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Continuing the Overlord theme, this issue's blast from the past first appeared in number 50 of Despatches, back in April 1985.  This was the first (and last) issue of Despatches to be professionally printed.  One hundred copies were run off at great expense (this was before the advent of powerful home computers) to celebrate a half century of publication.

D-Day: June 6 1944

a chronology

by Joe Weiss


12:10 a.m.: 1,136 RAF bombers fill the sky between Cherbourg and Le Havre, raining 5,853 tons of bombs on enemy coastal batteries.  The aerial offensive is directed against Hitler’s “Atlantic Wall” - 1,800 cement blockhouses dug into the dunes at intervals of 100 yards, beginning at Cap de la Hague and running all the way to Honfleur.  The bombing prepares the way for the most ambitious amphibious operation ever attempted.


1:30 a.m. : Thousands of paratroopers tumble out of waves of U.S. aircraft swooping low over Normandy’s coast.  The 101st and 82nd airborne divisions drop down by Ste.-Mère-Eglise, intending to connect with right-flank invaders at Omaha Beach .


2:30 a.m. : British paratroopers, the 6th Airborne Division, float to earth east of the Orne River and push for Pegasus Bridge, preparing to join the sea borne left flank.


5:50 a.m. : Battleships bombard German positions; U.S. bombers shower shore defences, and fighter-bombers swarm in to finish the job, knocking out individual targets.  As the sun rises, the silhouettes of 5,000 invasion craft suddenly loom on the horizon 12 miles out.  They close steadily on the coast.



6:30 a.m. : The first ships of the American First Army reach shallow water; supply-laden men spill out and make for shore under heavy supporting fire.  The 4th Infantry Division winds up at the “easy” beach, Utah, while the 1st and 29th wash up on “Bloody Omaha.”  Thinking that Allied bombings have cleaned out German emplacements, they plough headlong into a lethal barrage that obliterates companies and craft alike.


7:00 a.m. : At Pointe du Hoc another blood bath is under way as 225 members of the U.S. 2nd and 5th Ranger battalions, equipped with scaling ropes and extension ladders, scramble up the 100-foot bluff of this holdout.  Perched above, the Germans slash ropes, upset ladders, shove boulders over the cliff’s edge, and pepper the soldiers with gunfire and grenades.  Only 90 Rangers make it to the top.


7:30 a.m. : The British Second Army wades in at the eastern end of the Calvados coast - the 50th Infantry Division tackles Gold Beach, as the 3rd Division takes Sword.


8:00 a.m. : Canada’s 3rd Infantry Division works the wind-whipped waters off Juno Beach.  Their boats tossing atop six-foot-high whitecaps, the troops manage to destroy most of the enemy machine-gun nests within hours.


Although battles on other beaches take many casualties, by evening all five sea borne forces are firmly on French soil.


June 7: The Allies announce their troops have “cleared all beaches of the enemy.”  Having broken through the formidable Atlantic Wall, Americans, Britons and Canadians flood the interior fields and farmlands, storming German defences - fewer and weaker than on the coast.


June 8: The British capture historic Bayeux, on the main Cherbourg-Paris line, the first town to be liberated in France.



June 9: The British continue southward toward , but are repelled before they take the town by panzer divisions poised to protect this coveted link in the German defence line.  The piecemeal enemy efforts elsewhere are less successful.


June 10: Allied liaison operations begin as Americans work their way east to rendezvous with the Anglo-Canadian beach-head, and west toward Carentan.


June 11: The Allied bridgehead now stretches uninterrupted for 60 miles - from the Orne River to above Ste.-Mère-Eglise.


June 12: A bitterly contested Carentan falls, capping the first phase of Supreme Commander Eisenhower’s “great crusade”.  Ten months later, the eastward-moving Allies, having recouped Battle of the Bulge losses, lunge across the Rhine and, on May 7, force Germany’s hand to an unconditional surrender.


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