 1998, ISBN 0-8071-2081-2 .
  • John Keegan : Six Armies in Normandy. From D-Day to the Liberation of Paris; June 6 - Aug. 5, 1944. Penguin Books , 1994, ISBN 0-14-023542-6 .
  • Max Hastings : Overlord. Touchstone; Reprint edition, 1985, ISBN 0-671-55435-2 .
  • Humphrey and Young, Susan Wynn: Prelude to Overlord: An Account of the Air Operations Which Preceded and Supported Operation Overlore. the Allied Landings in Normandy on D-Day, 6th, Presidio Press, 1984, ISBN 0-89141-201-8 .
  • CP Stacey: Canada's Battle in Normandy. Queen's Printer, 1948.
  • Carlo D'Este : Decision in Normandy. London, 1983.
  • Brown: Operation Neptune. Frank Cass Publishers, London 2004, ISBN 0-415-35068-9 .
  • Russell A. Hart: Clash of Arms: How the Allies Won in Normandy. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2001, ISBN 1-55587-947-0 .


  • Eddy Florentin: Stalingrad en Normandy. Paris, Presses de la Cité, 1964.
  • Anthony Kemp: 6 juin 1944. Edition Découverte Gallimard, Série Histoire, 1994, ISBN 2-07-058353-8 .
  • Georges Bernage: Gold Juno Sword. Editions Heimdal, ISBN 2-84048-168-5 .
  • Georges Bernage: Diables Rouges en Normandie. Editions Heimdal, ISBN 2-84048-158-8 .
  • Dominique Kieffer, Stéphane Simonnet: N ° 4 Commando. Editions Heimdal, March 2004, ISBN 2-84048-180-4 .
  • Philippe Bauduin: Quand l'or noir coulait à flots. Editions Heimdal, March 2004, ISBN 2-84048-187-1 .
  • Erwin Rommel : Archives Rommel. Herrlingen-bluestone.
  • Dominique Lormier: Rummy. La fin d'un mythe. Le Cherche-Midi Éditeur, Paris 2003.
  • Henry Corta (1921–1998), First Lieutenant SAS: Les bérets rouges. Amicale des anciens parachutistes SAS francais. Paris 1952, French SAS in Brittany.
  • Henry Corta: Qui ose gagne (Who dares wins). Service Historique de l'Armée de Terre (SHAT), Vincennes 1997, French SAS in Brittany, ISBN 978-2-86323-103-6 .

Audio books

  • Stephen E. Ambrose: D-Day: June 6, 1944 - The Climactic Battle of WWII. Audio works; Abridged edition, 2001, ISBN 0-7435-0814-9 , audio CD (English).


  • Christophe Rosé: Invasion at Dawn - The Landing in Normandy. F 2014, two-part documentary (Original: La lumière de l'aube ; English title: The Light of Dawn - The Normandy Landings .) German version 2015 (Dt. Ed. Marx Video; The planning; The invasion begins) (producer)
  • The Liberation. Documentary, Germany 2003. Shown in ARTE on June 6, 2014, 8:15 pm - 9:05 pm. (Original recordings, eyewitness reports).

Feature films

Web links

Commons : Operation Overlord  - album with pictures, videos and audio files





Individual evidence

  1. ^ Rüdiger Bolz: Synchronopses of the Second World War. ECON Taschenbuch Verlag, Düsseldorf 1983, p. 205, ISBN 3-612-10005-X .
  2. In France it is called débarquement (landing); Invasion , a common term in Germany, is the common term in France, especially for the invasion of the Wehrmacht in June 1940 . Peter Lieb : Conventional war or Nazi ideological war? Warfare and the fight against partisans in France 1943/44. P. 2 (footnote 6). In the Enc. Britannica, the corresponding article is entitled Normandy Invasion (author John Keegan) - Alternative titles: COSSAC; D-Day, also called Operation Overlord .
  3. Chester Wilmot : The Struggle for Europe. Book Guild Gutenberg, Zurich 1955, p. 95.
  4. Halder's diary, September 14, 1940. quoted: Wilmot, p. 43.
  5. Wilmot, pp. 61-66.
  6. Winston S. Churchill: The Second World War. Scherz Verlag, Bern Stuttgart, 1954, p. 413.
  7. This message was also addressed to Japan, but the Japanese did not allow themselves to be dissuaded from their neutrality with the Soviet Union. Keitel said at the Nuremberg trial that in the winter of 1941 a total of 18-20 Russian Far East divisions intervened in the fight one after the other. According to: The trial of the main war criminals before the International Military Tribunal. Volume X, p. 603, meeting on April 4, 1946. quoted: Wilmot, p. 88.
  8. Nuremberg Document C74 & C75 , quoted: Wilmot, p. 75.
  9. ↑ In 1942 the Luftwaffe personnel, who had been drafted for a renewed attack on England, were combined into twenty Luftwaffe field divisions and deployed under Göring's command (!) As ground troops on the Eastern Front. Quotation: Wilmot, p. 86.
  10. Winston S. Churchill: The Second World War. P. 421 f.
  11. ^ Robert E. Sherwood in: Roosevelt and Hopkins: an Intimate History. New York 1948, p. 445. Both quotations in: Wilmot, p. 98.
  12. Wilmot, p. 102.
  13. ^ Churchill: The Second World War. P. 499.
  14. Winston Churchill: The Second World War. P. 500.
  15. Churchill, p. 501.
  16. ^ Rüdiger Bolz: Synchronopses of the Second World War. , ECON Taschenbuch Verlag, Düsseldorf 1983, p. 187, ISBN 3-612-10005-X .
  17. ^ R. Bolz: Synchronopses of the Second World War. , Düsseldorf 1983, p. 205 (quote from Hitler). Bolz, quotation in the previous section: p. 194.
  18. Janusz Piekalkiewicz: The Invasion. France 1944 . Munich 1979, p. 42 .
  19. Janusz Piekalkiewicz: The Invasion. France 1944. Munich 1979, p. 65.
  20. Frederick Sowrey: Aerial Reconnaissance. In: David G. Chandler / James Lawton Collins jr. (Ed.): The D-Day Encyclopedia. New York et al. a. 1994, ISBN 0-13-203621-5 , pp. 1-3, pp. 1.
  21. Janusz Piekalkiewicz: The Invasion. France 1944. Munich 1979, p. 61 f.
  22. ^ Anthony Hall: Operation Overlord: D-Day Day by Day. New Line Books, 2005, ISBN 1-84013-592-1 , p. 21.
  23. ^ Anthony Hall: Operation Overlord. D-Day Day by Day. New Line Books, 2005, ISBN 1-84013-592-1 , p. 55.
  24. ^ Anthony Hall: Operation Overlord. D-Day Day by Day. New Line Books, 2005, ISBN 1-84013-592-1 .
  25. [1] Record Gazette: Phantom divisions of the US Army helped on D-Day , June 4, 2004, accessed November 27, 2014.
  26. Musée; Reports of the battle on lesamitiesdelaresistance.fr (PDF; French).
  27. ^ T. Michael Booth and Duncan Spencer: Paratrooper. The Life of Gen. James M. Gavin. Schuster & Simon, New York 1994, ISBN 0-671-73226-9 , pp. 170/71.
  28. Chester Wilmot: ' The Struggle for Europe. Book guild Gutenberg, Zurich 1955, p. 247.
  29. Documentation of the Discovery Channel from 2002: Normandie , order number: 29208.
  30. Chester Wilmot : The Struggle for Europe. Book guild Gutenberg, Zurich 1955, p. 243.
  31. ^ Quotes from: Telephone diary of the 7th Army staff. In: Wilmot: Europe. P. 260.
  32. ^ Wilmot: Europe. P. 262 f.
  33. Wolf (2013), page 417 and Fliegerblatt No. 5/2006.
  34. Wolf (2013), page 425 and Bundesarchiv Rolle BA-MA RL 10/358.
  35. ^ Wilmot: Europe. Pp. 302, 307.
  36. Brian B. Schofield: The Jump Over the Canal. Motorbuch Verlag 1978, ISBN 3-87943-536-7 , p. 73.
  37. a b British Department of Defense: Drive on Caen , PDF.
  38. ^ 7 Army Diary, Aug 8, 6:45 p.m. Quoted in: Wilmot, Chester: The struggle for 'Europe'. Book Guild Gutenberg, Zurich 1955, p. 426.
  39. ^ Wilmot: Europe. P. 444 f.
  40. a b Wilmot: Europe. P. 446.
  41. Wilmot: Europa, p. 461.
  42. ^ Walter Görlitz: Model - Strategy of the Defensive. Limes-Verlag, Wiesbaden and Munich 1982, p. 199.
  43. General v. Manteuffel in: Liddell Hart: "The other side from the hill", London 1951, p. 101f, quoted in Wilmot: 'Europa', p. 462.
  44. quoted in: Wilmot: 'Europa', p. 462.
  45. ^ Wilmot: Europe. P. 461.
  46. ^ Görlitz: Model. P. 212.
  47. ^ Wilmot: Europe. P. 459.
  48. a b Wilmot: Europe. P. 460.
  49. Wilmot: Europa , p. 508.
  50. Telex Models to Jodl, September 4, 1944 (from the document collection of v. Tempelhoffs.) Quoted in: Wilmot: Europa. P. 508.
  51. to: Wilmot: Europa. Pp. 462-465, 484.
  52. ^ Görlitz: Model. P. 201.
  53. ^ Görlitz: Model. P. 202.
  54. ^ Görlitz: Model. P. 199.
  55. ^ Görlitz: Model. P. 205 ff.
  56. Stephen E. Ambrose: D-Day. Simon & Schuster Inc., 1994, ISBN 0-7434-4974-6 , p. 258.
  57. ^ British Ministry of Defense: Normandy 60th Anniversary ( Memento of October 28, 2005 in the Internet Archive ), PDF, p. 5.
  58. Stefan man: student-online.net ; Retrieved April 15, 2006.
  59. Janusz Piekalkiewicz: The Invasion. France 1944. Munich 1979, p. 104.
  60. Janusz Piekalkiewicz: The Invasion. France 1944. Munich 1979, p. 95.
  61. Eisenhower's order of the day for June 6, 1944 on americanrhetoric.com , accessed on August 10, 2015.
  62. Documentation of the Discovery Channel from 2002: "Normandie" , order number: 29208.
  63. psywar.org: Leaflet Operations in the Western European Theater , accessed on 14 May, 2006.
  64. Max Hastings: Overlord . Pam Books, 1999, ISBN 0-330-39012-0 , pp. 243 .
  65. Yves Lecouturier: Discovery Paths - The Beaches of the Allied Landing. ISBN 3-88571-287-3 , p. 102.
  66. a b British Ministry of Defense: The Drive on Caen (PDF) ( Memento from January 26, 2005 in the Internet Archive )
  67. normandiememoire.com: Card with civilian victims ( Memento of the original from July 14, 2006 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.normandiememoire.com archive link was inserted automatically and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. ; Retrieved June 10, 2006.
  68. Hedley Paul Willmott, Robin Cross, Charles Messenger: The Second World War. ISBN 3-8067-2561-6 , p. 231.
  69. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8084210.stm
  70. ^ Antony Beevor: D-Day. The battle for Normandy . Munich 2010, p. 67, 80-83, 120 f., 136, 163, 176, 183 f., 193, 198 f., 221, 228 f., 232, 241 f., 253, 275 f., 288 f., 318, 374, 403 f., 411, 420, 460, 466, 475 f., 497, 519, 536, 540 .
  71. Klaus Wiegrefe : The Horror of D-Day: A New Openness to Discussing Allied War Crimes in WWII. In: Spiegel Online . May 4, 2010, accessed February 27, 2015 .
  72. a b valourandhorror.com: Prisoners of War - The capture and treatment of POW's was often problematic, on both the German and Allied sides. ( Memento from January 16, 2009 in the Internet Archive )
  73. ^ Report by a Polish corporal from the 12th SS Panzer Division
  74. ^ Death Tolls for the Man-made Megadeaths of the 20th Century on necrometrics.com and D-Day Museum: D-Day and the Battle of Normandy: Your Questions Answered on ddaymuseum.co.uk , accessed on August 10, 2015.


  1. (From von Tempelhoff's collection of documents.) In addition to the 16 infantry divisions mentioned here, 7 had fought in Normandy. They were completely destroyed, and Model no longer used them in his strengths. Quoted from: Wilmot. Europe. P. 460.
This article was added to the list of excellent articles on October 27, 2006 in this version .