The ‘D’ in D-Day simply stands for Day. The terms D-Day and H-Hour were used by military planners to designate the day and hour of a forthcoming operation where the exact date and time were still to be confirmed or were secret.
In December 1943 a command team was formed to plan and lead the Allied air, sea and ground forces for the forthcoming invasion. General Dwight D Eisenhower was named as Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Forces.
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To defend coastal areas against a possible Allied invasion, the Germans built huge fortifications known as the Atlantic Wall. They included concrete pill boxes, bunkers and gun positions.
When, early in 1944, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel took command of the German forces from the Netherlands to the River Loire, the defences were strengthened, particularly in the sectors facing the English Channel.
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The success of the D-Day operation depended on careful preparation. While factories in Britain worked round the clock to produce the huge quantities of weapons, ammunition and equipment needed by the invasion forces, a wide variety of specialists contributed their unique skills and knowledge.
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On D-Day, the Allied air forces flew over 14,000 sorties in support of the landings, almost unchallenged by the Luftwaffe. In the early hours of 6 June, three Allied airborne divisions landed troops by parachute and glider to seize and protect the flanks of the invasion beaches.
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On D-Day, as well as bombarding coastal defences, two naval task forces landed two British, one Canadian and two American divisions on the Normandy beaches.
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Juno Beach was assaulted by the Canadian 3rd Division. It was heavily defended with emplacements and formidable beach obstacles. Rough seas delayed the landings. The Germans opened fire as the Canadian infantry landed, and the first wave suffered heavy casualties.
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Naval forces provided fire support for the armies and ensured that supplies to the beachhead were maintained. Many landing craft were sunk or damaged, but by nightfall the Allies had put over 132,000 troops ashore.
Of the 34,000 US troops who landed on Omaha Beach, where the German resistance was strongest, some 2,000 casualties were suffered - a high proportion of the total Allied losses on D-Day.
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75,000 men were landed on Gold, Juno and Sword Beaches before midnight on D-Day, at a cost of around 3,000 killed, wounded or missing. 23,250 men were landed on Utah Beach at a cost of under 250 casualties.
In all, the Allies suffered approximately 10,200 casualties on 6 June. This figure was lower than the planners and commanders had been expecting, but each death represented a sad loss for families and comrades.
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