Description The Normandy landings (codenamed Operation Neptune) were the landing operations on 6 June 1944 (termed D-Day) of the Allied invasion of Normandy in Operation Overlord during World War II. The largest The Normandy landings (codenamed Operation Neptune) were the landing operations on 6 June 1944 (termed D-Day) of the Allied invasion of Normandy in Operation Overlord during World War II. The largest seaborne invasion in history, the operation began the invasion of German-occupied western Europe, led to the restoration of the French Republic, and contributed to an Allied victory in the war.
Planning for the operation began in 1943. In the months leading up to the invasion, the Allies conducted a substantial military deception, codenamed Operation Bodyguard, to mislead the Germans as to the date and location of the main Allied landings. The weather on D-Day was far from ideal, but postponing would have meant a delay of at least two weeks, as the invasion planners had requirements for the phase of the moon, the tides, and the time of day that meant only a few days in each month were deemed suitable. Hitler placed German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel in command of German forces and of developing fortifications along the Atlantic Wall in anticipation of an Allied invasion.
The amphibious landings were preceded by extensive aerial and naval bombardment and an airborne assault—the landing of 24,000 British, US, and Canadian airborne troops shortly after midnight. Allied infantry and armoured divisions began landing on the coast of France starting at 06:30. The target 50-mile (80 km) stretch of the Normandy coast was divided into five sectors: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword Beach. Strong winds blew the landing craft east of their intended positions, particularly at Utah and Omaha. The men landed under heavy fire from gun emplacements overlooking the beaches, and the shore was mined and covered with obstacles such as wooden stakes, metal tripods, and barbed wire, making the work of the beach clearing teams difficult and dangerous. Casualties were heaviest at Omaha, with its high cliffs. At Gold, Juno, and Sword, several fortified towns were cleared in house-to-house fighting, and two major gun emplacements at Gold were disabled using specialised tanks.
The Allies failed to achieve all of their goals on the first day. Carentan, St. Lô, and Bayeux remained in German hands, and Caen, a major objective, was not captured until 21 July. Only two of the beaches (Juno and Gold) were linked on the first day, and all five bridgeheads were not connected until 12 June. However, the operation gained a foothold that the Allies gradually expanded over the coming months. German casualties on D-Day were around 1,000 men. Allied casualties were at least 10,000, with 4,414 confirmed dead. Museums, memorials, and war cemeteries in the area host many visitors each year.... More
Memories Paul Esterle enlisted into the U.S. Army in 1942 and belonged to the 9th Infantry division, 60th InfPaul Esterle enlisted into the U.S. Army in 1942 and belonged to the 9th Infantry division, 60th Infantry Regiment, L company. He participated in the Normandy invasion entering Utah Beach on 10 June 1945. He was combat infantry and fought his way down where he was injured in or near St. Lo when German artillery exploded above the tree line he was sitting under. He was hit with shrapnel and a falling tree limb. Paul Esterle also served in Tunisia with his unit the Octofoils, 9th Infantry division, 60th Infantry Regiment, L company, 3rd Batallion.... More
Description During the Second World War, Operation Vulcan was the final ground attack against German forces in Tunis, Cap Bon, and Bizerte, Tunisia, the last Axis toeholds in North Africa. German Field Marshal ErDuring the Second World War, Operation Vulcan was the final ground attack against German forces in Tunis, Cap Bon, and Bizerte, Tunisia, the last Axis toeholds in North Africa. German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel believed that the Axis position in Tunisia was untenable, and he had recommended the evacuation of all German troops to Italy, where he believed they could be more useful. His advice was rejected by Hitler. In addition, the Germans did not actually have the sea shipping capability or the control of the air to do this.
The fighting was heavy, with German units in well-prepared and dug-in defences. In the advance on Tunis, the British 4th Infantry Division was confronted by paratroopers of the elite Hermann Göring Parachute Division. The British attack was costly, and previous attacks had been repulsed with heavy losses.
At the "Cactus Farm", the British infantry was faced by fierce defensive fire from well-concealed German paratroopers. Consequently, Churchill tanks of the 12th Royal Tank Regiment advanced without any infantry support, and the tanks were assaulted by the defenders using Molotov cocktails and sticky "teller" anti-tank mines. Twelve tanks were destroyed and in some cases, their crews were rescued from the burning wrecks by the German defenders.
On 6 May 1943, at the culmination of Operation Vulcan, the British army took Tunis and American troops reached Bizerte. By 13 May, all of the Axis forces in Tunisia surrendered. By the close of the operation, nearly 240,000 German and Italian troops were captured.
In April, a major Allied air force effort (Operation Flax) had cut off Axis supplies to North Africa. The United States Army forces surrounded the last defenders at Enfidaville, ending the Axis effort in North Africa. Operation Retribution and the control of the air and of the sea prevented any large-scale evacuation of Axis troops to Italy.... More
Description (Tunisia Campaign 17 November 1942 to 13 May 1943) Having gained Algeria, the Allies quickly turned eastward, hoping to take Tunis and Bizerte before the Germans could send reinforcements into Tunisia(Tunisia Campaign 17 November 1942 to 13 May 1943) Having gained Algeria, the Allies quickly turned eastward, hoping to take Tunis and Bizerte before the Germans could send reinforcements into Tunisia. But the drive broke down short of the goal. In February 1943, after Rommel had been driven into Tunisia, the Axis took the offensive and pushed through Kasserine Pass before being stopped. With Ninth and Twelfth Air Forces in the battle, the Allies drove the enemy back into a pocket around Bizerte and Tunis, where Axis forces surrendered in May. Thus Tunisia became available for launching an attack on Sicily as a preliminary to an assault on Italy.... More
Description Operation Torch (initially called Operation Gymnast) ( 8 - 16 November 1942) was the British-American invasion of French North Africa during the North African Campaign of the Second World War which stOperation Torch (initially called Operation Gymnast) ( 8 - 16 November 1942) was the British-American invasion of French North Africa during the North African Campaign of the Second World War which started on 8 November 1942. Background A map of Allied convoys heading from the British Isles to North Africa. The Allies planned an Anglo-American invasion of northwestern Africa - Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, territory nominally in the hands of the Vichy French government. With much of North Africa already under Allied control, this would allow the Allies to carry out a pincer operation against Axis forces in North Africa. The Vichy French had around 125,000 soldiers in the territories as well as coastal artillery, 210 operational but out-of-date tanks and about 500 aircraft, half of which were Dewoitine D.520 fighters - equal to many British and U.S. fighters. In addition, there were 10 or so warships and 11 submarines at Casablanca. The Allies believed that the Vichy French forces would not fight, partly because of information supplied by American Consul Robert Daniel Murphy in Algiers. The French were former Allies of the U.S. and the American troops were instructed not to fire unless they were fired upon. However, they harbored suspicions that the Vichy French navy would bear a grudge over the British action at Mers-el-Kebir in 1940. An assessment of the sympathies of the French forces in North Africa was essential, and plans were made to secure their cooperation, rather than resistance. German support for the Vichy French came in the shape of air support. Several Luftwaffe bomber wings undertook anti-shipping strikes against Allied ports in Algiers and along the North African coast. General Dwight D. Eisenhower was given command of the operation, and he set up his headquarters in Gibraltar. The Allied Naval Commander of the Expeditionary Force would be Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham; his deputy was Vice-Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay, who would plan the amphibious landings. Allied operational plans Planners identified Oran (a large port with plentiful airfields within range of Gibraltar to facilitate the build up of Allied land-based airforces) and also Algiers and Casablanca (important ports and the major administrative centres) as key targets. Ideally there should also be a landing at Tunis to secure Tunisia and facilitate the rapid interdiction of supplies travelling via Tripoli to Rommel's forces in Libya. However, Tunis was much too close to the Axis airfields in Sicily and Sardinia for any hope of success. A compromise would be to land at Bone, some 300 miles (480 km) closer to Tunis than Algiers. Limited resources dictated that the Allies could only make three landings and Eisenhower who believed that any plan must include landings at Oran and Algiers, had two main alternatives: either to land at Casablanca, Oran and Algiers and then make as rapid a move as possible to Tunis some 500 miles (800 km) east of Algiers once the Vichy opposition was suppressed; or land at Oran, Algiers and Bone and then advance overland to Casablanca some 500 miles (800 km) west of Oran. He favoured the latter because of the advantages it gave to an early capture of Tunis and also because the Atlantic swells off Casablanca presented considerably greater risks to an amphibious landing there than would be encountered in the Mediterranean. The Combined Chiefs of Staff, however, were concerned that should Operation Torch precipitate Spain to abandon neutrality and join the Axis, the Straits of Gibraltar could be closed cutting the entire Allied force's lines of communication. They therefore chose the Casablanca option as the less risky since the forces in Algeria and Tunisia could be supplied overland from Casablanca (albeit with considerable difficulty) in the event of closure of the straits. Eisenhower in accepting this pointed out that the decision removed the early capture of Tunis from the probable to only the remotely possible because of the extra time it would afford the Axis to move forces into Tunisia. Intelligence gathering In July 1941, Mieczysaw Sowikowski (using the codename "Rygor" Polish for "Rigor") set up "Agency Africa", one of the Second World War's most successful intelligence organizations. His Polish allies in these endeavors included Lt. Col. Gwido Langer and Major Maksymilian Ciżki. The information gathered by the Agency was used by the Americans and British in planning the amphibious November 1942 Operation Torch landings in North Africa. Preliminary contact with Vichy French To gauge the feeling of the Vichy French forces, Murphy was appointed to the American consulate in Algeria. His covert mission was to determine the mood of the French forces and to make contact with elements that might support an Allied invasion. He succeeded in contacting several French officers, including General Charles Mast, the French commander-in-chief in Algiers. These officers were willing to support the Allies, but asked for a clandestine conference with a senior Allied General in Algeria. Major General Mark W. Clark - one of Eisenhower's senior commanders?was dispatched to Cherchell in Algeria aboard the British submarine HMS Seraph passing itself off as an American submarine and met with these Vichy French officers on 21 October 1942. With help from the Resistance, the Allies also succeeded in slipping French General Henri Giraud out of Vichy France on HMS Seraph, intending to offer him the post of commander in chief of French forces in North Africa after the invasion. However, Giraud would take no position lower than commander in chief of all the invading forces, a job already given to Eisenhower. When he was refused, he decided to remain "a spectator in this affair". Battle The Allies organized three amphibious task forces to seize the key ports and airports of Morocco and Algeria simultaneously, targeting Casablanca, Oran and Algiers. Successful completion of these operations was to be followed by an advance eastwards into Tunisia. The Western Task Force (aimed at Casablanca) comprised American units, with Major General George Patton in command and Rear Admiral Henry K. Hewitt heading the naval operations. This Western Task Force consisted of the U.S. 2nd Armored Division and the U.S. 3rd and 9th Infantry Divisions; 35,000 troops in a convoy of over 100 ships. They were transported directly from the U.S. in the first of a new series of UG convoys providing logistic support for the North African campaign. The Center Task Force, aimed at Oran, included the U.S. 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment, the U.S. 1st Infantry Division, and the U.S. 1st Armored Division a total of 18,500 troops. They sailed from Britain and were commanded by Major General Lloyd Fredendall, the naval forces being commanded by Commodore Thomas Troubridge. The Eastern Task Force, aimed at Algiers?was commanded by Lieutenant-General Kenneth Anderson and consisted of two brigades from the British 78th and the U.S. 34th Infantry Divisions, along with two British Commando units (No.1 and No. 6 Commando), totaling 20,000 troops. During the landing phase the force was to be commanded by U.S. Major General Charles W. Ryder, commander of the 34th Division, as it was felt that a U.S.-led invasion would be more acceptable to the French defenders than one led by the British; many British troops wore American uniform, for the same reason.Naval forces were commanded by Vice-Admiral Sir Harold Burrough. U-boats, operating in the eastern Atlantic area crossed by the invasion convoys, had been drawn away to attack trade convoy SL 125. Some historians have suggested the timing of this trade convoy was an intentional tactical diversion to prevent submarine attacks on the troop transports. Aerial operations were split into two, east of Cape Tenez in Algeria, with British aircraft under Air Marshal Sir William Welsh and west of Cape Tenez, all American aircraft under Major General Jimmy Doolittle, under the direct command of Major General Patton. Curtiss P-40s of the 33rd Fighter Group were launched from United States Navy escort carriers and landed at Port Lyautey on November 10. Additional air support was provided by the carrier USS Ranger, whose squadrons intercepted Vichy aircraft and bombed hostile ships. Casablanca Flyers that was distributed by the Allied forces in the streets of Casablanca, calling the citizens to cooperate with the Allied forces. The Western Task Force landed before daybreak on 8 November 1942, at three points in Morocco: Safi (Operation Blackstone), Fedala (Operation Brushwood, the largest landing with 19,000 men), and Mehdiya-Port Lyautey (Operation Goalpost). Because it was hoped that the French would not resist, there were no preliminary bombardments. This proved to be a costly error as French defenses took a toll of American landing forces. On the night of 7 November, pro-Allied General Antoine Bothouart attempted a coup d'etat against the French command in Morocco, so that he could surrender to the Allies the next day. His forces surrounded the villa of General Charles Nogus, the Vichy-loyal high commissioner. However, Nogus telephoned loyal forces, who stopped the coup. In addition, the coup attempt alerted Nogus to the impending Allied invasion, and he immediately bolstered French coastal defenses. At Safi, the landings were mostly successful. The landings were begun without covering fire, in the hope that the French would not resist at all. However, once French coastal batteries opened fire, Allied warships returned fire. By the time General Harmon arrived, French snipers had pinned the assault troops (most of whom were in combat for the first time) on Safi's beaches. Most of the landings occurred behind schedule. Carrier aircraft destroyed a French truck convoy bringing reinforcements to the beach defenses. Safi surrendered on the afternoon of 8 November. By 10 November, the remaining defenders were pinned down, and the bulk of Harmon's forces raced to join the siege of Casablanca. At Port-Lyautey, the landing troops were uncertain of their position, and the second wave was delayed. This gave the French defenders time to organize resistance, and the remaining landings were conducted under artillery bombardment. With the assistance of air support from the carriers, the troops pushed ahead, and the objectives were captured. At Fedala, weather disrupted the landings. The landing beaches again came under French fire after daybreak. Patton landed at 08:00, and the beachheads were secured later in the day. The Americans surrounded the port of Casablanca by 10 November, and the city surrendered an hour before the final assault was due to take place. Casablanca was the principal French Atlantic naval base after German occupation of the European coast. The Naval Battle of Casablanca resulted from a sortie of French cruisers, destroyers, and submarines opposing the landings. A cruiser, six destroyers, and six submarines were destroyed by American gunfire and aircraft. The incomplete French battleship Jean Bart which was docked and immobile fired on the landing force with her one working gun turret until disabled by American gunfire. Two American destroyers were damaged. Oran A transport of 116 Supermarine Spitfires sent by sea was assembled in just eleven days at North Front, Gibraltar. The Center Task Force was split between three beaches, two west of Oran and one east. Landings at the westernmost beach were delayed because of a French convoy which appeared while the minesweepers were clearing a path. Some delay and confusion, and damage to landing ships, was caused by the unexpected shallowness of water and sandbars; although periscope observations had been carried out, no reconnaissance parties had landed on the beaches to determine the local maritime conditions. This was in contrast to later amphibious assaults such as Operation Overlord in which considerable weight was given to pre-invasion reconnaissance. The U.S. 1st Ranger Battalion landed east of Oran and quickly captured the shore battery at Arzew. An attempt was made to land U.S. infantry at the harbour directly, in order to quickly prevent destruction of the port facilities and scuttling of ships. The operation code named Operation Reservist failed, as the two Banff-class sloops were destroyed by crossfire from the French vessels there. The Vichy French naval fleet broke from the harbour and attacked the Allied invasion fleet but its ships were all sunk or driven ashore. French batteries and the invasion fleet exchanged fire throughout 8-9 November, with French troops defending Oran and the surrounding area stubbornly. Heavy fire from the British battleships brought about Oran's surrender on 9 November. Airborne landings Torch was the first major airborne assault carried out by the U.S. The U.S. 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment flew all the way from Britain, over Spain, intending to drop near Oran and capture airfields at Tafraoui and La Sania respectively 15 miles (24 km) and 5 miles (8 km) south of Oran. The operation was marked by weather, navigational and communication problems. Poor weather over Spain and the extreme range caused widespread scattering and forced 30 of the 37 aircraft to land in the dry salt lake to the west of the objective. Nevertheless both airports were captured. Algiers Resistance and coup As agreed at Cherchell, in the early hours of 8 November 400 French Resistance fighters staged a coup in the city of Algiers. Starting at midnight, the force under the command of Henri d'Astier de la Vigerie and Josu Aboulker seized key targets, including the telephone exchange, radio station, governor's house and the headquarters of 19th Corps. Robert Murphy took some men and then drove to the residence of General Alphonse Juin, the senior French Army officer in North Africa. While they surrounded his house (making Juin effectively a prisoner) Murphy attempted to persuade him to side with the Allies. However, he was treated to a surprise: Admiral Franois Darlan-the commander of all French forces was also in Algiers on a private visit. Juin insisted on contacting Darlan, and Murphy was unable to persuade either to side with the Allies. In the early morning, the local Gendarmerie arrived and released both Juin and Darlan. Invasion On 8 November 1942, the invasion commenced with landings split between three beaches, two west of Algiers and one east. Under overall command of Major General Charles W. Ryder, commander U.S. 34th Infantry Division, British 11th Brigade Group from British 78th Infantry Division, landed on the right hand beach, U.S. 168 Regimental Combat Team, from U.S. 34th Infantry Division, supported by 6th Commando and most of 1st Commando on the middle beach while U.S. 39th Regimental Combat Team, also from 34th Division, supported by the remaining 5 troops from 1st Commando landed on the left hand beach. British 36th Brigade Group from 78th Division stood by in floating reserve. Though some landings went to the wrong beaches, this was immaterial because of the extremely low level of French opposition. All the coastal batteries had been neutralized by French resistance, and one French commander openly welcomed the landing Allies. The only fighting took place in the port of Algiers itself, where in Operation Terminal two British destroyers attempted to land a party of U.S. Rangers directly onto the dock, in order to prevent the French destroying the port facilities and scuttling their ships. Heavy artillery fire prevented one destroyer from landing but the other was able to debark 250 Rangers before it too was driven back to sea. The landed troops pushed quickly inland and General Juin surrendered the city to the Allies at 18:00.... More