The World at War


Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force!

You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of liberty loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers in arms on other Fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.
     Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle hardened. He will fight savagely.
     But this is the year 1944! Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of 1940-41. The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats, in open battle, man to man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our Home Fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men. The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to Victory!
     I have full confidence in your courage and devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full Victory! Good luck! And let us beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.

General Dwight D. Eisenhower
Order of the Day
June 6, 1944

Operation Overlord
by Richard Doody

A Chronology of Events

June 5, 1944

2200 H - commencement of Operation Neptune - 5 assault groups depart the English ports

June 6, 1944 - D-Day

0005 H Allied air forces begin bombing of coastal batteries between Le Havre and Cherbourg
0010 H reconnaissance groups dropped by parachute
Lieutenant Poole becomes first allied soldier to set foot on French soil
0020 H British commandos under the command of Major Howard arrive by glider and begin
attacks on Pegasus and other bridges over the River Orne
0100 H U.S. 82nd Airborne Division lands by parachute west of Saint Mere Eglise
C47 Dakota
C-47 Dakota ( a military version of the DC-3) used to transport airborne troops to Normandy at: Musee des Troupes Aeroportees - Sainte Mere Eglise
0111 H first reports of American airborne assault reach headquarters of the German 84th Army Corps at Saint Lo

He was but one of thousands of Allied paratroopers hurtling through the dark skies over Normandy in the early morning hours of June 6, 1944 but the recounting of his story in Cornelius Ryan’s book, The Longest Day and later in the film adapted from it made John Steele, 505th Regiment U.S. 82nd Airborne Div. perhaps the best remembered Private to take part in Operation Overlord.

Instead of jumping into a well lighted drop zone, Steele found himself falling into the center of the burning and panicked village of Sainte Mere Eglise. Pvt. Steele’s problems were compounded when a bullet ripped through his foot. His drop was broken not as he hit the ground but when his chute snagged the steeple of the parish church. Steele’s efforts to free himself came to naught. The knife he was using to cut away his harness fell from his grasp.

Steele was within earshot of German gunners on the roof of the church and survived by playing dead for 2 hours. Then chaos subsided for a few moments giving the German garrison time to cut the injured paratrooper down and take him prisoner.

L’Auberge John Steele - Sainte Mere Eglise, Normandy

0130 H U.S. 101ST Airborne Division lands by parachute near Utah Beach
0150 H Main body of the British 6TH Airborne Division lands by parachute east of the River Orne
0245 H Troops bound for Omaha Beach board landing craft
0300 H Allied warships arrive at assigned positions for the assault
0320 H heavy equipment and reinforcements for paratroops arrive by glider
0325 H German naval observers report presence of Allied task force off the coast of Normandy
0350 H British paratroops begin attack on the village of Ranville
0430 H Sainte Mere Eglise captured by 505th Regiment, U.S. 82nd Airborne Division
Marcouf islets off Utah Beach occupied by Americans
Kilometer 0 The borne marking Kilometer 0 of La Voie de la Liberte stands in front of the town hall of Sainte Mere Eglise. Here at 0430 hours on the morning of June 6, 1944 Lt. Colonel Edward Krause of the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division raised the stars and stripes over the first town in France to be liberated by the Americans.
0445 H Two miniature submarines drop off beachmasters and equipment for signaling landing craft
British knockout German shore battery at Merville
0530 H Allied warships begin shelling German coastal fortifications
0600 H Sunrise
Aerial bombardment of German fortifications along Utah and Omaha Beaches
0630 H American landings begin on Utah and Omaha Beaches
0652 H First reports of conditions on the beaches reach Admiral Ramsay
0700 H German radio broadcast initial report of the landing



     The German and Anglo Saxon armies have met upon our soil. France will therefore become a battlefield.
     Officials, civil servants, railwaymen, workers stand firm at your post to continue the life of the nation and accomplish the tasks which are incumbent upon you.

     Do not aggravate our misfortune by acts which risk bringing tragic reprisals upon you. It will be the innocent French population which will suffer the consequences.
     Do not listen to those who are looking to exploit our distress, who would lead the country to disaster. France will not be saved except by observing the most rigorous discipline. Obey the orders of the Government. That each may stand firm beside his duty.
     The circumstances of battle will lead the German army to take special measures in the zones of combat. Accept this necessity. It is one constant recommendation I make to you in the interest of your safety.
     I urge you, Frenchmen, to think again of the mortal peril which would face our country if this signal warning was not heard.

Marshal of France
Head of State
Philippe Petain

0710 H U.S. Army 2nd Ranger Battalion begins assault on Pointe du Hoc

Pointe du Hoc - German view
View of La Pointe du Hoc from the German Fortification
It was a day when daunting tasks were commonplace but none was more daunting than that of Colonel James Rudder’s 2nd Battalion of U.S. Army Rangers. They would land with the first wave, scale the 100 foot high cliffs of Pointe du Hoc and knockout the German artillery perched in steel and reinforced concrete bunkers atop the promontory.
Pointe du Hoc - Utah view
View from La Pointe du Hoc looking towards Utah Beach
The Rangers encountered fierce resistance from the German defenders despite the heavy air and naval bombardments of the fortress prior to their attack. When the smoke cleared 135 of Rudder’s 225 man force were dead or wounded. The emplace- ments they now commanded were empty. The heavy artillery that Allied planners had feared capable of raining destruction on the Utah and Omaha sectors had never been installed. The desperate attempts of the Resistance to warn the Americans of the empty emplacements had failed.

0725 H British landings begin on Gold and Sword Beaches

"D-Day has come. Early this morning the Allies began the assault on the northwestern face of Hitler’s European fortress. First official news came just after half past nine when Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Force, usually called "Shafe" from its initials, issued Communiqué No. 1. This said, "Under the command of General Eisenhower Allied naval forces supported by strong air forces began landing Allied armies this morning on the northern coast of France."

John Snagge
June 6, 1944

0735 H Canadian landing begins on Juno Beach
0900 H General Eisenhower authorizes release of communiqué announcing the commencement of the invasion:
0913 H General Bradley, fearing it may become necessary to abandon Omaha Beach, calls for reinforcements
0930 H The Casino building at Riva Bella is liberated by Free French commandos led by Commandant Kieffer

La Bataille Supreme est Engagee!
     After much fighting, furor and pain the decisive shock has come, the hoped for shock. Of course, it is the Battle of France and it is the Battle of the French!
     We are told that an immense assault force has begun to leave the shores of Old England to aid us. Before, this last bastion of Western Europe was stopped for a short time by a sea of German oppression. Today it is the departure point for the offensive of liberty. France, submerged for four years but at no time reduced nor vanquished, France is arising to do its part there.
     For the sons of France, it goes without saying, the obligation is simple and sacred, to fight with all the means at their disposal. They shall destroy the detested enemy, the dishonorable enemy.
     The Battle of France has commenced. There is nothing more in the nation, in the Empire, in the armed forces but one and the same will, one and the same hope. Behind the clouds, if heavy with our blood and with our tears, there is that which will restore the sunlight and our grandeur.

General Charles DeGaulle
Broadcast to France
June 6, 1944

Citizens of France! I am proud to have again under my command the gallant forces of France. Fighting beside their allies, they will play a worthy part in the liberation of their homeland. Because the initial landing has been made on the soil of your country, I repeat my message to the peoples of other occupied countries in Western Europe. Follow the instructions of your leaders. A premature uprising of all Frenchmen may prevent you from being of maximum help to your country in the critical hour. Be patient. Prepare.

General Dwight D. Eisenhower
Broadcast to France
June 6, 1944

0930 H First units reach the top of cliffs overlooking Omaha Beach
D-Day Memorial
D-Day Memorial - Omaha Beach, Normandy
Hermanville, behind Sword Beach, is liberated
0945 H Utah Beach cleared of all enemy forces
1200 H Winston Churchill reports on the landings in speech to the House of Commons
1300 H Troops from Utah Beach link up with paratroops from the 101st Airborne Division
1330 H Troops on Omaha Beach begin moving inland
1430 H 21st Panzer Division launches counter attack towards the coast
1500 H 12th SS Panzer Division falls into position south of Caen
1600 H British tanks arrive in Arromanches
1800 H Saint Laurent, behind Omaha Beach, liberated
2000 H 21st Panzer Division reaches the coast at Luc sur Mer between Juno and Sword Beaches
Allied patrols reach the outskirts of Bayeux

People of Western Europe,
     A landing was made this morning on the coast of France by troops of the Allied Expeditionary Force. This landing is part of a concerted United Nations plan for the liberation of Europe, made in conjunction with our great Russian allies. I have this message for all of you, although the initial assault may not have been in your own country, the hour of your liberation is approaching

General Dwight D. Eisenhower
Broadcast to France
June 6, 1944

2200 H Rommel returns to his headquarters after meetings in Germany

    If we do not succeed in our mission to close the seas to the Allies, or in the first 48 hours, to throw them back, their invasion will be successful ...

     In the absence of strategic reserves and due to the total inadequacy of our navy and of our air force we will have lost the war.

Fieldmarshal Erwin Rommel
Commandant of German Army Group B

Canadian/British advance on Caen stalls in the Forest of Lebisay
2207 H Sunset


June 7th 0400 H : President Roosevelt leads the nation in prayer for the troops on radio broadcast at 10 p.m. June 6th Washington time.

Almighty God,

Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a might endeavor.
A struggle to preserve our republic, our religion and our civilization and to set free a suffering humanity.
They will be sore tried by night and by day without rest until the victory is won.
Some will never return.
Embrace these Father and receive them, Thy heroic servants into Thy Kingdom.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Broadcast to the Nation
June 6, 1944

June 8th Bayeux liberated by British troops
June 12th Carentan captured, two American bridgeheads linked, drive on Cherbourg begins
British and Canadian drive on Caen stalls
June 14th General De Gaulle arrives in Bayeux to establish the Provisional Government of France
June 19th A violent storm, lasting 4 days, strikes at the Mulberrys (artificial harbors) threatening Allied ability to land enough supplies and reinforcements to withstand the German counterattack
June 26th British launch "Operation Epsom" - objective: establish a bridgehead on the River Odon, west of Caen. The attack fails. The stalemate continues. General Montgomery devises plan to draw German tanks towards Caen allowing American units to outflank them on south.
June 27th Cherbourg liberated by U.S. 79th Division but damage to port facilities prevents full utilization until September
June 28th General Dollmann, commander of the German 7th Army, commits suicide
July 2nd Marshal von Rundstedt replaced as Supreme Commander of German forces on the Western Front by Marshal von Kluge
July 7th British launch "Operation Charmwood" attacking Caen from the north
July 9th Caen liberated by Canadian and British Forces

Rommel in a message to Hitler, July 15th, 1944
(German original)

Die Lage an der Front der Normandie wird von Tag zu Tag schwieriger, sie nähert sich einer schweren Krise.
     Die eigenen Verluste sind bei der Härte der Kämpfe, dem außergewöhnlich starken Materialeinsatz des Gegners, vor allem an Artillerie und Panzern, und bei der Wirkung der den Kampfraum unumschränkt beherrschenden feindlichen Luftwaffe derartig hoch, daß die Kampfkraft der Divisionen rasch absinkt. Ersatz aus der Heimat kommt nur sehr spärlich und erreicht bei der schwierigen Transportlage die Front erst nach Wochen. Rund 97000 Mann an Verlusten (darunter 2360 Offiziere - unter ihnen 28 Generäle und 354 Kommandeure) - also durchschnittlich pro Tag 2500-3000 Mann - stehen bis jetzt insgesamt 6000 Mann Ersatz gegenüber. Auch die materiellen Verluste der eingesetzten Truppen sind außerordentlich hoch und konnten bisher in nur geringem Umfang ersetzt werden, z.B. von 225 Panzern bisher nur 17.
     Die neuzugeführten Divisionen sind kampfungewohnt und bei der geringen Ausstattung mit Artillerie, panzerbrechenden Waffen und Panzerbekämpfungsmitteln nicht imstande, feindliche Großangriffe nach mehrstündigem Trommelfeuer und starken Bombenangriffen auf die Dauer erfolgreich abzuwehren. Wie die Kämpfe gezeigt haben, wird bei dem feindlichen Materialeinsatz auch die tapferste Truppe Stück für Stück zerschlagen. Die Nachschubverhältnisse sind durch die Zerstörungen des Bahnnetzes, die starke Gefährdung der Straßen und Wege bis zu 150 Kilometer hinter der Front durch die feindliche Luftwaffe derartig schwierig, daß nur das Allernötigste herangebracht werden kann und vor allem mit Artillerie- und Werfermunition äußerst gespart werden muß. Neue nennenswerte Kräfte können der Front in der Normandie nicht mehr zugeführt werden. Auf der Feindseite fließen Tag für Tag neue Kräfte und Mengen an Kriegsmaterial der Front zu. Der feindliche Nachschub wird von unserer eigenen Luftwaffe nicht gestört. Der feindliche Druck wird immer stärker.
     Unter diesen Umständen muß damit gerechnet werden, daß es dem Feind in absehbarer Zeit - 14 Tage bis 3 Wochen - gelingt, die eigene dünne Front, vor allem bei der 7. Armee, zu durchbrechen und in die Weite des französischen Raumes zu stoßen. Die Folgen werden unübersehbar sein.
     Die Truppe kämpft allerorts heldenmütig, jedoch der ungleiche Kampf neigt dem Ende entgegen. Ich muß Sie bitten, die Folgerungen aus dieser Lage unverzüglich zu ziehen. Ich fühle mich verpfichtet, als Oberbefehlshaber der Heeresgruppe dies klar auszusprechen.

July 17th Marshal Rommel is seriously wounded
July 18th Saint Lo "Le Capitale des Ruins" liberated by U.S. 29th Division
Saint Lo
"To the memory of the victims of the bombardment that destroyed the city of Saint Lo - June 6, 1944" - inscribed on the medieval ramparts of Saint Lo, Normandy
July 20th assassination attempt on Hitler fails
July 24th Americans launch offensive codename "Operation Cobra"
July 30th General LeClerc’s Free French 2nd Armored Division lands at Utah Beach
August 1st American Third Army under General Patton breaks through German line at Avranches begins begins westward sweep through Brittany
Sherman Tank, a relic of Patton’s sweep through Brittany beside the road at Roscoff, Brittany
August 6th Patton’s army reaches the outskirts of Brest and turns eastward. Heavily defended pockets surrounding submarine bases at Brest, Lorient and Saint Nazaire remain in German hands.

Pattons army begins eastward sweep towards Germany and liberating Laval on the 6th, Le Man on the 8th , Angers on the 11th , Dreux on the 16th , Chartres on the 18th , Montereau on the 21st , Chalons on the 29th and Verdun on the 31st.

Panzer units launch counterattack on Americans at Mortain

August 8th "Operation Totalize" Canadians attack on the Caen-Falaise front. Encirclement of remaining German troops begins
August 12th Alencon liberated by Free French 2nd Armored Division
Argentan liberated by the Americans
August 15th beginning of police, metro and postal workers strike in Paris
August 16th Canadians enter Falaise
August 18th Marshal von Kluge commits suicide. Marshal Model assumes command of German forces on the Western Front
August 19th Paris’ Communist dominated Resistance led by Colonel Rol (aka Henri Tanguy) begins insurrection against occupation authorities
August 22th Falaise pocket closed trapping remaining German armored units General Bradley issues order for LeClerc’s 2nd Armored Division to march on Paris
August 23th General von Choltitz receives Hitler’s order to destroy Paris
August 25th Troops of the Free French 2nd Armored Division, under General LeClerc, enter Paris closely followed by U.S. 4th Infantry Division.
General von Choltitz signs the act of surrender in the Prefecture of Police at 1530 H
General DeGaulle arrives at la Gare Montparnasse at 1615 H

     Why would you wish to hide the emotion that embraces us all, men and women, who are here, home, in Paris standing up to free itself and that knew to do so with its own hands. No! We will not hide this emotion, profound and sacred, There have been minutes which have overcome each one of our poor lives.

     Paris! Paris insulted! Paris broken! Paris martyred! But Paris freed! Paris freed by itself, freed by its own people with the assistance of the armies of France, with the support and assistance of the entire French nation, of the France that fights, of the only France, of the true France, of France eternal.

General Charles DeGaulle
Speech at Paris City Hall
The evening of August 25, 1944

contributed by Richard Doody

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