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Hi! My name is Ulrik, and this is my student blog. My posts will be based on tasks and subjects given to the class by my English teacher Ann. I am currently in my third year at Sandvika High School, Norway.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

6th June 1944; D-Day

This year is a year with many anniversaries; 100 years since the Great War, 25 years since fall of the Berlin wall, and 70 years since the Allied landings in Normandy, D-Day.

The Invasion of Normandy

In June, 1944, Nazi Germany was crumbling. For five years they had fought against nation after nation, laying most of Europe under occupation. Against them stood the Allied forces; mainly the US, UK, Canada, Australia and exiled troops from the occupied nations- such as Free France.

For several months, the Allied commanders had been planning the biggest military operation in history; the invasion and liberation of Europe, beginning with France. Codenamed "Operation Overlord", the invasion was to take place in Normandy; landings on the beaches and from the air. On a single day, 160.000 allied soldiers were to be put ashore, making way for over one million allied soldiers the following days. The goal of the first day? secure the beaches, crossroads and small towns near the coast- creating what is known as a spearhead. Name of the day? Operation Neptune, Delivery-day.

The operation was postponed several times due to bad weather, but soon the date was set; 6th of June. For a year, allied troops had been training in England, and the scale of the whole thing was meant to surprise the german forces.

The germans was of course expecting an invasion, but exactly how big and where was unclear. With hard fighting both on the Italian, African and Eastern front, the amount of german forces placed in the West was modest. The fortifications along the beaches was however heavy, and "Festung Europa" would not be easy to invade.

American soldiers, first wave, landing at Omaha.
Part of "magnificent eleven",
taken by Robert Capa on the beach.
Notice the falling soldiers.
On the night to the 6th of June, the allied forces crossed the channel. The same night, a number of airborne troops was dropped over inland Normandy
to destroy long-range artillery zeroed in on the beaches. In the morning, the german soldiers placed at the beaches codenamed "Utah", "Omaha", "Gold", "Juno" and "Sword" sounded the alarm, and prepared their positions. In the horizon, as a german soldier told in an interview; "there were more ships than we had men".

At 0630, the landings took place, and especially at Omaha the US-troop met severe resistance. With heavy incoming machine-gun fire, sharpshooters and small-artillery, Omaha became a living hell. In few hours, 3000 american soldiers lost their lives before before they managed to secure the beach. On other beaches the fighting was easier, but still with a high casualty rate. Overall there was at least 10.000 allied casualties on the first day; and the goals of the first day was not accomplished before D-Day+3. German casualties on day one lies at ca 4000.

Remembering D-Day

War cemetery for American soldiers in Normandy
This year, being 70 years since the invasion, is an important year for many people; especially those who was there. Many veterans are still alive, and this is probably the last anniversary with so many attendants. A huge ceremony took place on the 6th of june this summer, with state officials from all the nations involved.
French president Hollande speaking to veterans
during the ceremony

Robert Edlin fought on Omaha with the 2nd ranger battalion. This is an extract from his accounts in the book "The voices of D-day":

"...there were bodies from the I I6th floating everywhere. They were facedown in the water with packs still on their backs. They had inflated their life jackets. Fortunately, most of the Rangers did not inflate theirs or they also might have turned over and drowned.

I began to run with my rifle in front of me. I went directly across the beach to try to get to the seaway. In front of me was part of the II6th Infantry, pinned down and lying behind beach obstacles. They hadn't made it to the seaway. I kept screaming at them, 'You have to get up and go! You gotta get up and go!' But they didn't. They were worn out and defeated completely. There wasn't any time to help them.

I continued across the beach. There were mines and obstacles all up and down the beach. The air corps had missed it entirely. There were no shell holes in which to take cover. The mines had not been detonated. Absolutely nothing that had been planned for that part of the beach had worked. I knew that Vierville-sur-Mer was going to be a hellhole, and it was.

When I was about twenty yards from the seaway I was hit by what I assume was a sniper bullet. It shattered and broke my right leg. I thought, well, I've got a Purple Heart. I fell, and as I did, it was like a searing hot poker rammed into my leg. My rifle fell ten feet or so in front of me. I crawled forward to get to it, picked it up, and as I rose on my left leg, another burst of I think machine gun fire tore the muscles out of that leg, knocking me down again..."

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