Lesson Seed 11: The Plan for D-Day
Generals Eisenhower, Montgomery, and Bradley, and their subordinates, knew this invasion was risky, and that many casualties were possible. Have students examine the following aspects of Operation Overlord:
• The Deception–the Allies used a litany of spies to deceive the Germans into thinking that the invasion would take place at a location to the north of Normandy. A fictitious army located at the city of Dover, which was directly across the Channel from Calais where the Germans were expecting the invasion, enhanced this idea. The spies had effectively convinced the Germans that Normandy was just a diversion.
• French Resistance–These French citizens were instrumental in sabotaging railroads and bridges prior to the invasion
• Airborne Assault–Two American Airborne Units (82nd and 101st) were to drop into France, behind the German lines. This was done in order to prevent German reinforcements from getting to the beaches. Prior to the operations, it was estimated that 70% of these men were going to die. Despite the fact that men were scattered all over the countryside, the Airborne drop was considered a success. In addition, the British were part of this aspect of the assault, using plywood gliders to land in Normandy with a minimum amount of noise
• Beach Assault–Using the newly crafted Higgins Boats (Landing Craft), American Units hit Omaha Beach at 6:31 a.m. (local time).There were five beaches code named; Omaha, Utah, Juno, Sword and Gold. The first Americans to land were from the Maryland/Virginia based 29th Division. The first unit, the 116th Infantry Division, suffered 97% casualties. Many of these men were killed before reaching shore.
• Rangers–Some of the 2nd and 5th Ranger Battalions scaled the cliffs of Pointe du Hoc to disable the 155mm Howitzers that were reported to be above Utah Beach. After scaling the cliffs without safety harnesses, they discovered the guns had been moved. Two Rangers, SSgt’s. Leonard Lomell and Jack Kuhn, moved inland, and found and destroyed the guns before 9:00 a.m.
• Moving Inland–After facing the bloody combat of the beach assault the soldiers moved inland facing more difficulties. The Normandy countryside was riddled with large hedgerows that had been built by farmers to contain their cattle. These large earthen walls provided cover for the Germans. Frequently it would take an entire day to overtake one hedgerow, at the cost of many Allied lives.
See Lecture document and Neptune documents on CD to support this lesson.