74th Anniversary of D-Day
In addition, there were around 100,000 French Resistance ready to carry out planned acts of sabotage on German targets.
The airborne invasion was to commence first and pave the way for the amphibious landings.
Easy Company (now immortalised as the "Band of Brothers"), part of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, had their marshaling area in Upottery, Devon next to an airstrip. On the 4th June, in preparation for the mission, many of the men had their heads shaved or opted for a Mohawk haircut. On the afternoon of the 5th, someone found some cans of paint and they painted their faces like the Sioux, dubbing streaks of white, green or black down their noses and across their foreheads and cheekbones. Some used charcoal to blacken their faces. At 2030 hours, they lined up in groups of eighteen and silently, they marched towards the hangars.
|US soldiers of the 101st airborne division|
|General Eisenhower with the 101st Airborne on D-Day|
The 5th June was originally chosen as the day to invade, but due to bad weather conditions, Operation Overlord was postponed another day. On the morning of the 5th June, the meteorologist predicted improved weather conditions, and Supreme Commander General Eisenhower gave the order to commence Operation Overlord. He told troops, " You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hope and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. Your task won't be an easy one, but this is the year, 1944. The tide has turned. The free men of the world are marching together to victory. Good luck."
The US 82nd and 101st airborne division and the British 82nd airborne division began the assault. The airborne landings were crucial to the mission and it was their job to protect the men landing on the beaches from German counter-attacks. Hundreds of aircraft dropped Allied paratroopers on enemy targets across Normandy. The aircraft involved were the DC-3/C-47 Dakota.
And then there were the gliders. The 6th Airborne Division was led by Major General Richard Gale, who commanded the parachutists and glider-borne troops. Their mission was to hold the eastern flank of the invasion forces and to prevent German counter-attacks from the east.
The fallen are buried at the Commonwealth War Graves cemetery at Ranville.
|Pegasus Bridge 9th June 1944; Horsa Gliders can be seen where they landed.|
Scottish piper, Bill Millin, known as 'Piper Bill,' defied orders and took his bagpipes with him and led the troops onto the beaches as he piped. He was completely unarmed. The Germans thought he was completely mad and fortunately for Bill, decided to spare him. As Bill piped, walking up and down the length of the beach, men fell all around him and bodies bobbed in the water while shells and bullets hurtled overhead.
|Troops wade ashore from a landing craft|