The 5 Beaches of Normandy

Edited by Claire Mathias

The D-Day invasion was the Allies main offensive against Germany in World War II. Otherwise known as Operation Overlord, it occurred on June 6th, 1944. This was a major turning point within the war due to the fact that now the Allies had created a Western front and soon there would be a two front war. It was also a major victory for the Allies and they could now advance through France and soon capture Berlin.

The Allies consisted of the Americans, the British and the Canadians. Each country had either one or two beaches for them to storm. The Americans had Utah and Omaha, the British had Gold and Sword, and lastly, the Canadians stormed Juno beach.


Utah


external image utah%20(2).jpg

Utah beach was the furthest west of all the beaches stormed on D Day. The attack zone on the beach was 3 miles wide and the beach itself was covered in sand dunes. Originally, it was not part of the planned invasion of Normandy and was later added on due to the fact there were more landing crafts readily available for use.The first day of attacks saw over 20,000 men landing on the beach with over 1,700 vehicles with them.

This beach was significantly easier to capture for the Americans because the the German defensive was weak compared to Omaha beach. There was very little resistance, allowing for the capture of the beach to come quick. The exit used to land on the beach was considered the wrong one, but in the end played to the Americans advantage because all of the other exits were heavily fortified.

The total casualties on Utah was around only 300 men.The true cost of Utah Beach is reflected in the heavy airborne casualties: The 101st alone lost about 40% of its forces on D-Day. Also, the 1,000 casualties during Exercise Tiger, a practice run for the Utah assault, could also be considered part of the price for D-Day.

Utah beach was a huge success in the aspect of the invasion of Normandy, and there are many different factors as to how it was a success. First of all the defense for the Germans was the flooding of the beach, and there were very few bunkers for them to use. Another factor was that before D-Day there was a large number of air bombings, which whipped out some bunkers that were there before. The 13,000 paratroopers fighting inland was also very helpful because they were able to kill the enemy from the inside out, allowing for there to be less Germans fighting when Utah was stormed.


Omaha



Omaha beach is the location where one of the bloodiest battles of D-Day took place. Located beside Utah, but moving a little westerly towards the British beaches, it connected the East to the West so that the attack was consistent all along the coast, without any gaps. The beach faces the English Channel, and is between Sainte-Honorine-des-Pertes and Vierville-sur-Mer. It is approximately 5 miles long and is filled with rocky cliffs.

The US had 43,250 infantry, two battleships, three cruisers, 12 destroyers and 105 other ships all together. The first wave consisted of tanks, infantry and combat engineers that would try and weaken the German defense so that the other waves could come in to land. Due to the rough seas, 10 landing crafts were late arriving, making the attack a little weaker. At the end of the day over 3,000 men from the American side were killed. The Germans had a lot less; many of them whom were inexperienced soldiers, teenagers and untrained men. Only 1,200 German men were killed, however despite the big loss of men the Allies were still able to take the beach. The majority of the landing crafts had missed their targets causing for the attack to be significantly more difficult. Because of the mass number of casualties, the troops still alive were unable to clear the German defended exits.


Gold




File:Universal carriers on Gold Beach.jpg
File:Universal carriers on Gold Beach.jpg

Out of the five designated targets for the Normandy landings, Gold Beach was in the centre. The sector called ‘Gold’ was five miles wide. Located between La Riviere and Le Hammel, the British had the goal of securing this beachhead.The assault started at roughly 7:25am and by the end of the day it is looked at as one of the most successful beaches in the Normandy invasion.

By the early evening, 25,000 men of the 50th Division had been landed.The advance force of this division had moved six miles inland and linked up with the Canadian forces that had landed at Juno Beach. Just 400 casualties had been taken whilst securing the beach. The German defenses had set themselves up at very weak and exposed positions that they were openly exposed to naval bases and aerial gunfire before and during the initial attack.

Even though Gold beach is to be considered highly successful, there was still some difficulty at first in securing it. Information had leaked to the British that Rommel had set up anti-tank creations and mines right at the start of the beach so that the machines would be destroyed. The first set of landing crafts were badly damaged by the mines, and because of the tide on June 6th, the mines were too far underwater to disarm. Without disarming the mines, the first wave had to take the most damage in order for the other waves to successfully land.




Juno


File:Canadian Soldiers Juno Beach Town.jpg
File:Canadian Soldiers Juno Beach Town.jpg

Juno beach was the only beach of D-Day that was stormed by all canadian forces. The Canadian forces were given a six mile piece of the beach to attack. It was located between the cities of Saint-Aubin and Courseulles with 14,000 mean storming the beach.The Canadian forces were later given support from British troops that had moved across from Gold Beach. The Allied victory on this beach is noted as one of Canada's greatest contributions towards the Allied war effort in World War 2, however it did come at a cost. 359 dead, 574 wounded and 47 captured.

landings initially encountered heavy resistance with concrete bunkers creating the defense. But as the tide moved out, the troops were able to recover the beach obstacles, making their initial attack a little easier. Due to bad weather and rough waters, the attack was delayed till 7:35am and about 25% of landing crafts were destroyed.

Canada's objective was to reach Caen-Bayeux road and capture the airfield west of Caen and link-up with the British troops. This proved to be successful because the soldiers from Juno eventually met up with the British troops from Gold Beach. The Canadians fought their way into Bernieres, Courseulles and Saint-Aubin before moving their way across France.


Sword


external image battle_normandy173.jpg


Sword is the farthest east of all the beaches stormed on D-Day. Otherwise known as Operation Neptune, within Operation Overlord, the section known as Sword beach was about 8km long and was located between Ouistreham and Saint-Aubin. The attack commenced at about 7:20am with 28,845 men, 2,603 vehicles on the beach and 630 men killed or wounded fighting for the British on Sword beach.

The main prize for the soldiers on Sword beach was the city of Caen. It was important because all the main roads in the region ran through the city; control of these roads was vital if the Allies were to successfully advance inland and to the east and west.The area around Sword Beach was lightly defended when compared to beaches such as Omaha. But as the troops moved inland, more defenses met which halted the initial goal of Caen.They were not able to successfully move to Caen untill about a month or so later.




Resources



"Sword Beach." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 06 Dec. 2012. Web. 14 June 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sword_Beach>.

"D-Day : Normandy 1944 - SWORD BEACH : British Troops." D-Day : Normandy 1944 - SWORD BEACH : British Troops. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 June 2012. <http://www.6juin1944.com/assaut/sword/en_index.php>.

"Juno Beach." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 06 Dec. 2012. Web. 14 June 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juno_Beach>.

"Juno Beach - The Canadians On D-Day." Juno Beach - The Canadians On D-Day. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 June 2012. <http://www.members.shaw.ca/junobeach/>.

"Gold Beach." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 18 May 2012. Web. 14 June 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gold_Beach>.

"Gold Beach." Gold Beach. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 June 2012. <http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/gold_beach.htm>.

"D-Day : Normandy 1944 - GOLD BEACH : British Troops." D-Day : Normandy 1944 - GOLD BEACH : British Troops. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 June 2012. <http://www.6juin1944.com/assaut/gold/en_index.php>.

"Omaha Beach." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 06 Dec. 2012. Web. 13 June 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omaha_Beach>.

"Normandy Invasion D-Day Landings on Omaha Beach, 6 June 1944." Normandy Invasion D-Day Landings on Omaha Beach, 6 June 1944. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 June 2012. <http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/events/wwii-eur/normandy/nor4o.htm>.

"Utah Beach." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 06 Dec. 2012. Web. 13 June 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utah_Beach>.