The DDAY Invasion: The Turning Point of WWII
June 6th 1944 will be remembered forever in the history annals as DDAY. In army jargon, DDAY stands for the ‘day’ of an invasion just as HHOUR means the precise ‘hour’ an invasion will take place. These code signals are very commonly used in the military but the real DDAY is far from common; there will always be only one DDAY in the minds of the general public. What made DDAY so special? Why was this particular invasion considered the turning point of WWII? DDAY marked the first time in the Second World War that Hitler’s armies were solidly defeated on the Western Front and this set a precedent for future German/Allied battles. True, the Allies had a tough time in many phases of the European land invasion but overall it was a resounding success. The DDAY invasion allowed an unprecedented number of Allied troops and machines to pour into the European war arena. Once Allied troops, tanks, and air routes became established on the continent, it was only a matter of time before Hitler’s Wehrmacht capitulated. DDAY paved the way for a complete Allied invasion and ensuing defeat of the Germans’ with the successful landing of an unprecedented number of ground troops into ‘fortress Europe’. Many of these same troops and more would later march successfully into Berlin, a crumbling and devastated German capital.
The tragedy of the failed Dieppe mission, where many outnumbered and unsupported invading Canadians perished, must have weighed heavily on the shoulders of the Allied command. Yet, although the forces of nature weren’t cooperating, the DDAY invasion was given the go ahead. June 6 would be a telling day in the war with Germany, a day that could go either way really depending upon how successful the cover-up had been run. For months huge amounts of youthful British, Canadian, American and other European soldiers were training and aiming towards a massive land invasion off the Normandy coast of France. A territory once peaceful and lush with its sprawling vegetation and farms was now heavily guarded and virtually surrounded by a large and ominous coastal barbican called the Atlantic Wall. Hitler and his staff felt this fortified Wall, not unlike Hadrian’s effort over 1500 years ago which was used to keep a barbaric neighbour from the Scottish highlands out of Roman occupied Britain, would successfully repel any allied attempt at a land invasion. Hitler made the mistake of believing many of the lies purposely circulated by the Allies during Operation Bodyguard, the largest single act of deception carried out during the war. This led the Germans to believe the invasion would occur farther north in the Calais region which did make sense since this indeed was the narrowest passage of the English Channel separating Britain and France.
Surprise was the primary reason for the invasion’s success together with expert detailed planning and the utter bravery and tenaciousness displayed by the Allied soldiers taking part. Five distinct beachheads code named Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword were landed on during the military’s specially named Operation Overlord and due to exhaustive prior reconnaissance, troop commanders immediately recognized landmarks and topographical indications instantly telling them if their landing craft had dropped them into a good position. While the German’s scrambled to assemble proper troops at the invasion points and reinforce the startled ones now fully engaged in battle, the Allies landed over 150,000 men in total, along with 1500 tanks and 7000 ships while receiving air support from 12,000 aircraft. It was simply the largest amphibious assault ever launched. Many tales of heroism remain from the fighting that took part during this massive invasion on the beaches of Normandy. Many accounts tell of men trapped on the mined, open beaches under constant machine-gun fire yet still managing to disable German pillboxes and strategically located artillery posts. The Allied commanders were very pleased with how well the invasion actually went and although the first day’s casualties numbered close to 10,000 men, this was far lower than anticipated.
Initially, many units made their predetermined checkpoints and so many troops landed this actually created a situation analogous to a modern day ‘traffic jam’ in upper France, thus reducing the Allies ability to move swiftly into German secured regions. Unfortunately this allowed the enemy to reassemble his strength, however, his temporary effective counter-attack was short lived and eventually the sheer number and endless supply of Churchill and Sherman tanks, together with seemingly limitless troops, proved too much for a depleted and limited German army. The great Luftwaffe, Hitler’s once proud air force, was unable to rebuild fast enough to really hamper the Allied movements east towards Germany.
Many hard fought battles and dangerous bombing missions continued after June 1944 but these occurred on or over German-held territory, the danger of Hitler and his armies overtaking any more land merely a distant nightmare. Moreover, Stalin’s troops were moving eastward in an attempt to sandwich the remaining German army in its hometown of Berlin, a city devastated by continuous Allied bombing raids. A renewed sense of enthusiasm on the way to victory over Hitler’s fascist ways was cultivated throughout the world by the acts of the men and women involved in the DDAY invasion. By landing this many troops and securing ingeniously built temporary harbours called mulberries, the Allies were able to continuously land men and machines into Europe virtually untouched. The DDAY invasion had set the stage for the successful eradication of the German forces. Although eventual surrender by the Germans would not come until over a year after the DDAY invasion, this single movement of the Second World War proved to be the reason for Allied success.
Written by Karl Svoboda