The Normandy Landings marked the turning point of World War II in Western Europe. The Allied armies cooperated with each other to defeat an evil enemy and, in doing so, displayed an inordinate amount of courage in their determination to preserve freedom and restore peace in the world, writes Eamonn Duggan.
“In the East, the vastness of the space will … permit a loss of territory without suffering a mortal blow to Germany’s chances for survival. Not so in the West! If the enemy here succeeds…consequences of staggering proportions will follow within a short time”. Adolf Hitler
This year we commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Normandy Landings which took place on June 6th 1944 and marked the turning point of the war in Western Europe.
It behoves all of us to take the time to reflect on the importance of the event and remember the brave actions of the Allied armies as they began the huge task of pushing the Germans out of occupied France.
Only four years earlier Adolf Hitler had boasted about his conquest of France calling it “the most famous victory in history.” As a result, the British Expeditionary Force of around 200,000 men and around 130,000 French troops had to be evacuated from the beaches of Dunkirk and, while Winston Churchill hailed the operation as one of Britain’s finest hours, he promised the Allied forces would return to free France from the illegal and abhorrent Nazi occupation.
The planning for that return began in 1942 when Churchill announced an understanding with Stalin and Roosevelt to create a Second Front in Europe and the work towards that goal began in earnest after the Casablanca and Tehran Conferences.
Elaborate plans were drawn up to train troops and accumulate a large number of ships. New and innovative technologies were developed in time for the invasion.
For example, two new prefabricated mobile harbours called Mulberries were constructed and a pipeline known as PLUTO was laid under the English Channel to ensure a constant supply of oil.
The Allies went to great lengths to devise and conduct deception operations in order to persuade the Germans that areas other than Normandy would be the real focus for their attacks. Closer to the invasion date, messages designed to dupe the Germans emanated from the Allies suggesting that Pas de Calais was to be the point of the main attack. Radio messages coming out of Scotland suggesting that an invasion of Norway was imminent were picked up by the German radio operators.
In the months before the invasion Allied forces rehearsed their roles over and over in order to be as prepared as possible for all eventualities. The authorities introduced a news blackout from Britain and even the people here in this country were impacted when travel to and from the Irish Free State was banned.