D-Day Afterword

Timings for the landings were critical. For maximum effect the naval and air bombardment needed one hour of daylight, and no more if avoidable; beach obstacles had to be tackled dry, i.e. not under water, and 30 minutes were needed for this; three hours of a rising tide were needed after the lead landings. For 6th June the bombing would start 10 minutes after Civil Twilight and H hour for the landings was fixed for 80 minutes after Civil Twilight, the brightest phase of twilight between dawn and sunrise. The next suitable period would be two weeks later which would cause serious security and logistic risks.

The "bocage"

Fighting during the rest of the day remained hard and the many inexperienced troops were on a steep learning curve. Not all the objectives were taken and by midnight the depths of the established beachheads varied almost directly proportional to the difficulties and opposition experienced on the respective beaches.

 

In the east on Sword, Juno and Gold the FEBA extended up to 7 miles inland between Ouistreham and Arromanches but critically excluding Caen. From Omaha penetration was just over 1 mile but from Utah it was up to 6 miles despite flooding and ‘bocage’, the thick hedgerows and copses which formed significant obstacles throughout the Cotentin Peninsula. A further area of about 3 x 1½ miles around St Mère-Église was established by 82nd Airborne Division.

 

In summary, tactical surprise was achieved, at D+1 the foothold was established 5-7 miles inland from the beaches and by D+4 it was over 60 miles long and 8-12 miles in depth.

 

In the days that followed very hard fighting ensued and as units linked up everyone came to realise that the breakout from the beachhead would not be easy. Thousands of reinforcements arrived according to plan together with equipment and supplies. The two amazing Mulberry harbours comprising caissons and piers were floated across the English Channel to provide port facilities at Arromanches and Vierville-sur-mer. A cross-channel pipeline was also built to pump fuel directly from England to Normandy.

 

While the armies built up during June their operations continued to seize key areas such as Cherbourg and Carentan but significantly not Caen before the big breakout operations commenced in July.

 

Any visit to the Normandy Beaches should include one or more of the war cemeteries. They are all beautifully kept and the American Cemetery at Colville-sur-mer has a spectacular Visitor Centre with many interesting exhibits and informative panels.

The immaculate American Cemetery grounds - the gardener in the lake is dead-heading the water lilies

The photographs were taken in September 2012 in variable weather.

 

References: Carte Touristique, Normandie Jour J, 6 Juin 1944, Cartes IGN

Hastings, Max (1985) Overlord, Pan Books

Howarth, David (1959) Dawn of D-Day, Odhams Press Limited

Montgomery, Bernard (1958) Memoirs, Collins