There will be a lot of stories going around about D-Day. June 6 is the 75th anniversary of the Allied landings in France to take back Europe from the Germans.
The meaning behind the name, D-Day is simple. It means Day. It’s in the same way that H-Hour simply means the hour that the attack begins.
H-hour began somewhere around 2:30 a.m. The attack started with the ships providing an artillery barrage, one after another, in an attempt to soften up the German defenses, much of which was impervious to the shelling. The Desert Fox, Field Marshall Erwin Rommel, had been in command of the shore defenses and made sure they could withstand a severe beating.
About the same time the ships opened fire, the planes started over with their continuous bombing. During these same wee hours of the morning, the paratroopers came across, followed by the gliders. The gliders were made for a one-way flight. They carried troops, arms and equipment. For the ones that made it, they gave a bone-jarring landing. The ones that didn’t littered the fields with the debris and the bodies of the troops needed to wage war. One pilot likened the experience to flying a stick of dynamite through the Gates of Hell.
June 6 wasn’t the ideal day for the attack. The seas coming across the English Channel were on the rough side causing many soldiers to get seasick. The advantage of the rough seas was that it kept the German patrol boats away.
The beaches of Normandy were normally pristine expanses of sand and cliffs that drew in vacationers from around the world. This day, they were covered with barriers, barbed wire and mines.
The Germans held the high ground on the cliffs above the beach. They set up their defenses anticipating that the allies would attack during the high tide when they could get their landing craft in the closest.
They didn’t anticipate the allied strategy of sending in the boats at low tide. While it made for more ground to be covered by the troops, it also kept them a little farther away from the guns when they landed.
It had to be a daunting experience for the German troops to look out at the horizon and see the nearly 12,000 planes bearing down on them with the constant bombing. There were also just fewer than 7,000 ships involved in the offense and the 156,000 troops being carried to shore in the countless landing craft.
There were a total of five beaches stormed that day, two by the Americans, two by the British and one by the Canadians. By the time the day was over, the beaches would have 4,413 allied troops killed. It took about 12 days for the allies to advance and take the territory they had hoped to have by the second day.
It would be just under a year before Germany was defeated. The sacrifices made on that beach paved the way to victory in May 1945.
There were 32 men from Chicot County killed throughout the war. They were part of every branch and on two fronts.
Of the 22, 15 were killed in action, one died later of wounds, 15 died under non-battle circumstances and one was listed as finding of death.
This is a day to honor the veterans, both living and dead that took part of that epic battle.