Saturday, June 06, 2009

Obama on Operation Overlord's Omaha...

Today is the 65th anniversary of D-Day: 6th June 1944 is a day that certainly changed the course of World War II and as such the course of the 20th Century and 'today' as we know it.

D Day landings
Five Normandy beaches were attacked simultaneously by a coalition of allied forces. Omaha beach - where US Presiedent Barack Obama visted today [BBC] - was the hardest hit in terms of enemy opposition and death toll. The other landings at the beaches code-named Utah (US) Gold, Juno and Sword (British, Canadian and Commonwealth) had casualties but nowhere near the severe losses at Omaha beach - this isn't to say those other beaches don't deserve the same respect and remembrance as Omaha.

The D-Day campaign lasted 11 weeks and in that time the death toll was higher than in the worst battles of 'The Great War': Verdun 1916 (2,300 per day over 299 days), the Somme 1916 (6,400/day over 142 days) or Passchendaele 1917 (4,600/day over 113 days).

The total included allied soldiers killed, allied aircrew, German combatants, 2,483 Normans with link to the French Resistance that were executed before or during the campaign, civilians killed in the bombing that was a forerunner to the invasion. Details from Peter Caddick-Adams (Military historian) "June 6, 1944: UK's last day as a superpower"

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Paul said...

Did you know that only a third of soldiers in WWII actually fought? Montgomery didn't believe it when he was told that by a Russian general and so he had his own survey done as did the Americans and they all agreed. Apparently one-third wanted to fight, one third didn't (and mainly avoided firing their weapons) and the other third followed either of the other two groups.

In the First World War, despite (or perhaps because of) the huge casualties, many soldiers on both sides fired at the ground rather than at the enemy.

Antony Beevors new book on D-Day will help put a few things straight on what happened, apparently it finally corrects the myths that have been put about by the Americans about the French being Nazi collaborators. The Americans couldn't (and still can't) understand what happens to a nation when under occupation.

Span Ows said...

Didn't know that at all (re third of soldiers) sounds incredible. In WWI you can imagine it, that's why stoires re the football game at Christmas in no-man's-land etc are so heart-warming because everyone knew the futilty of what was happening.

Indeed, re Beevors book, however it's more than just the American myths: by D Day things were very different to the previous years.

Paul said...

Well yes, the Germans had lost Stalingrad in February 1943 and were doing their Napoleon impersonation and retreating from Russia. I feel very humble whenever I visit the Normandy beaches and the cemeteries, it's something that stays with you always.