A Canadian's Journey Through D-Day Part 1: Preparation


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Canadian troops , as they bravely storm the shoreline toward's Juno Beach.

 

Leading up to D-Day


By 1940 the Germans had successfully occupied Paris France, and with its tight hold on Europe, there was little in their way to regulate the continent under Nazi control. As 1941 came around, Hitler’s forces invaded the USSR and managed to push Stalin’s Soviet army back to the far reaches of Moscow with operation Barbarossa. The Soviet’s were able to hold back the German advance but not without substantial causalities. Russia had marked a crucial gain in a potential turning point in the war but knew they couldn’t do it alone. Russia requested that the Allies open a second front, and by 1943 the Allies conducted operation Husky, which gave much needed relief to Stalin’s troops. This left the Allies with one final objective, liberate Western Europe starting with France.

 

Operation Overlord Planning

To liberate France came the beginning of Operation Overlord which took 1 year of meticulous planning and would be the largest seaborne invasion in history. The chosen location for the invasion was Normandy, primarily across an 50 km beachfront. This beachfront would later be divided into 5 sections known as Omaha and Utah beach which would be spearheaded by the Americans, Sword and Gold beach which would be led by the British, and Juno beach which would be stormed by the Canadian forces.


Within Operation Overlord's main Battle of Normandy came Operation Neptune, which consisted of the main beach landings.

Location

Normandy had been chosen due to numerous factors when taking into account the level of Nazi defence, the logistical value when it came to transporting supplies and troops, as well as many tactical and geographical advantages that Normandy held. The plan of attack consisted of a heavy naval and airborne bombardment of the beachfront to eliminate most of the German defences and soften up the landing for the troops. As dawn rolled in, the Allies were to then deploy their respective airborne divisions over the beachfront, behind enemy defences. And by 6:30 am that day, 24,000 troops were to embark on a mighty endeavour as they were to conduct an amphibious landing to capture the beachfront.


After the American's captured Omaha Beach, landing crafts and other ships were then able to bring in supplies with relative ease due to the location.

This plan was to change the history of the world forever and help bring an end to the war.

Weather

One portion of the strategy that was often overlooked when observing what made operation Overlord a successful plan was the attention to detail when picking the correct day for landing. Many attributes were considered when choosing the D-Day date such as the moon, tides and weather patterns.

When the airborne operations were to take place, the pilots would require that there be a full moon present and little to no cloud cover (IWM, 2018). These weather conditions would ensure clear skies for the bomber and fighter pilots, although the full moon would leave the parachute battalions exposed at certain times. The strenuous task of choosing the day correctly also meant you had to pick a day that favoured some factors and troops more than others. With the help of British mathematician Arthur Thomas Doodson, came the invention of the tide-prediction machine which led to determining the perfect time of day to land and that June 5 to June 7 would be the most promising days to do so (IWM, 2018).


Arthur Thomas Doodson's invention , also known as Kelvin's Tide-Machine , was built for Lord Kelvin, and was to accurately predict the tides for the D-Day Normandy invasion (Bruce Parker , 2011).

As for the Naval operations, they required that there be low winds and low tides to ensure that the troops would make it ashore as smoothly as possible (IWM, 2018).

Lastly, the ground troops who were heading towards the beach were hoping for a calm day with pleasant weather for an easier transition from the ship to land. Another large requirement for the ground troops was for there to be a low tide, therefore all mines and obstacles would be exposed and easier to deal with.

Diversion

In 1943, a full year before the D-Day events were to take place the Allied nations were strategizing a plan that would act as a diversion to the main Overlord plan. The diversion plan was named “Body Guard” and was made up of a series of operations that would confuse German intelligence of where the real invasion would take place.


At this point in time most of the German secret intelligence agents hiding in the United Kingdom were caught and the infamous Enigma machine had been cracked, although the Allies still feared that Hitler’s forces would have some sort of notion that an Invasion was coming (History, 2014). An early draft of the plan known as code-name Jael was presented in front of Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Joseph Stalin, where they all agreed and choose a few points around Europe for misleading attacks.

Joseph Stalin, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill at the 1943 Tehran conference, where Operation Bodyguard was proposed.

The main diversion would take place in Pas de Calais, as well as a few surrounding towns, ultimately thinning out Hitler’s defences. This section of Operation Body Guard was known as “Fortitude”, where the Allies successfully mislead the German high command that an invasion in North France and Norway were on there way. This diversion had backed up the German reinforcements for 7 weeks as they frantically tried to return to Normandy when it should have taken 2 weeks. This major delay in the time that enemy reinforcements could have arrived to meet the allied troops could have halted D-Day significantly and changed the outcome of the Battle for Normandy.