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Friday, June 6, 2014

Forces overcame obstacles for victory on Normandy beach

Overall, the operation was code-named Overlord. It took years to plan the massive operation that posed significant logistical and tactical challenges. Soldiers and materiel were accumulated at several ports in England and the fighting took place generally between Barfleur and
Le Havre, France, 100 miles away, across the unforgiving English Channel. The larger French cities of Caen and St. Lo were situated just beyond the beachheads.

Specialised landing craft ferried soldiers to designated lanes and sectors on the beachhead. Naval and air forces also participated during and before the landing of troops. Other weapons were developed specifically for the invasion and ingenious deception plans were instituted to mislead the Germans. ...

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Overall, the operation was code-named Overlord. It took years to plan the massive operation that posed significant logistical and tactical challenges. Soldiers and materiel were accumulated at several ports in England and the fighting took place generally between Barfleur and
Le Havre, France, 100 miles away, across the unforgiving English Channel. The larger French cities of Caen and St. Lo were situated just beyond the beachheads.

Specialised landing craft ferried soldiers to designated lanes and sectors on the beachhead. Naval and air forces also participated during and before the landing of troops. Other weapons were developed specifically for the invasion and ingenious deception plans were instituted to mislead the Germans.

The Germans were ready, having fortified the coast with a myriad of concrete bunkers, hardened gun emplacements called “pillboxes,” specialized defenses and obstacles designed to hinder movement vehicles and soldiers. Scores of mines were planted. It was known as the Atlantic Wall, and it stretched more than 1,600 miles between Norway and Spain.

The night before the landings, paratroopers and glider-born troops landed ahead of the beach-bound soldiers. Navy minesweepers cleared a 15-mile-wide swath of sea ahead of the ships.

The invasion was originally scheduled for June 5. Poor weather forced postponement. Cmdr. Dwight Eisenhower, the future U.S. president, made the final decision to begin the assault June 6.

The lingering storm caused further havoc. Upon arrival off the French coast, tides, currents, missing materiel, lack of functioning tanks, lack of beach cover in spots, general battlefield confusion and vicious defense from machine guns and artillery near the beach added to the challenges already at hand. Many soldiers had suffered seasickness en route.

Despite all of this, the allied forces prevailed.

German defenders were defeated, and the rush toward the German homeland had begun.

Don Himsel can be reached at 594-6590 or dhimsel@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Himsel on Twitter (@Telegraph_DonH).