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D-Day Invasion, World War II week by week

The D-Day invasion of Normandy begins June 6, 1944 documented in the Telegram-Tribune Extra edition.
The D-Day invasion of Normandy begins June 6, 1944 documented in the Telegram-Tribune Extra edition.

A few minutes after midnight anticipation ended, invasion began.

Though the sound of bombers had been commonplace over France for months, this time the silent skies carried paratroops and gliders to the farmland behind beaches in Normandy, France.

Airborne soldiers had the mission to clear a path from the beachhead inland.

Some men landed in flooded fields and drowned. Gliders crash landed by moonlight, some carried jeeps that broke from their moorings crushing the occupants.

Many units were blown off course and scattered. They took days to reassemble. The dispersed landings confused Nazi defenders but invasion day objectives were not met.

In the pre-dawn sappers swam ashore to demolish obstacles and prepare invasion lanes on the beaches. Less than six hours after the first boots hit the ground inland, landing craft were coming ashore. A few beaches were poorly defended, others had withering fire directed from clifftops.

Would Western Europe be liberated by this force, or would it fail?

The outcome hung in the balance.

Only hours after the invasion began, the Telegram-Tribune published an Extra edition that was surprising in the combination of accurate details and official disinformation.

The lead story from United Press called it "History's greatest invasion armada," including 11,000 planes and 4,000 ships targeting the Normandy peninsula.

Prime Minister Churchill told the House of Commons that the invasion was proceeding "according to plan."

German news agencies said fighting was fierce near Caen near the main Cherbourg-Paris railway.

Allied officials broadcast urgent instructions to Holland to evacuate their coast and to keep off highways, railways and bridges.

Churchill said, "This vast plan is undoubtedly the most complicated and difficult that ever has occurred. It involves tides, wind, waves visibility from both air and sea standpoints, and the combined employment of land, air and sea forces in the highest degree of intimacy."

We hope to furnish the enemy with a succession of surprises. ... I shall not speculate on the battle's course, but this I may say—that complete unity prevails throughout the Allies' armies."

In other stories:

Fighter squadron leader Maj. John L. Locke, 27, of San Antonio, Texas said, "I've never seen so many boats in all my life. Flying over a harbor, I counted a great number of cruisers, destroyers, corvettes and hundreds of other types of craft. The constant flashes of their guns indicated the beach was getting a heavy pounding.

E. N. Eisenhower, attorney and brother of the supreme Allied invasion commander said: "Dwight never undertook anything he couldn't finish."

Allied leaders sounded confident but the invading forces lost more than 4,000 dead the first day, objectives were not met and even more were wounded. Nazi forces dug into defensive positions lost only about 1,000.

By way of comparison dispatches from Moscow said that 7,000 Nazi fighters had been killed in Romania alone.

If the Axis forces could not throw back the invasion they would be forced to fight in the air, on the ground in France, Italy and the vast Eastern Front.

Link: Nipomo resident Bob Lowry recalls his experience facing death on Omaha Beach »