This week we remembered June 6, 1944, when 156,000 Allied troops stormed the beaches of Normandy, France during WWII.

They went there to restore freedom, peace and order to a continent overrun by Nazi Germany. The operation called “Operation Overlord” was launched by Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, then the supreme Allied commander.

There were three phases to the operation that day. First there was an air landing of troops which was centered on Utah Beach in the west and Sword Beach in the east. Then there were heavy air and naval bombardments of the Atlantic Wall. Finally, the famous seaborne landings were made on the beaches: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword.

“Our paratroops landed early in the morning,” news services subscribed to by the Daily Dispatch reported. Some air transports carrying the paratroopers crashed. Those that survived returned to England. The RAF, Royal Air Force of England, then made a quick block-buster blitz along the coast.

“More than 100 flares blazed in the sky as Pathfinders went over,” the reports said. “Then the coastline went up in smoke and we felt sick from the shuddering concussions that came quaking through the intervening miles of air and water.”

Britain and the United States had 600 ships blasting the Nazi-held shore defenses with a hurricane of fire, pounding away with everything from 16-inch rifles to 4-inch guns, pouring in 2,000 tons of shells every 10 minutes to prepare the way for the landings according to subscribed resources. The American soldiers in the landing crafts were quite young, some teenagers. They were said to be “armed to the teeth” and very scared as they bounced around in the sea waiting to storm the beaches.

The young men on the landing crafts finally dashed through the gaps blasted in the Germans’ Atlantic wall. Allied ships, including Polish, Dutch, Norwegian, French and Greek ships shelled other defense areas along the coast.

“The battle to save the world is like the end of the world -- an earsplitting, nerve shattering, blinding scene full of belching guns, rumbling block-busters, ships, aircraft and flares in the foreground on the whitecapped sea, with the sullen low-lying coast of France in the background,” said the “Combined American Press.”

“Soon after daybreak came our mediums (bombers that delivered about 4,000 lbs. of ordnance)." The planes “wrecked the coast up to the east. And we saw two of them plunge down in flames. At six o’clock our big guns opened up and since then the whole stretch of intervening seas has been alive with great engulfing flashes and mighty thuds," the reporting said.

“The coast is covered by a bank of puffy gray black smoke from the shells. We have had bad luck with the weather, and we have taken the bit in our teeth by going in. Landing craft bounce around like empty bottles and you can only imagine what it’s like on the beach where we shall be going shortly. We can only thank God we have had no interference whatsoever until this moment."

“A powerful force of 750 to 1,000 American heavy bombers swept a wide arc of south Normandy early today, June 8,” according to Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force. The bombers flew in smashing bridges, airdromes and railroad yards and junctions in a vigorous effort to clamp an air seal on the beachhead battlefield."

“While Fortresses and Liberators, in the biggest aerial operation of the third day of the invasion, hit hard at installations from 100 to 150 miles behind the front, Marauders began the day of battle with a dawn attack on Caen,” reported Allied headquarters.

The twin-engine mediums left the city, on the main railway between Cherbourg to Paris, burning with at least 20 fires from an attack at 4,500 feet.

Marlene Gantt of Port Byron is a retired Rock Island teacher.


Load comments