Thursday, June 6, 2013

D-Day Plus 69 Years

By this time 69 years ago, beachheads had been established on all five of the Normandy invasion beaches including Omaha. Soldiers and tanks were starting to move inland to secure the beachheads.

As to casualties, we will never have an exact figure. Most of what we have are estimates. The long-time general estimate was 10,000 Allied men killed, wounded, captured, or missing in action. However, research from the National D-Day Memorial Foundation now puts the number killed at a much higher figure than previously thought.
The Allied casualties figures for D-Day have generally been estimated at 10,000, including 2500 dead. Broken down by nationality, the usual D-Day casualty figures are approximately 2700 British, 946 Canadians, and 6603 Americans. However recent painstaking research by the US National D-Day Memorial Foundation has achieved a more accurate - and much higher - figure for the Allied personnel who were killed on D-Day. They have recorded the names of individual Allied personnel killed on 6 June 1944 in Operation Overlord, and so far they have verified 2499 American D-Day fatalities and 1915 from the other Allied nations, a total of 4414 dead (much higher than the traditional figure of 2500 dead). Further research may mean that these numbers will increase slightly in future. The details of this research will in due course be available on the Foundation's website at This new research means that the casualty figures given for individual units in the next few paragraphs are no doubt inaccurate, and hopefully more accurate figures will one day be calculated.

Casualties on the British beaches were roughly 1000 on Gold Beach and the same number on Sword Beach. The remainder of the British losses were amongst the airborne troops: some 600 were killed or wounded, and 600 more were missing; 100 glider pilots also became casualties. The losses of 3rd Canadian Division at Juno Beach have been given as 340 killed, 574 wounded and 47 taken prisoner.

The breakdown of US casualties was 1465 dead, 3184 wounded, 1928 missing and 26 captured. Of the total US figure, 2499 casualties were from the US airborne troops (238 of them being deaths). The casualties at Utah Beach were relatively light: 197, including 60 missing. However, the US 1st and 29th Divisions together suffered around 2000 casualties at Omaha Beach.
The Wall Street Journal had an article today by Nathan Ward in which he tells of his maternal grandfather who was a chaplain in the 29th Infantry Division. His grandfather and a Jewish chaplain, Rabbi Manuel Poliakoff, held a funeral service for 800 dead American servicemen buried in a temporary mass grave on Omaha Beach. I think that gives some idea of the enormous losses from that first day of battle.

I stumbled across some color archival footage of D-Day. The usual images of much of D-Day and, for that matter, WWII, are in black and white such as these by Robert Capa. Thus, seeing it in color seems somewhat strange.

Looking back at the men that fought and died in the invasion of Normandy, we think of them as fathers, grandfathers, and great-grandfathers. However, most who will read this today are older than the men who fought on those bloody beaches were when they landed. I am older today than Ike, Omar Bradley, and Monty were in 1944. The oldest man to go ashore that first day was Brigadier Gen. Ted Roosevelt, Jr. who was 56 just as I am today. I still have a hard time comprehending this.

To sum it up, I thank God that we had such men who willingly faced such unimaginable horrors to liberate Europe and the rest of the world from the Nazis. I just hope we can still prove to be worthy of their sacrifice.

UPDATE: Here is an interesting photo essay of Normandy in 1944 and now. The photographer has used archival photos and returned to the same location to show what it looks like today.

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