The main phases of the Battle of Normandy

© Nomandy Tourist Board

Chronologically, there were three definable phases to the operation on June 6th 1944: the air landings (which were centred on Utah Beach in the west and Sword Beach in the east), the air and naval bombardments of the Atlantic Wall, and the seaborne landings on the six beaches (Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword) and at Pointe du Hoc.


#1 - After the disaster at Dieppe, the Allies prepare for D-Day

The Dieppe Raid, on August 19th 1942, brought heavy losses for the troops involved, but at the same time yielded a large amount of information for the Allies’ intelligence services.

In human terms, it was a calamity. Furthermore, the failure of the operation was exploited by the Nazi propaganda machine to demonstrate the invincibility of the Atlantic Wall.

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Sainte Mère Eglise

#2 - Utah Beach

At first light, the sea from the mouth of the Seine to the Cherbourg Peninsula was completely covered with ships.

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#3 - Omaha Beach

The beaches of Omaha were a real trap for the troops of the 1st and 29th Infantry Divisions. The first assault wave was brutally cut down, while the second left the beach strewn with the wounded, the dead and broken equipment.

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#4 - Gold Beach

After landing at Gold Beach, the British 50th Infantry Division was soon at the gates of Bayeux, and took control of the town on the morning of June 7th.

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#5 - Juno Beach

After heavy losses on the beaches – Canadian forces suffered 50% of their losses in the first hour of the assault – the 3rd Division liberated its coastal sector and encircled the radar station at Douvres-la-Délivrande.

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Pegasus Bridge

#6 - Sword Beach

On June 5th, a little before 11pm, British gliders were launched towards Bénouville bridge. In the space of a few minutes, the men under Major Howard attained their objective and Bénouville bridge became Pegasus Bridge.

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#7 - The first town to be liberated in mainland France

On the afternoon of June 6th General de Gaulle said: “The supreme battle is underway. It is, of course, the Battle of France and the Battle for France. For the sons of France, wherever they are, and whoever they are, the simple and sacred duty is to fight the enemy by all means at their disposal.”

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#8 - The port, a strategic objective

In February 1944, Generals Eisenhower and Montgomery decided that the landings would take place in an area 80km (50 miles) long – rather than 40km (25 miles) – extending from Colleville to Varreville and including the Cherbourg Peninsula, so that the port of Cherbourg could be captured as quickly as possible.

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#9 - Saint Lô, "capital of ruins"

The battle of Saint-Lô was one of the most significant episodes in the ‘battle of the hedgerows’, just before Operation Cobra. In the centre of the Cherbourg Peninsula, the war of the hedgerows turned into a real trench warfare.

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#10 - Six weeks of fighting

At dawn on June 6th, the bombing of towns in Normandy began. The entire centre of Caen was destroyed. The Allies’ objective was to destroy the towns so as to obliterate all communications and to slow German reinforcements. On the morning of June 7th about ten of Lower Normandy’s towns including Caen, Lisieux, Coutances, Saint-Lo and Vire had been wiped from the map.

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The month of August would see the end of the battle with the encircling of the 5th and 7th German armies in “Falaise pocket”.

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En Normandie

#12 - Normandy will bear the scars of war for a long time

During the summer of 1944, the people of Lower Normandy found themselves caught in the midst of a gigantic battle. During the month of July, when the fighting was at its worst, over two million soldiers were in the fray (twice as many as the number of inhabitants of Calvados and Manche). Civilian victims were numerous; to escape the bombs, people took refuge in cellars, quarries and trenches. Some decided to flee along roads which had become dangerous due to aerial strafing.

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