Meeting of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force
(SHAEF), 1 February 1944. Front row: Air Chief Marshal Arthur
Tedder; General Dwight D. Eisenhower; General Bernard Montgomery. Back row: Lieutenant General Omar Bradley; Admiral Bertram Ramsay; Air Chief Marshal Trafford Leigh-Mallory; Lieutenant General Walter Bedell Smith.
and WWII (OPERATION NEPTUNE)
The ideas for the Operation
Neptune book and film
were partly inspired by the Naval heroes of the
Second World War. D-Day was a real military
operation on the 6th of June 1944. This was the day of the
landings - initiating the Western Allied effort to liberate mainland Europe from
Nazi occupation during
World War II. However, many other invasions and operations had a designated D-Day, both before and after that
D-Day is the day on which a combat attack or operation is to be initiated.
The terms D-Day and H-Hour are used for the day and hour on which a combat attack or operation is to be initiated. They designate the day and hour of the operation when the day and hour have not yet been determined, or where secrecy is essential. For a given operation, the same D-Day and H-Hour apply for all units participating in it. When used in combination with numbers, and plus or minus signs, these terms indicate the point of time preceding or following a specific action. Thus, H−3 means 3 hours before H-Hour, and D+3 means 3 days after D-Day. (By extension, H+75 minutes is used for H-Hour plus 1 hour and 15 minutes.) Planning papers for large-scale operations are made up in detail long before specific dates are set. Thus, orders are issued for the various steps to be carried out on the D-Day or H-Hour minus or plus a certain number of days, hours, or minutes. At the appropriate time, a subsequent order is issued that states the actual day and times.
OVERLORD and NEPTUNE
Operation Overlord was the code name for the Battle of Normandy, the Allied operation that launched the successful invasion of German-occupied western Europe during World War II. The operation commenced on 6 June 1944 with the Normandy landings (Operation Neptune, commonly known as D-Day). A 1,200-plane airborne assault preceded an amphibious assault involving more than 5,000 vessels. Nearly 160,000 troops crossed the
English Channel on 6 June, and more than three million allied troops were in France by the end of August.
The decision to undertake a cross-channel invasion in 1944 was taken at the Trident Conference in Washington in May 1943. General Dwight D. Eisenhower was appointed commander of Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF), and General Bernard Montgomery was named as commander of the 21st Army Group, which comprised all the land forces involved in the invasion. The Normandy coast was chosen as the site of the invasion, with the Americans assigned to land at Utah and Omaha Beaches, the
British at Sword and Gold Beaches, and
Canadians at Juno Beach. To meet the conditions expected on the Normandy beachhead, special technology was developed, including two artificial ports called Mulberry harbours and an array of specialised tanks nicknamed Hobart's Funnies. In the months leading up to the invasion, the Allies conducted a substantial military deception, Operation Bodyguard, using both electronic and visual misinformation. This misled the Germans as to the date and location of the main Allied landings. Hitler placed German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel in charge of developing fortifications all along the
Atlantic Wall in anticipation of an invasion.
The Allies failed to reach their goals for the first day, but gained a tenuous foothold that they gradually expanded as they captured the port at Cherbourg on 26 June and the city of Caen on 21 July. A failed counterattack by German forces on 8 August led to 50,000 soldiers of the
German 7th Army being trapped in the Falaise pocket. The Allies launched an invasion of southern France (Operation Dragoon) on 15 August, and the Liberation of
Paris followed on 25 August. German forces retreated across the Seine on 30 August 1944, marking the close of Operation Overlord.
Wall that Hitler wanted put in place to prevent
a D-Day scenario was never completed - due to
manpower and materials (concrete) shortages.
THE ATLANTIC WALL
Alarmed by the raids on St Nazaire and Dieppe in 1942, Hitler had ordered the construction of fortifications all along the Atlantic coast, from Spain to Norway, to protect against an expected Allied invasion. He envisioned 15,000 emplacements manned by 300,000 troops, but shortages, particularly of concrete and manpower, meant that most of the
strong-points were never built. As it was expected to be the site of the invasion, the Pas de Calais was heavily defended. In the Normandy area, the best fortifications were concentrated at the port facilities at Cherbourg and Saint-Malo. Rommel was assigned to oversee the construction of further fortifications along the expected invasion front, which stretched from the Netherlands to Cherbourg, and was given command of the newly re-formed Army Group B, which included the 7th Army, the 15th Army, and the forces guarding the Netherlands. Reserves for this group included the 2nd, 21st, and 116th Panzer divisions.
Rommel believed that the Normandy coast could be a possible landing point for the invasion, so he ordered the construction of extensive defensive works along that shore. In addition to concrete gun emplacements at strategic points along the coast, he ordered wooden stakes, metal tripods, mines, and large anti-tank obstacles to be placed on the beach to delay the approach of landing craft and impede the movement of tanks. Expecting the Allies to land at high tide so that the infantry would spend less time exposed on the beach, he ordered many of these obstacles to be placed at the high tide mark. Tangles of barbed wire, booby traps, and the removal of ground cover made the approach hazardous for infantry. On Rommel's order, the number of mines along the coast was tripled. The Allied air offensive over Germany had crippled the Luftwaffe and established air supremacy over western Europe, so Rommel knew he could not expect effective air support. The Luftwaffe could muster only 815 aircraft over Normandy in comparison to the Allies' 9,543. Rommel arranged for booby-trapped stakes known as Rommelspargel (Rommel's asparagus) to be installed in meadows and fields to deter airborne landings.
Rommel believed that Germany's best chance was to stop the invasion at the shore and requested that the mobile reserves, especially tanks, be stationed as close to the coast as possible. Rundstedt, Geyr, and other senior commanders objected. They believed that the invasion could not be stopped on the beaches. Geyr argued for a conventional doctrine: keeping the Panzer formations concentrated in a central position around Paris and Rouen and deploying them only when the main Allied beachhead had been identified. He also noted that, in the Italian Campaign, the armoured units stationed near the coast had been damaged by naval bombardment. Rommel's opinion was that, because of Allied air supremacy, the large-scale movement of tanks would not be possible once the invasion was underway. Hitler made the final decision, which was to leave three Panzer divisions under Geyr's command and give Rommel operational control of three more as reserves.
Hitler took personal control of four divisions as strategic reserves, not to be used without his direct orders.
Naval operations for the invasion were described by historian Correlli Barnett as a "never surpassed masterpiece of planning". In overall command was British Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay, who had served as Flag officer at Dover during the Dunkirk evacuation four years earlier. He had also been responsible for the naval planning of the invasion of North Africa in 1942, and one of the two fleets carrying troops for the invasion of Sicily the following year.
The invasion fleet was drawn from eight different navies, comprising 6,939 vessels: 1,213 warships, 4,126 landing craft of various types, 736 ancillary craft, and 864 merchant vessels. The majority of the fleet was supplied by the UK and Canada, who provided 892 warships and 3,261 landing craft. There were 195,700 naval personnel involved. The invasion fleet was split into the Western Naval Task Force (under Admiral Alan G Kirk) supporting the American sectors and the Eastern Naval Task Force (under Admiral Sir Philip Vian) in the British and Canadian sectors. Available to the fleet were five battleships, twenty cruisers, sixty-five destroyers, and two monitors. German ships in the area on D-Day included three
torpedo boats, twenty-nine fast attack craft, thirty-six R boats, and thirty-six
minesweepers and patrol boats. The Germans also had several
U-boats available, and all the approaches had been heavily mined.
At 05:10, four German torpedo boats reached the Eastern Task Force and launched fifteen torpedoes, sinking the Norwegian destroyer HNoMS Svenner off Sword beach but missing the battleships HMS Warspite and Ramillies. After firing, the German vessels turned away and fled east into a smoke screen that had been laid by the RAF to shield the fleet from the long-range battery at Le Havre. Allied losses to mines included USS Corry off Utah and USS PC-1261, a 173-foot patrol craft. In addition, many landing craft were lost.
The Normandy landings were the largest seaborne invasion in history, with nearly 5,000 landing and assault craft, 289 escort vessels, and 277 minesweepers participating. Nearly 160,000 troops crossed the
English Channel on D-Day, with 875,000 men disembarking by the end of June. Allied casualties on the first day were at least 10,000, with 4,414 confirmed dead. The Germans lost 1,000 men. The Allied invasion plans had called for the capture of Carentan, St. Lô, Caen, and Bayeux on the first day, with all the beaches (other than Utah) linked with a front line 10 to 16 kilometres (6 to 10 mi) from the beaches; none of these objectives were achieved. The five bridgeheads were not connected until 12 June, by which time the Allies held a front around 97 kilometres (60 mi) long and 24 kilometres (15 mi) deep. Caen, a major objective, was still in German hands at the end of D-Day and would not be completely captured until 21 July. The Germans had ordered French civilians, other than those deemed essential to the war effort, to leave potential combat zones in Normandy. Civilian casualties on D-Day and D+1 are estimated at 3,000 people.
Victory in Normandy stemmed from several factors. German preparations along the Atlantic Wall were only partially finished; shortly before D-Day Rommel reported that construction was only 18 per cent complete in some areas as resources were diverted elsewhere. The deceptions undertaken in Operation Fortitude were successful, leaving the Germans obligated to defend a huge stretch of coastline. The Allies achieved and maintained air superiority, which meant that the Germans were unable to make observations of the preparations underway in Britain and were unable to interfere via bomber attacks. Transportation infrastructure in France was severely disrupted by Allied bombers and the French Resistance, making it difficult for the Germans to bring up reinforcements and supplies. Some of the opening bombardment was off-target or not concentrated enough to have any impact, but the specialised armour worked well except on Omaha, providing close artillery support for the troops as they disembarked onto the beaches. Indecisiveness and an overly complicated command structure on the part of the German high command was also a factor in the Allied success.
NEPTUNE - FILM
SCRIPT - FILM
- USA DOD
Tours - CBS News
looking at what could happen if a BAE
Systems built Astute class nuclear submarine,
- if it fell into the wrong hands. In this case
a group of eco fanatics take the HMS Neptune
(fictional sub) out for a test spin, blowing up
an oil rig in the Gulf
of Mexico, then heading across the Atlantic
to more oil rigs off the west coast of Africa.
The events alarm the Russians and Chinese so
much that they blockade the North Atlantic and
Indian Ocean. This story may proceed as a script,
before the novel is published.