Skip to comments.Frequently Asked Questions for D-Day and the Battle of Normandy
Posted on 06/05/2004 11:50:33 AM PDT by Destro
Frequently Asked Questions for D-Day and the Battle of Normandy
D-Day and the Battle of Normandy: Your Questions Answered
Written by the D-Day Museum, Portsmouth
What does the D in D-Day stand for?
The D does not stand for "Deliverance", "Doom", "Debarkation" or similar words. In fact, it does not stand for anything. The D is derived from the word "Day". D-Day means the day on which a military operation begins. The term "D-Day" has been used for many different operations, but it is now generally only used to refer to the Allied landings in Normandy on 6 June 1944.
Why was the expression "D-Day" used?
When a military operation is being planned, its actual date and time is not always known exactly. The term "D-Day" was therefore used to mean the date on which operations would begin, whenever that was to be. The day before D-Day was known as "D-1", while the day after D-Day was "D+1", and so on. This meant that if the projected date of an operation changed, all the dates in the plan did not also need to be changed. This actually happened in the case of the Normandy Landings. D-Day in Normandy was originally intended to be on 5 June 1944, but at the last minute bad weather delayed it until the following day. The armed forces also used the expression "H-Hour" for the time during the day at which operations were to begin.
What were Operation Overlord, Operation Neptune and the Battle of Normandy? When did they take place?
The armed forces use codenames to refer to the planning and execution of specific military operations. Operation Overlord was the codename for the Allied invasion of north-west Europe. The assault phase of Operation Overlord was known as Operation Neptune. This operation involved landing the troops on the beaches, and all other associated supporting operations required to establish a beachhead in France. Operation Neptune began on D-Day (6 June 1944) and ended on 30 June 1944. By this time, the Allies had established a firm foothold in Normandy. Operation Overlord also began on D-Day, and continued until Allied forces crossed the River Seine on 19 August 1944. The Battle of Normandy is the name given to the fighting in Normandy between D-Day and the end of August 1944.
Which Allied nations took part in the fighting?
The majority of troops who landed on the D-Day beaches were from Great Britain, Canada and the US. However, troops from many other countries participated in D-Day and the Battle of Normandy, in all the different armed services: Australia, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, France, Greece, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and Poland.
How many Allied troops were involved in D-Day?
On D-Day, the Allies landed around 156,000 troops in Normandy. The American forces landed numbered 73,000: 23,250 on Utah Beach, 43,250 on Omaha Beach, and 15,500 airborne troops. In the British and Canadian sector, 83,115 troops were landed (61,715 of them British): 24,970 on Gold Beach, 21,400 on Juno Beach, 28,845 on Sword Beach, and 7900 airborne troops.
11,590 aircraft were available to support the landings. On D-Day, Allied aircraft flew 14,674 sorties, and 127 were lost.
In the airborne landings on both flanks of the beaches, 2395 aircraft and 867 gliders of the RAF and USAAF were used on D-Day.
Operation Neptune involved huge naval forces, including 6939 vessels: 1213 naval combat ships, 4126 landing ships and landing craft, 736 ancillary craft and 864 merchant vessels. Some 195,700 personnel were assigned to Operation Neptune: 52,889 US, 112,824 British, and 4988 from other Allied countries.
By the end of 11 June (D + 5), 326,547 troops, 54,186 vehicles and 104,428 tons of supplies had been landed on the beaches.
As well as the troops who landed in Normandy on D-Day, and those in supporting roles at sea and in the air, millions more men and women in the Allied countries were involved in the preparations for D-Day. They played thousands of different roles, both in the armed forces and as civilians.
How many Allied and German casualties were there on D-Day, and in the Battle of Normandy?
Casualties refers to all losses suffered by the armed forces: killed, wounded, missing in action (meaning that their bodies were not found) and prisoners of war. There is no "official" casualty figure for D-Day. Under the circumstances, accurate record keeping was very difficult. For example, some troops who were listed as missing may actually have landed in the wrong place, and have rejoined their parent unit only later.
In April and May 1944, the Allied air forces lost nearly 12,000 men and over 2,000 aircraft in operations which paved the way for D-Day.
Total Allied casualties on D-Day are estimated at 10,000, including 2500 dead. British casualties on D-Day have been estimated at approximately 2700. The Canadians lost 946 casualties. The US forces lost 6603 men. Note that the casualty figures for smaller units do not always add up to equal these overall figures exactly, however (this simply reflects the problems of obtaining accurate casualty statistics).
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 total German casualties on D-Day are not known, but are estimated as being between 4000 and 9000 men.
Naval losses for June 1944 included 24 warships and 35 merchantmen or auxiliaries sunk, and a further 120 vessels damaged.
Over 425,000 Allied and German troops were killed, wounded or went missing during the Battle of Normandy. This figure includes over 209,000 Allied casualties, with nearly 37,000 dead amongst the ground forces and a further 16,714 deaths amongst the Allied air forces. Of the Allied casualties, 83,045 were from 21st Army Group (British, Canadian and Polish ground forces), 125,847 from the US ground forces. The losses of the German forces during the Battle of Normandy can only be estimated. Roughly 200,000 German troops were killed or wounded. The Allies also captured 200,000 prisoners of war (not included in the 425,000 total, above). During the fighting around the Falaise Pocket (August 1944) alone, the Germans suffered losses of around 90,000, including prisoners.
Today, twenty-seven war cemeteries hold the remains of over 110,000 dead from both sides: 77,866 German, 9386 American, 17,769 British, 5002 Canadian and 650 Poles.
Between 15,000 and 20,000 French civilians were killed, mainly as a result of Allied bombing. Thousands more fled their homes to escape the fighting.
How can I find out more about D-Day and the Battle of Normandy on the web?
There are many good websites about D-Day and the Battle of Normandy. Here are some that you may find useful:
Encyclopaedia Britannicas Normandy website: http://normandy.eb.com/
A planning game from Schoolshistory.org.uk about the preparations for D-Day: http://www.schoolshistory.org.uk/dday.htm
The BBCs website about the Second World War, which includes the stories of several D-Day veterans: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/war/wwtwo/index.shtml For more websites about D-Day and the Battle of Normandy, see our links page
What are some good books to read about D-Day and the Battle of Normandy?
Hundreds of books have been written about D-Day, and many are very detailed. Here are some general books, all of which are good starting points if you would like to know more about D-Day and the Battle of Normandy.
Stephen Ambrose, D-Day June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II
Carlo dEste, Decision in Normandy
Max Hastings, Overlord: D-Day and the Battle for Normandy
John Keegan, Six Armies in Normandy
Robin Neillands, The Battle of Normandy, 1944
Cornelius Ryan, The Longest Day: The D-Day Story Warren Tute, D-Day
The U.S. alone, lost more than 4,200 and after further rearch, that number is expected to exceed 4,500.
My mother's not a big fan of Dubya, but she's old enough to remember WW II and she is enraged at the obsession over the death toll in Iraq. She knows, as anyone else who lived through WW II knows, that 800 dead in combat and accidents in one year doesn't compare to a single week's deaths in WW II. This article helps put the sacrifice made by our finest 60 years ago into perspective. Thanks for posting it.
Add to your reading list : S.L.A.Marshall's "Night Drop".
A good read on the America Airborne (82nd and 101st) operations at Normandy.
Are you working on creating a by name list of the US soldiers killed on D-Day? I know that the US Army has nev er created one,vthough many have asked for one over the years.
I spent many hours last week answering questions about the US Casualties, specificly Army casualites The number I gave was 5072 US Army killed, wounded, and missing. I also said that te missing figure included those who were later found to have been killed on d-day, were taken as prisoners, declared dead after the war and some who straggled back to their unit days or weks after the figures I was using were reported.
I also suggest "Pegasus Bridge" by Stephen Ambrose. It is the story of a single British glider company that had the responsibility of taking and holding two bridges that secured the entire British flank on June 6th.
link to the National D-Day Museum (in New Orleasn, home of the Higgins boat) -
My late uncle Joe was in the battle at Normandy. What a wealth of information he would have been for me, but he passed several years ago, and was hesitant to talk much about about it when he was alive.
God bless him, and all the other brave men who fought in this battle.
Greek and Polish troops took part later in the battle of Al-Alamein to reinforce the fighting which ended in 1942 with the decisive victory of the British forces.
The memorial is designed as a small Athenian temple in the middle of a yard, with plaques commemorating soldiers on the wall surrounding the temple