A guide to the D-Day beaches

Dorset Echo: A guide to the D-Day beaches A guide to the D-Day beaches

GOLD

This was at the centre of the landing zones halfway between the Cotentin peninsula and the River Orne and near Asnelles.

The British 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division were faced with steep cliffs and strong German resistance.

But they fought through and by evening had established a 10km by 10km bridgehead which reached the inland town of Bayeux. The British were able to rendezvous with the Canadians to the east but did not reach their DDay objective of linking with the Americans in the west.

On DDay, 24,970 men were landed on Gold, with 89 barges or other craft lost. On the beach alone, 413 men were either killed, wounded or missing.

JUNO

At 8am on DDay, the first men of the 50th Canadian Infantry Division landed on Juno between GraysurMer and BernieressurMer. Heavy seas hampered the landings but the Canadians were able to forge a 1012kmlong bridgehead and were also able to liaise with the British 50th Division, although not with the British 3rd Division.

However, despite making the deepest penetration of any land forces on June 6, the Canadians eventually had to withdraw from their position 5km from Caen. A total of 21,400 men were landed on the beach on DDay as well as 3,200 vehicles and 1,100 tons of supplies. Casualties included 304 dead, 574 wounded and 47 taken prisoner.

OMAHA

A recent generation has come to realise something of what it must have been like to be part of the forces landing on Omaha beach through the dramatic Steven Spielberg film, Saving Private Ryan.

The first wave of landings by the 1st and 29th American Infantry Divisions was at 6.30am. They ran into fiercerthanexpected resistance from the Germans, whose heavy guns had survived the earlier Allied bombing attacks by being withdrawn and sited further to the rear.

Some doubted whether Omaha should have been chosen, as it was so difficult to assault with its 170ft-high cliffs and difficult terrain. Also, the Allies did not realise that the Germans had crack troops from the 352nd Infantry Division at Omaha.

Well dug in, the Germans poured down murderous fire on the landing Americans, and progress was so hindered that US First Army Commander General Omar Bradley considered pulling off the beach and landing troops elsewhere.

At one point, Colonel George A Taylor, who led his troops against a German machinegun emplacement, said: dTwo kinds of people are staying on this beach - the dead and those who are about to die."

Showing great bravery and supported by Allied naval gunfire, the Americans rallied, gained the heights and drove the Germans inland. By the end of the day, 34,500 men had been landed and a small bridgehead 12km in depth and 7km wide had been created.

But more than 2,000 Americans were killed or wounded and, of the 2,400 tons of supplies which should have been landed, only 100 tons arrived safely. Almost all the artillery, most of the tanks and other means of transport had been engulfed by the sea.

SWORD

At 7.30am on DDay, the 3rd British Infantry Division landed on Sword Beach, where resistance had been largely neutralised by the Allies" heavy prelanding bombardment.

The British were to advance inland as far as the town of Caen and line up with the British airborne forces east of the Orne River/Caen Canal. The 3rd Division established a bridgehead and almost reached Caen, but the town was not to fall until July 9.

Before midnight on June 6, a total of 28,845 men had been landed at Sword. Losses on the beach alone were about 630 dead or wounded.

UTAH

Thankfully, the American 4th Infantry Division which landed at Utah beach did not face the murderous conditions endured by their comrades at Omaha. But some of this was down to luck, as the first wave of landings was 2,000 yards south of the planned beach and at a point where resistance was much lighter than at the planned site.

Realising their good fortune, the Americans ensured that later assault waves also landed in this lessdefended area - and within hours the bridgehead was secured. By the end of June 6, a total of 23,250 men, 17,000 vehicles and 1,695 tons of supplies had been landed.

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