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, mine sweepers, and merchantmen—in all, nearly 5,000 ships of every type, the largest armada ever assembled. The naval bombardment that began at 05:50 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.” The attack had been long in coming. From the moment British forces had been forced to withdraw from France in 1940 in the face of an overwhelming German onslaught, planners had plotted a return to the Continent. Only in that way would the Allies be able to confront the enemy’s power on the ground, liberate northwestern Europe, and put an end to the Nazi regime.
U.S. Divisions Active in the Normandy Campaign 6 June–24 July 1944:
- Infantry Divisions: 1st Infantry Division, 2d Infantry Division, 4th Infantry Division, 5th Infantry Division, 8th Infantry Division, 9th Infantry Division, 28th Infantry Division, 29th Infantry Division, 30th Infantry Division, 35th Infantry Division, 79th Infantry Division, 83d Infantry Division, 90th Infantry Division.
- Armored Divisions: 2d Armored Division, 3d Armored Division, 4th Armored Division, 6th Armored Division.
- Airborne Divisions: 82d Airborne Division, 101st Airborne Division.
Photo caption: Meeting of the Supreme Command, Allied Expeditionary Force, London, 1 February 1944 Left to right: Front row: Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur W Tedder, Deputy Supreme Commander, Expeditionary Force General Dwight Eisenhower, Supreme Commander, Expeditionary Force General Sir Bernard Montgomery, Commander in Chief, 21st Army Group Back row: Lieutenant General Omar Bradley, Commander in Chief, US 1st Army Admiral Sir Bertram H Ramsay, Allied Naval Commander in Chief, Expeditionary Force Air Chief Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory, Allied Air Commander in Chief, Expeditionary Force Lieutenant General Walter Bedell Smith, Chief of Staff to Eisenhower
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