D-Day, as today 80 years ago, the Normandy landings that changed the fortunes of the War

2024-06-06 09:50:12Histori SHKRUAR NGA REDAKSIA VOX
D-Day, like 80 years ago today

It's 6:30 a.m. on June 6, 1944, D-Day. That day on the coast of Normandy, dawn is gray. The soldiers of the German garrison are worried: partly because of that sky that is the color of their rifle barrels, partly because of the strange things that happened during the night. In fact, word had reached them that groups of Allied paratroopers had launched isolated attacks against artillery bunkers near S.te-Mère-Église and Caen, and throughout the night planes had been dropping tons of bombs all over the northern coast of France. .

But there is no question of an invasion, the Germans are sure : Marshal Erwin Rommel is convinced that the landing will take place right here, in Normandy, and not in the Pas de Calais as von Rundtstedt (commander of the Western Front) thinks and a part of the OberKommando der Wehrmacht (General Staff of the German Army). But it is also true that on that day the weather was so bad that no one would think of starting an invasion. And actually the "desert fox"* is not there: he took advantage of the unfavorable weather conditions to spend some time with his wife.

German soldiers calm down:  If Rommel is not on the field, there will be no Allied landings either. If it had not been certain that there would be no invasion either that day or the next, the marshal would not have returned to Berlin to celebrate his wife's birthday, making a trip to Paris to buy her a pair of shoes. And since Rommel thinks the landing won't happen, the other generals take it easy: one goes to his girlfriend in the French capital, another goes to Rennes for "an exercise" (which is actually a game of poker).

"Sie Kommen!", "They're coming" - But suddenly, the guards in the bunkers overlooking the Norman beaches almost give up: hundreds and thousands of warships appear on the horizon. The officers can't believe their eyes: it's not true, it can't be true! Then they "wake up", give a couple of sharp orders to their subordinates and then frantically grab the telephone receivers in the field to request the intervention of the artillery: "Sie Kommen!", "They are coming", they shout. And meanwhile the allied fleet is getting closer and closer: The invasion is happening! It's not possible, but it's true, the landing has begun!

The "surprise" effect - Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight Eisenhower launched Operation Overlord, where he staked everything - including the final outcome of the five-year war - on the surprise effect. After all, it was no longer possible to delay: the 4,000 warships, 1,500 landing craft, 150,000 soldiers of the invasion force were ready for days, and stopping the largest amphibious invasion in history would mean abandoning the project.

"Gentlemen, let's go" - And so, hoping for the slight improvement in weather predicted by Shaef (Allied High Command) meteorologists, "Ike" Eisenhower gives the go-ahead for D-Day: "Gentlemen, let's go." And the Normandy landings begin. At 6:30 a.m. on June 6, when the tide was high enough to allow the LCVPs*, the landing craft, to land the soldiers within a short enough distance of the German positions, but high enough to allow the ships not to collide with the defenses established by Rommel under the surface of the water, the 150 thousand American, British, French and Canadian soldiers of the occupation forces attack Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword, the code names of the five beaches chosen for the attack.

Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword – In Utah, which was assigned to the Americans, the 4th Infantry Division leads; The 1st Infantry Division and the 115th and 116th Regiments of the 29th Infantry Division are targeting Omaha; in Gold, the English, the 50th Infantry Division and the 47th Regiment of the Royal Marines; at Juno 3rd Canadian Infantry Division; at Sword the British 3rd Infantry Division and the French 1st Kieffer Commando Unit.

The landings begin-   On four of the five beaches, the fighting, which was very violent, lasted very little: the Germans were overrun almost immediately. Even at Juno, where the Canadians suffered very heavy losses before landing. In Omaha, however, the story is completely different: the aerial and naval artillery bombardments were "long", five kilometers inland, and did not even make a single hit on the Wehrmacht positions. The machine gun nests are intact, the artillery is at work. And as if that wasn't enough, the 716th Infantry Division, which guards the beach and is known to be made up of poorly trained soldiers, was, unbeknownst to the Allies, reinforced with the 352nd, made up of veterans. American soldiers are destroyed before they even set foot on the beach: the ships carrying them ashore are hit by coastal artillery, and even when they are not completely hit by a shell, they are overturned by the force of the explosion or sunk by the water on board. And for the soldiers who fall into the water there is no escape: burdened by the equipment they carry on their bodies, they sink to the bottom like stones.

On the LCVPs advancing toward Omaha, among the geysers of brackish water raised by the explosions and the sound of bullets hitting the boat's armored sides, there are those who pray, those who cry, those who vomit from the sea and fear . But the hell, the truth, these children who were little more than teenagers and who came from the other side of the ocean to free Europe from Nazism, had not yet seen it.

Omaha Hell - Just as the landing craft touched the sands of Normandy, the apocalypse breaks out: the Germans fire like mad on Omaha Beach, each of the machine guns hidden in the reinforced concrete bunkers pouring six hundred rounds a minute at the Americans. A rain of fire that leaves no escape. The first wave, made up of soldiers of the 29th division who have never touched a rifle before, ends in massacre. Within ten minutes there is no captain, lieutenant, or sergeant left on the beach: they are all dead or wounded, as are 90% of the soldiers who have just landed. The water of Omaha Beach is stained with the blood of Americans. Even the waves have no mercy for the fallen and, instead of wrapping those tortured bodies, throw the mangled corpses back onto the beach, arms and legs and heads cut off by German bullets.

The soldiers of the other line, terrified, hide behind the palisades, behind the Friesian horses, behind the wall that encloses the beach.... The American soldiers cower on that beach from the enemy fire: some terrified, some shouting orders others are very afraid to enforce them, some call the nurse to help their dying friend in their arms. No one is where they are supposed to be, no one can find the target they are trained to hit.

"Big Red One" leads the advance - The first responders, to overcome the shock, are the veterans of "Big Red One", the Infantry Division: they know that, if they stay on that beach, there is no escape. Because the DDs, the amphibious Sherman tanks that were supposed to provide cover, sank before they could land, and the landings ended at 8:30 a.m. on Omaha Beach. The soldiers on the beach are alone, they will no longer receive any help except the cannon fire coming from the cruisers and battleships anchored offshore. And so, under fire, the soldiers of the I division jump forward and, trying to avoid bullets, climb the cliffs on which the German coastal defenses are located. And then, one by one, they wipe out the enemy positions, blowing up bunkers and casemates and attacking the machine gun emplacements that still litter the beach.

German defeat - Now it is the Germans who are terrified: they continue to shoot at the Americans; but they, like a swarm of locusts, continue to advance, destroying all obstacles in their way. Tens and hundreds of Reich soldiers surrender. They hold out as long as they can and then raise their hands. After a massacre that lasted 7 hours, two exits from the beach have been opened: most of it is done.

Longest Day for Americans-  The Omaha landing is the longest day: More than 1,200 soldiers left their youth on that cursed beach and two thousand more were wounded. Almost all in the first hour: on average one person fell every 3 seconds, one person was injured every 1.5 seconds. To give an idea of ??the carnage, on Juno Beach, where the plan predicted the greatest losses, the total casualties were 401. But the Normandy landings, together with the blood toll (in total, between the Americans, British, French and Canadians 4,400 dead and 6,000 wounded), will change human history: D-Day is the beginning of the end of the Third Reich, but it is also the beginning of Soviet expansion in Europe. And, even if they don't know it yet, it is the beginning of the end of the British and French empires, which must submit to the two newly born superpowers: the USA and the USSR.

1*Erwin Rommel was a high-ranking marshal in the German army where he distinguished himself mainly for his victories in the deserts of Africa against British forces during World War II. 

2*Ship, vehicle and personnel

Adapted in Albanian by VoxNews