D-Day and The Fallen 9000

The World War II invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944, code named Operation Overlord, ranks as one of the boldest and most successful large-scale invasions in military history. Approximately 160,000 American, British, and Canadian forces crossed the English Channel with the support of 7,000 ships and boats. Their objective was to land on five beaches (code named Sword, Juno, Gold, Omaha and Utah) along the 50-mile stretch of the coast of Normandy, France, which had been heavily fortified by the Germans.

Operation Overlord required extensive planning and training. The Allied forces rehearsed the operation for many months before the invasion. They also conducted deception operations Fortitude and Titanic. Operation Fortitude was designed to mislead the Germans with regard to the target and date of the invasion. Operation Titanic consisted of false radio transmissions from a non-existing army, forcing enemy spies to send misleading reports and schemes to the counterparts, and creation of thousands of imitation rubber, wood, and canvas decoy vehicles, aircraft, hangars, and support equipment. On the night before the invasion, Operation Titanic also called for Allied airborne forces to drop rubber dummy paratroopers throughout Normandy far from their intended drop zones, which caused widespread confusion and uncertainty amongst the Germans. Operation Overlord began the invasion with overnight parachute and glider landings, massive air attacks, and naval bombardment prior to the next morning’s amphibious landings.

Canadian forces landed on Juno Beach which covered two miles of beach and lay between Gold and Sword Beaches. Nearly half of the Canadian casualties occurred during the first hour of the invasion as one-third of the landing craft struck mines, and the Canadian forces met with fierce German resistance.

The British landed on Gold Beach, a 10-mile stretch of beach with Arromanches the major objective due to the pier which was meant to improve Allied logistics as soon after the landings as possible. The British also invaded Sword Beach which was three miles in length with its major objectives being important bridges located inland.

American forces secured Omaha Beach, 10 miles in length and the most heavily defended; and Utah Beach which was the largest beach spanning 11 miles, and the most difficult on which to land due to weather and sea conditions. Omaha Beach was the toughest assignment. Most landing crafts were forced off course due to winds and tidal currents. The beaches were heavily fortified with barbed wire, mines, booby-trapped obstacles, concrete bunkers and casements, artillery, machine guns and riflemen. Hundreds of B-24 Liberators had bombed the beaches before the landing, but because they were forced to drop their bombs through an undercast, they had been concerned that their bombs might hit the Allied Naval forces off-shore and dropped their bombs too far inland to do any damage, nor create bomb craters to provide cover for American GIs on the beach.

Despite all, the Allied forces were successful in establishing a beachhead from which the Germans could not drive them out. In ten days half a million Allied troops were ashore, and within three weeks that number had risen to two million. By late August of 1944, all of northern France had been liberated. D-Day casualties numbered 22,119 Americans, 946 Canadians, roughly 3,000 British, and an estimated 4,000-9,000 Germans.

British artists Jamie Wardley and Andy Moss of Sand in Your Eye, a company established by Wardley originally to produce sand sculptures, took to the beaches of Normandy on Sept. 21, 2013, in observance of Peace Day to create a visual representation of the approximate 9,000 Allied forces, Germans and French civilians who died on the Normandy beaches on D-Day. To create this unimaginable image, they drew silhouettes of the individuals in the sand using rakes and stencil forms. The silhouettes were drawn at the rate with which the individuals fell that fateful day, only to be erased hours later by the incoming tide just as the lives of those who fell had been erased on D-Day. The Fallen 9000 was funded by Sand in Your Eye with support from local merchants and took an estimated 500 volunteers five hours. The project “was an opportunity to give a voice back to those that had lost their lives.”

Try to image the price that was paid that day in 1944. Remember our veterans who paid the price for your freedom… Freedom is NEVER Free!

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