“Two kinds of people are staying on this beach. The dead and those who are going to die. Now let’s get the hell out of here.” Colonel George A. Taylor
03 SEPTEMBER 1939
France declares war on Germany following the invasion of Poland.
22 JUNE 1940
France surrenders to Germany and establishes the Vichy government under Marechal Petain.
07 DECEMBER 1941
Japan attacks Pearl Harbor
08 DECEMBER 1941
USA declares war on Japan
11 DECEMBER 1941
Germany & Italy declare war on USA. Hitler had now embarked on a two front war. The Allied strategy would form as as the objective to split the German forces as much as possible between East (Soviet Union) and West (American, British, Canadian, and French Resistance).
16 JULY 1942
The arrest and eventual deportation of 13,152 Jews by the French police known as La Rafle du Vel’ d’Hiv. Joseph Weismann and his family are arrested on this day.
08 NOVEMBER 1942
Allies land in North Africa
10 NOVEMBER 1942
Germany occupies Free France
09 JULY 1943
Allies land in Sicily
08 SEPTEMBER 1943
Italy surrenders to the Allies
04 NOVEMBER 1943
Erwin Rommel becomes General Inspector of the Western Defences. Rommel had distinguished himself throughout the war as an outstanding military mind. Rommel is aware of the importance of a possible Allied landing on France’s Atlantic coast, as he warns his aide, “Believe me, Lang, the first twenty-four hours of the invasion will be decisive … the fate of Germany depends on the outcome … for the Allies, as well as Germany, it will be the longest day.”
President Franklin Roosevelt appoints General Dwight D. Eisenhower to serve as the Supreme Allied Commander in the European Theater of Operations. Eisenhower is top military officer for Operation Overlord-D-Day.
25 MARCH 1944
A combined German and Vichy force attack the Resistance fighters on the Plateau des Glieres
06 APRIL 1944
Klaus Barbie orders the arrest of the children of Izieu
04 JUNE 1944
07:00: Rommel leaves the coast to visit his wife in Germany
07:00: Eisenhower decides to postpone invasion from 05 June to 06 June due to inclement weather. But the Americans had decided that they needed a late-rising moon and, shortly after dawn, a low tide. The late-rising moon was necessary for paratroopers to land in darkness, but then have moonlight for visibility. The low tide was necessary to see German defenses. These conditions only occurred on 05, 06, 07 June.
05 JUNE 1944
18:30: Radio messages sent to French Resistance. “It is hot in Suez…. It is hot in Suez..The dice are on the table…The dice are on the table..Napoleon’s hat is in the ring…. John loves Mary…. The Arrow will not pass….” These were the secret codes that alerted the French Resistance to the impending invasion. Guillaume Mercader, the intelligence chief for the Normandy coastal sector between Vierville and Port-en-Bessin (roughly the Omaha Beach area) was a former cycling champion that had participated in the Tour de France. The Germans had granted him a special permit to move about which enabled him to start preparations for the landings.
21:30: Eisenhower’s senior commanders and their chiefs of staff gathered in the library of Southwick House.
21:45: “It was now up to Ike. The moment had come when only he could make the decision. There was a long silence as Eisenhower weighed all the possibilities. General Smith, watching, was struck by the “isolation and loneliness” of the Supreme Commander as he sat, hands clasped before him, looking down at the table. The minutes ticked by; some say two minutes passed, others as many as five. Then Eisenhower, his face strained, looked up and announced his decision. Slowly he said, “I am quite positive we must give the order … I don’t like it, but there it is…. I don’t see how we can do anything else.” Cornelius Ryan
06 JUNE 1944
The beaches of Normandy are code named Utah (USA), Omaha (USA), Gold (UK), Juno (UK, Canada), Sword (UK, France)
12:15: First US paratrooper lands in Sainte-Mère-Église. Sainte-Mère-Église is the site of the first full confrontation between the USA and Germany on the Western Front.
03:00: Allied aerial bombing near Arromanches. The Allies, however, intentionally do not aim to land early in Arromanches. They do not want the beach destroyed as it is one of the locations they identify as ideal for an artificial port.
03:00: Despite intelligence, the presence of paratroopers, and field reports, Germans still refused to believe the invasion had begun. This hesitation by the Germans earns the Allies crucial hours to advance towards their objectives.
03:30: Large scale landing of Allied gliders.
04:30: The American flag flies over Sainte-Mère-Église, the first town liberated by Americans in France. This historic event is documented by the images of paratroopers in the stained glass of the church, as well as by the kilometer zero marker of the Liberty Trail.
05:00: Allied ships appear on horizon. First calls to Hitler’s headquarters. The warnings are dismissed-more hesitation.
The following is an account of the first apparition of the Allied Flotilla by Major Werner Pluskat as told in Cornelius Ryan’s The Longest Day
“Wearily, he swung the glasses over to the left again. Slowly, he tracked across the horizon. He reached the dead center of the bay. The glasses stopped moving. Pluskat tensed, stared hard…Through the scattering, thinning mist the horizon was magically filling with ships—ships of every size and description, ships that casually maneuvered back and forth as though they had been there for hours. There appeared to be thousands of them. It was a ghostly armada that somehow had appeared from nowhere. Pluskat stared in frozen disbelief, speechless, moved as he had never been before in his life. At that moment the world of the good soldier Pluskat began falling apart. He says in those first few moments he knew, calmly and surely, that ‘this was the end for Germany.”
05:30: Allied naval bombardment begins.
06:15: Radio message to French citizens, “This is London calling. I bring you an urgent instruction from the Supreme Commander. The lives of many of you depend upon the speed and thoroughness with which you obey it. It is particularly addressed to all who live within thirty-five kilometers of any part of the coast. Leave your towns at once, informing, as you go, any neighbors who may not be aware of the warning…. Stay off frequented roads…. Go on foot and take nothing with you which you cannot easily carry…. Get as quickly as possible into the open country…. Do not gather in large groups which may be mistaken for troop concentrations….”
06:30: The first landings on Omaha Beach begin.
Ranging up and down the 1st Division sector, oblivious to the artillery and machine-gun fire that raked the sands, was the 16th’s commanding officer, Colonel George A. Taylor. “Two kinds of people are staying on this beach,” he yelled, “the dead and those who are going to die. Now let’s get the hell out of here.”
At great human cost, the Americans somehow take control of Omaha Beach, know as Bloody Omaha.
07:10: The first US Army Rangers land below the cliffs of Pointe-du-Hoc. Please read the following brief account on the American Battle Monuments Commission webpage.
One of the most comical and human stories from Pointe-du-Hoc is told by Stephen Ambrose
“One of the first to make it was a country preacher from Tennessee, Pvt. Ralph Davis, a dead shot with a rifle and cool under pressure. When he got up, he dropped his pants and took a crap. “The war had to stop for awhile until ‘Preacher’ could get organized,” one of his buddies commented.”
16:00: British tanks and infantry arrive in Arromanches (Gold Beach).
“Mulberry, either of two artificial harbours designed and constructed by the British in World War II to facilitate the unloading of supply ships off the coast of Normandy, France, immediately following the invasion of Europe on D-Day, June 6, 1944…Each Mulberry harbour consisted of roughly 6 miles (10 km) of flexible steel roadways (code-named Whales) that floated on steel or concrete pontoons (called Beetles). The roadways terminated at great pierheads, called Spuds, that were jacked up and down on legs which rested on the seafloor. These structures were to be sheltered from the sea by lines of massive sunken caissons (called Phoenixes), lines of scuttled ships (called Gooseberries), and a line of floating breakwaters (called Bombardons). It was estimated that construction of the caissons alone required 330,000 cubic yards (252,000 cubic metres) of concrete, 31,000 tons of steel, and 1.5 million yards (1.4 million metres) of steel shuttering…on June 19 a violent storm began, and by June 22 the American harbour was destroyed. (Parts of the wreckage were used to repair the British harbour.) The Americans had to return to the old way of doing things: bringing landing ships in to shore, grounding them, off-loading the ships, and then refloating them on the next high tide. The British Mulberry supported the Allied armies for 10 months. Two and a half million men, a half million vehicles, and four million tons of supplies landed in Europe through the artificial harbour at Arromanches.” Encyclopædia Britannica
07 JUNE 1944
“In one night and day, 135,000-175,000 fighting men and their equipment, including 50,000 vehicles of all types, ranging from motorcycles to tanks and armored bulldozers, were transported across sixty to a hundred miles of open water and landed on a hostile shore against intense opposition. They were either carried by or supported by 5,333 ships and craft of all types and almost 11,000 airplanes. German casualties on D-Day have been estimated at 4,000 to 9,000 men. Allied casualties were at least 10,000, with 4,414 confirmed dead.”
08 JUNE 1944
“The Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in France is located in Colleville-sur-Mer, on the site of the temporary American St. Laurent Cemetery, established by the U.S. First Army on June 8, 1944 as the first American cemetery on European soil in World War II. The cemetery site, at the north end of its half mile access road, covers 172.5 acres and contains the graves of 9,386 of our military dead, most of whom lost their lives in the D-Day landings and ensuing operations. On the Walls of the Missing, in a semicircular garden on the east side of the memorial, are inscribed 1,557 names. Rosettes mark the names of those since recovered and identified.” Normandy American Cemetery
The Normandy American Cemetery, as of 2022, has four women interred on this site.
29 JUNE 1944
Claude Bloch is arrested.
19 AUGUST 1944
Annecy is liberated by the French Resistance.
24 AUGUST 1944
Prison of Montluc is liberated before Lyon.
25 AUGUST 1944
German garrison surrenders in Paris.
08 MAY 1945
Germany surrenders to the Allies (Britain, Canada, Free France, Soviet Union, and USA)
“American casualties are put at 6,603. This figure is based on the U.S. First Army’s after-action report, which gives the following breakdown: 1,465 killed, 3,184 wounded, 1,928 missing and 26 captured. Included in this compilation are 82nd and 101st airborne losses, which alone are estimated at 2,499 killed, wounded and missing. The Canadians had 946 casualties, of which 335 were killed. No British figures have ever been issued, but it is estimated that they had at least 2,500 to 3,000 casualties, of which the 6th Airborne suffered losses of 650 killed, wounded and missing.” Cornelius Ryan
“A great invasion force stood off the Normandy coast of France as
dawn broke on 6 June 1944: 9 battleships, 23 cruisers, 104 destroyers,
and 71 large landing craft of various descriptions as well as troop transports, minesweepers, and merchantmen—in all, nearly 5,000 ships of
every type. The naval bombardment that began at 0550 that morning
detonated large minefields along the shoreline and destroyed a number
of the enemy’s defensive positions. To one correspondent, reporting from
the deck of the cruiser HMS Hillary, it sounded like “the rhythmic beating of a gigantic drum” all along the coast. In the hours following the
bombardment, more than 100,000 fighting men swept ashore to begin
one of the epic assaults of history, a “mighty endeavor,” as President
Franklin D. Roosevelt described it to the American people, “to preserve
. . . our civilization and to set free a suffering humanity.” US Military History
REFERENCES AND FURTHER READING
Ambrose, Stephen E.. D-Day: June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II. Simon & Schuster.
Horne, Alistair. Seven Ages of Paris . Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2004.
Norwich, John Julius. A History of France. Grove Atlantic, 2018.
Price, Roger. A Concise History of France (Cambridge Concise Histories). Cambridge University Press, 2014.
Ryan, Cornelius. The Longest Day: The Classic Epic of D-Day. Simon & Schuster.
EDITOR AND LAST UPDATE
John William Bailly 25 July 2022
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