Friday, June 6, 2014

The Normandy Invasions: Dwight D. Eisenhower and How He Refused to Celebrate D-Day

The Normandy invasions were so long and tediously prepared for, so intricate in design, so impossible to envision in the whole, or to envision having a chance of succeeding, that now 70 years later, without careful, thoughtful consideration with study of this most important of freedom crusades, we cannot comprehend it. Even with careful consideration, comprehension must surely be dim unless you were there. Reading of the sacrifices of those who perished and those who survived, is overwhelming. In mid-May, 2014, Michael Beschloss, writing for the New York Times, gives us a glimpse of what a D-Day anniversary was like for President Dwight David Eisenhower, a Five-Star General and Supreme Commander of Allied Forces on June 6, 1944, who led the allied militaries to victory. President Eisenhower is the one president who would not participate in public celebrations of the Normandy invasion.

Had anyone dared to offer Ike such gratuitous advice, however, he would have had them expelled from the Oval Office. Pointedly he did not visit Normandy or stage a White House ceremony to extol his own leadership. Self-celebration was mostly alien to the men and women of World War II’s “greatest generation,” starting with the supreme commander. 
Eisenhower’s painful memories of soldiers dying as a direct result of his command decisions had caused him to break down in public at least once before. As this photograph demonstrates, in a little-remembered incident during the 1952 presidential campaign, when Eisenhower — who usually kept his emotions under lock and key — spoke to a World War II veterans’ audience about those soldiers, he was so overwhelmed by grief that he covered his face with a handkerchief. Read more here.
Portsmouth Harbor, England was the point of departure for many of the vessels involved in the invasions. On the day of June 6, 1944, General Eisenhower was in allied headquarters in Portsmouth.
This operation involved landing the troops on the beaches, and all other associated supporting operations required to establish a beachhead in France. Operation Neptune began on D-Day (6 June 1944) and ended on 30 June 1944. By this time, the Allies had established a firm foothold in Normandy. Operation Overlord also began on D-Day, and continued until Allied forces crossed the River Seine on 19 August 1944. The Battle of Normandy is the name given to the fighting in Normandy between D-Day and the end of August 1944.
On D-Day, the Allies landed around 156,000 troops in Normandy. The American forces landed numbered 73,000: 23,250 on Utah Beach, 34,250 on Omaha Beach, and 15,500 airborne troops. In the British and Canadian sector, 83,115 troops were landed (61,715 of them British): 24,970 on Gold Beach, 21,400 on Juno Beach, 28,845 on Sword Beach, and 7900 airborne troops. 
11,590 aircraft were available to support the landings. On D-Day, Allied aircraft flew 14,674 sorties, and 127 were lost. 
In the airborne landings on both flanks of the beaches, 2,395 aircraft and 867 gliders of the RAF and USAAF were used on D-Day. 
Operation Neptune involved huge naval forces, including 6,939 vessels: 1,213 naval combat ships, 4,126 landing ships and landing craft, 736 ancillary craft and 864 merchant vessels. Some 195,700 personnel were assigned to Operation Neptune: 52,889 US, 112,824 British, and 4,988 from other Allied countries. 
By the end of 11 June (D + 5), 326,547 troops, 54,186 vehicles and 104,428 tons of supplies had been landed on the beaches...
“Casualties” refers to all losses suffered by the armed forces: killed, wounded, missing in action (meaning that their bodies were not found) and prisoners of war. There is no "official" casualty figure for D-Day. Under the circumstances, accurate record keeping was very difficult. For example, some troops who were listed as missing may actually have landed in the wrong place, and have rejoined their parent unit only later. 
In April and May 1944, the Allied air forces lost nearly 12,000 men and over 2,000 aircraft in operations which paved the way for D-Day.
The Allied casualties figures for D-Day have generally been estimated at 10,000, including 2,500 dead. Broken down by nationality, the usual D-Day casualty figures are approximately 2,,700 British, 946 Canadians, and 6,603 Americans. However recent painstaking research by the US National D-Day Memorial Foundation has achieved a more accurate - and much higher - figure for the Allied personnel who were killed on D-Day. They have recorded the names of individual Allied personnel killed on 6 June 1944 in Operation Overlord, and so far they have verified 2,499 American D-Day fatalities and 1,914 from the other Allied nations, a total of 4,413 dead (much higher than the traditional figure of 2,500 dead)...
The breakdown of US casualties was 1,465 dead, 3,184 wounded, 1,928 missing and 26 captured. Of the total US figure, 2,499 casualties were from the US airborne troops (238 of them being deaths). The casualties at Utah Beach were relatively light: 197, including 60 missing. However, the US 1st and 29th Divisions together suffered around 2,000 casualties at Omaha Beach. 
The total German casualties on D-Day are not known, but are estimated as being between 4,000 and 9,000 men. 
Naval losses for June 1944 included 24 warships and 35 merchantmen or auxiliaries sunk, and a further 120 vessels damaged... 
Today, twenty-seven war cemeteries hold the remains of over 110,000 dead from both sides: 77,866 German, 9,386 American, 17,769 British, 5,002 Canadian and 650 Poles. 
Between 15,000 and 20,000 French civilians were killed, mainly as a result of Allied bombing. Thousands more fled their homes to escape the fighting. Read more - Source: D-Day Museum 
Note that services were held at Christ Church on the the first day of the invasion (#3 below).
1. Southwick House: Here the Allied commanders, led by US General Dwight Eisenhower - the Supreme Allied Commander - decided that D-Day would be on 6 June 1944.
2. Fort Southwick: Tunnels underneath this Victorian fort housed the Combined Operations Headquarters, which co-ordinated and monitored the progress of the D-Day invasion fleet. 
 3. Christ Church, Portsdown: On 4 June 1944, the headquarters staff of British 2nd Army (which controlled the British and Canadian troops who landed on D-Day) held a service here.
4. Queen Alexandra Hospital: “QA” played an important part in the treatment of the wounded troops who had been brought back from Normandy. 
5. Hilsea Barracks: The Barracks and the nearby Hilsea College (now City of Portsmouth Boys' School) were used by American troops. 
6. c: The factory and headquarters of the Airspeed company, which designed the Horsa glider. The Horsa was used by both American and British airborne forces on D-Day. 
7. c: Six days after D-Day, the Germans launched the first of many V-1 flying bombs against Britain. Two of these weapons fell on Portsmouth. The second landed in Newcomen Road, killing 15 people and injuring 82 others. 
8. HMS Excellent, Whale Island: This naval base played an important role in the Allied naval preparations for D-Day, particularly in preparing for the naval gunfire bombardment that preceded the landings. 
9. Portsmouth Dockyard: Many of the specialist ships and landing craft used on D-Day had been modified at the Dockyard. Parts of the Mulberry Harbours (the artificial harbours that were used by the Allies for landing troops and supplies in Normandy) were built there. It was also an embarkation point for troops. 
10. Portsmouth Harbour Station landing stage: Another site at which Allied troops boarded ships to take them to France.
11. HMS Vernon, Gunwharf: This was the base for part of Force S - the naval force that landed 3rd British Division on Sword Beach - and for Motor Torpedo Boats, which on D-Day protected the flanks of the landings against enemy naval attack. This site is now Gunwharf Quays shopping centre. 
12. Quay House, Broad Street: This was the Embarkation Area Headquarters for the Portsmouth sector. Its role was to co-ordinate the loading of troops onto the ships at the four Portsmouth embarkation sites (which included nearby Camber Quay). Until recently, this building was known as Wightlink House.
13. Commercial Buildings: This building, on what is now Lord Montgomery Way, was the headquarters of Force S, which carried 3rd British Division to Normandy. The building now has the Cafe Parisien on the ground floor. 
14. Fratton Station: Wounded troops from Normandy were transferred onto hospital trains here, to be moved to hospitals outside the city. 
15. St Mary's Hospital: This hospital had an important role in the treatment of casualties from Normandy. 
16. St James’ Hospital: This hospital was used for the treatment of more lightly wounded troops and burns cases from the fighting in France. 
17. c: The Inter-Services Training and Development Centre was established here in 1938 to conduct experiments in Combined Operations techniques (landing troops on enemy shores). 
18. Langstone Harbour entrance: The shores of Hayling Island were used as a site for the construction of components of the Mulberry Harbours. Many landing barges were moored in Langstone Harbour in the lead-up to D-Day. 
19. South Parade Pier: Temporary piers were built from scaffolding alongside South Parade Pier for use by troops embarking onto the vessels that would take them to France. 
20. HMS Dolphin, Fort Blockhouse: The “X-Craft” mini-submarines that were based here were used for directing the Allied fleet in its final approach to the British and Canadian beaches.
21. Haslar Royal Naval Hospital: Another important hospital for the treatment of wounded troops from Normandy. 
22. Beach Street, Gosport: Near today’s Gosport ferry pier, this was one of the sites in Gosport for the embarkation of troops, particularly tanks and other vehicles. 
23. Camper & Nicholson, Gosport: This yacht-building company building a variety of naval craft, including Motor Torpedo Boats, parts of landing craft and components for the Mulberry Harbours (artificial harbours).
24. Stokes Bay: This site was used both for the construction of the Mulberry Harbours (artificial harbours) and for the embarkation of troops. 
25. HMS Daedalus: A variety of Allied aircraft were based here, at Lee on Solent airfield. They supported the naval and ground forces on D-Day and afterwards. 
26. Royal Naval Armament Depot at Priddy’s Hard, and other Royal Navy supply bases in Gosport - the Royal Clarence Victualling Yard, and the RN Armament Depots at Frater and Bedenham - were all vital for supplying the Allied invasion fleet.
27. Hardway, Gosport: Many of the huge numbers of vehicles required by the Allied troops in Normandy boarded ships from Gosport. The concrete "hard" can still be seen today, now in use by the local sailing club. 
28. Vospers, Portchester: This local firm built naval craft, such as Motor Torpedo Boats (MTBs), that were involved in the naval operations for D-Day. They went ahead of the main Allied fleet as it crossed the English Channel, and protected its flanks. 
29. Movement Control Headquarters, Fareham: This headquarters controlled all movement of troops in the area around Portsmouth and Gosport, as they prepared to board ships for Normandy. 
30. Marshalling camps for troops: The area to the north of Portsmouth was covered with many temporary camps for the thousands of troops assembled locally for D-Day. 
31. RAF Thorney Island: This airfield was used by RAF Typhoon fighter-bomber aircraft, which took part in the Normandy fighting. Slightly further away, airfields around Chichester such as RAF Tangmere played vital roles. 
32. HMS Northney: Several Royal Navy bases on Hayling Island bore this name. They were used for the training of landing craft crews in the years leading up to 1944. 
33. Hayling Island seafront: In May 1944, the seafront was used for amphibious landing. Read more.
This page at the D-Day Museum website gives the beach landings, hour-by-hour. Read an interesting interview with Beschloss here.

God Bless America, the home of the free because of the brave.

Originally Posted by Maggie @ Maggie's Notebook

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