D-Day was the codename of Normandy landings, the Allied amphibious assault on the beaches of France. Since 1942 Stalin was pressuring Allies to start the second front in the west and thus divert some of the Nazi forces that were attacking Soviet cities. In 1943 Americans were supporting the idea of landing on the continent, but British were against it, at least until the situation in North Africa would be resolved (thus the Operation Torch - landing of American forces in Africa). But in 1944 Afrika Korps wasn’t a threat any more, British could have use some of the units from North Africa in Europe, Americans have gained some experience in fight, Soviets were pushing back Nazis on eastern front.
The time was spent not only on preparations for D-Day, but also on Operation Bodyguard - the large scale deception that was aiming to convince Germans that invasion will take place in some different place than the most obvious, Normandy. This deception involved double agents, false radio messages and radio traffic, false media news and even a dead body with false plans in briefcase. Germans were convinced that northern France, most likely Normandy or Calais, will be the place of inevitable Allied invasion, but intelligence operations of British and American kept them in the limbo, since locations like Greece, Norway, Denmark or even southern France were mentioned in the agents reports and they had to keep all of those locations properly guarded. One of the methods used was the Atlantic Wall built on the coasts of France and other countries (Norway, Denmark, Germany, Belgium, Holland) - system of bunkers that would make the invasion if not impossible then at least much harder. Millions of slave labourers were forced to build bunkers, gun placements, tank traps on the beaches, anti-paratrooper installations and many more. But of course it was impossible to keep the same level of garrisons on the whole Atlantic Wall, so France was Hitler’s priority. That’s why Allied intelligence put the most efforts to convince Hitler that invasion will take place in Calais - French port nearest Great Britain - it was believable and had good strategic basis. Germans knew that all previous Allied landing operations took place in the spring, early in the morning on a day with good weather, so late May or early June 1944 were the most probable date.
And in that point Germans made no mistake - invasion took place on 6th June 1944, few days later than was planned due to bad weather. The weather prognosis for 6th were pessimistic for Allied and that put Germans alertness a little bit lower than could have been expected. But the deception about location of the landing beaches worked perfectly and when first paratroopers were landing near Caen German officers were convinced that this is just diversion and real invasion will take place in Calais. They tried to contact Hitler himself to make decision, but the fuhrer was unavailable, still asleep, and no one dared to wake him up. In the confusion some of the armoured divisions were moved away from Normandy to support suspected landings near Calais.
When Germans realized that Normandy landing is the real thing it was already too late to do something about it. The paratroopers that were dropped during the night were taking over the important points behind the beaches of Normandy - bridges, gun positions, roads - so Germans could not assault the landing units before the beachhead will be created.
Plan of the naval landing was to deploy the units on 5 sectors. Americans (sectors Utah and Omaha) were to establish beachhead and capture the port in Cherbourg, where heavy equipment could be unloaded. The British (sectors Sword and Gold) and Canadians (sector Juno) were to capture Caen and thus protect the flank of US Army.
Impressive fleet was combined to support the landing - 5 battleships, 20 cruisers, 65 destroyers and 2 monitors were bombarding the German positions along the beaches, before 130,000 men were deployed on land. Despite heavy bombardment Germans managed to keep the first landing troops pinned down by the machine guns and mortars. The tank traps that were built on the beaches were the only cover they could count on. With significant casualties (about 10,000 killed or wounded on the beaches) the landing was a success - on all 5 beaches Allied forces managed to establish beachheads and within 4 days the front was already 10 miles away from the beaches. German forces were unable to stop Allies from advancing until the armoured divisions arrived. From that point the invasion turned into heavy fights for each kilometre of the ground.
The landing was another important part of the war - from that point Nazi Germany were no longer able to control Europe. D-Day was complicated operation prepared for over a year, but the importance of that day and the sacrifice of men who died on the beaches of Normandy are remembered as one of the most important days in history of human kind.
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