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Posted on August 18th, 2012, by

The D-Day was one of the most important days in World War II. In fact, D-Day may be viewed as a turning point in the war because the landing of the Allies in Normandy marked a new stage in the war which, to a significant extent, predetermined the defeat of Nazi Germany in the war. It is important to lay emphasis on the fact that it was a very successful military operation which let the allies to open the new frontline and forced the Germans to disperse their forces and to start struggling in the west and east simultaneously. Obviously, the exhausted German army and stagnating national economy could not afford the war in two strategically important directions. In such a way, as soon as the Allies disembarked in Normandy, the final stage of military actions in Europe had started since, after this operation, Germany was simply doomed to failure.

In fact, the D-Day, also known as the operation Overlord, or else the operation Neptune, proved strategically important because before this operation the German army still firmly occupied France and the Low Countries. The control over these territories provided the Nazi Government with the access to the raw materials of Western Europe, while local resistance was weak and disorganized without the support of the regular army of the Allies.

The planning of the operation Overlord began in the summer of 1942, the powerful offensive capability of German ground forces in Western Europe, the need to contain U-boat threat to the Atlantic convoy routes, the strategic decision to divert troops and amphibious crafts to the Mediterranean, and the ensuring difficulties of building up offensive forces in Britain, all combined to prevent the invasion of Normandy in the following year. By late 1943, however, detailed planning for the operation had taken place and significant forces and material were gathered in Britain to launch the invasion.

The naval component of the operation was crucial because it was the major way of the delivery of troops and equipment to the continent. The naval component comprised a large number of ships, auxiliaries and landing craft.

In all, Great Britain, Canada the USA as well as the navies-in-exile of France, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland and Greece supplied 1,213 warships for the invasion. Their main task was to provide shore bombardment fire power for the troops going ashore, to guard the transport and to conduct minesweeping and anti-submarine patrols on the flanks of the invasion corridor.

The initial assault from landing ships and craft was on five-division front between the Orne River and the Contentin Peninsula. The region was divided into five landing beaches. The first two beaches were assigned to the largely American-manned Western Task Force and the other three were the responsibility of the British-dominated Eastern Task Force. Although the Allies faced impressive German defenses, which were heavily fortified with concrete, wire and other outworks, they knew from experience that the initial lodgment was impossible to prevent. The overall battle itself, however, would be decided by the ability of the Allies to reinforce their initially-weak beachhead by the sea as compared to the easier movement of German reinforcements by the land. The Allies believed they would have advantage in such a race since they enjoyed superior concentration of forces on the beaches, provided by the guns of the mobile warships, and virtually dominated the air over northern France.

On 5 June 1944, the thousands of ships and crafts taking part in the operation put to sea and began gathering in the assembling areas southeast of the Isle of Wight. From there, many passed through the channels swept through the German defensive minefields and moved into their respective waiting areas before dawn on June 6. Hundreds of antisubmarine escorts and patrol planes protected flanks of these assault convoys. Between 05.30 and 05.50, the Allies gunfire support task group began bombardment of the prearranged targets along the beaches.

In the American sector, the landing began at 06.30 and proceeded according to the plan as the US 4th division advanced toward its initial objectives. At Omaha beach, where the landing began at 06.35, underwater obstacles bottled up many of the amphibious crafts and the congestion provided easy targets for the German gunners. The landing bogged down and it took a combination of short-range destroyer gunnery support, aerial bombardment and desperate infantry assaults to break the German defenses. It was not until the noon that the US 1st and 29th divisions crossed the beach line in force. The British sector proceeded more smoothly. Despite rougher seas and high tides, excellent naval gunfire support kept German defensive fire suppressed. In the result of the desperate assaults the beaches were secured till the nightfall.

After overrunning German beach defenses, the Allies rapidly expanded the individual beachheads, and the workhorse amphibious crafts quickly reinforced the lodgment with new troops, munitions and supplies. By July 25, the Allies were strong enough to launch operation Cobra and begin the liberation of France.

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