Thursday, June 6, 2013

Commemerations for 69th Anniversary of D-Day Begins in Normandy

Veterans and their families gathered at military cemeteries throughout northwestern France on Thursday to mark the 69th anniversary of the Allied D-Day invasion of nazi-occupied France.

The massive frontal assault by the Allies against the heavily fortified defenses of the Wehrmacht along the Atlantic coast of France opened up a second front against hitler's military and spelled the beginning of the end for the third reich [the Germans had been fighting losing battle against the Red Army on the Eastern Front since the 1943 Battle of Stalingrad- NANESB!].

After Allied naval bombardment on the morning of June 6th, 1944 forces from the United States, Great Britain, Canada as well as exiled troops from Poland and the Czechoslovakia launched a frontal assault against the entrenched Germans. With the Canadian forces landing at Juno Beach and the British taking Sword, while the 1st and 29th Infantry Divisions of the US Army stormed Omaha and the US Army's 4th Infantry Division took Utah beach. Support was provided by the 101st Airborne Division as well as airborne units from Canada and Britain who were tasked with landing behind enemy positions and seizing strategic bridges and road junctions while US Army Rangers scaled sheer cliffs along coastal defenses in an audacious bid to take out German heavy artillery.

Acting on coded messages transmitted via the BBC, the French Resistance hindered the occupying Germans by sabotaging the rail network and telegraph lines in the days leading up to the Allies assault on Normandy beaches.

While the Germans knew that an Allied assault on the mainland was almost inevitable, they were slow to act due to previous false alarms from their military intelligence and the belief that they thought the actual D-Day assault was a decoy to draw Wehrmacht defenses away from an even bigger Allied assault. The total number of Allied casualties on D-Day is said to be no less than 12,000 with more than 2300 Americans killed or missing in action on the first day.

Within 3 days, the British had built a massive temporary port to facilitate the offloading of troops and supplies, strengthening the Allied foothold on the Normandy beach. Within three months, the Allies would liberate Paris.

The Higgins landing craft that was used during D-Day as well as numerous amphibious campaigns throughout the Pacific was considered instrumental by Allied Supreme Commander Dwight Eisenhower. The fact that the Higgins boat was manufactured in New Orleans and tested along the shores of nearby Lake Pontchartrain factored into the decision to establish the National WWII Museum (formerly the National D-Day Museum) in the Big Easy.

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