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On February 9, 1942, the largest and most luxurious ocean liner on the seas at that time, France’s Normandie, catches fire while in the process of being converted for military use by the United States.
The Normandie, built in 1931, was the first ship to be constructed in accordance with the guidelines laid down in the 1929 Convention for Safety of Life at Sea. It was also enormous, measuring 1,029 feet long and 119 feet wide and displacing 85,000 tons of water. It offered passengers seven accommodation classes (including the new “tourist” class, as opposed to the old “third” class, commonly known as “steerage”) and 1,975 berths. It took a crew of more than 1,300 to work her. Despite its size, it was also fast: capable of 32.1 knots. The liner was launched in 1932 and made its first transatlantic crossing in 1935. In 1937, it was reconfigured with four-bladed propellers, which meant it could cross the Atlantic in less than four days.
When France surrendered to the Germans in June 1940, and the puppet Vichy regime was installed, the Normandie was in dock at New York City. The Navy immediately placed it in “protective custody,” since the U.S. government did not want a ship of such size and speed to fall into the hands of the Germans, which it certainly would if it returned to France. In November 1941, Time magazine ran an article stating that in the event of the United States’ involvement in the war, the Navy would seize the liner altogether and turn it into an aircraft carrier. It also elaborated on how the design of the ship made such a conversion relatively simple. When the Navy did take control of the ship, shortly after Pearl Harbor, it began the conversion of the liner—but to a troop ship, renamed the USS Lafayette in honor of the French general who aided the American colonies in their original quest for independence.
The Lafayette never served its new purpose, as it caught fire and capsized. Sabotage was originally suspected, but the likely cause was sparks from a welder’s torch. Although the ship was finally righted, the massive salvage operation cost $3,750,000 and the fire damage made any hope of employing the vessel impossible. It was scrapped—literally chopped up for scrap metal—in 1946.
Smoke on the Water
"Smoke on the Water" is a song by the English rock band Deep Purple. It was first released on their 1972 album Machine Head. In 2004, the song was ranked number 434 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest songs of all time,  ranked number 4 in Total Guitar magazine's Greatest Guitar Riffs Ever,  and in March 2005, Q magazine placed "Smoke on the Water" at number 12 in its list of the 100 greatest guitar tracks. 
SS NORMANDIE and RMS QUEEN MARY during World War 2
In 1940, after the Fall of France, the United States seized the Normandie under the right of angary. By 1941, the U.S. Navy decided to convert Normandie into a troopship, and renamed her USS Lafayette (AP-53), in honor both of Marquis de la Fayette the French general who fought on the Colonies’ behalf in the American Revolution and the alliance with France that made American independence possible.
The SS Normandie and RMS Queen Elizabeth in New York – Beginning of WW 2
Earlier proposals included turning the vessel into an aircraft carrier, but this was dropped in favor of immediate troop transport. The ocean liner was moored at Manhattan’s Pier 88 for the conversion. On 9 February 1942 sparks from a welding torch ignited a stack of thousands of life vests filled with kapok, a highly flammable material, that had been stored in the first-class lounge. The woodwork had not yet been removed, and the fire spread rapidly. The ship had a very efficient fire protection system but it had been disconnected during the conversion and its internal pumping system was deactivated. The New York City fire department’s hoses also did not fit the ship’s French inlets. All on board fled the vessel.
As firefighters on shore and in fire boats poured water on the blaze, the ship developed a dangerous list to port due to water pumped into the seaward side by fireboats. About 2:45am on February 10, Lafayette capsized, nearly crushing a fire boat.
(Left: Normandie’s crew read news of WW 2)The ship’s designer Vladimir Yourkevitch arrived at the scene and offered expertise, but he was barred by harbor police. His suggestion was to enter the vessel and open the sea-cocks. This would flood the lower decks and make her settle the few feet to the bottom. With the ship stabilized, water could be pumped into burning areas without the risk of capsize. However, the suggestion was denied by port director Admiral Adolphus Andrews.
Enemy sabotage was widely suspected, but a federal investigation in the wake of the sinking concluded that the fire was completely accidental. It has later been alleged that it was indeed sabotage, organized by mobster Anthony Anastasio, who was a power in the local longshoreman’s union. The alleged purpose was to provide a pretext for the release from prison of mob boss Charles “Lucky” Luciano. Luciano’s end of the bargain would be that he would ensure that there would be no further “enemy” sabotage in the ports where the mob had strong influence with the unions.
Normandie, renamed USS Lafayette, lies capsized in the frozen mud of her New York Pier the winter of 1942.
(Left: Normandie style influenced many designs, including the Hotel Normandie in San Juan, PR)
The ship was stripped of superstructure and righted in 1943 in the world’s most expensive salvage operation. The cost of restoring her was subsequently determined to be too great. After neither the US Navy nor French Line offered, Yourkevitch proposed to cut the ship down and restore her as a mid-sized liner. This failed to draw backing and the hulk was sold for $161,680 to Lipsett Inc., an American salvage company. She was scrapped in October 1946.
Designer Marin-Marie gave an innovative line to Normandie, a silhouette which influenced ocean liners over the decades, including the Queen Mary 2. The design of Normandie and her chief rival, the Queen Mary, was the main inspiration for Disney Cruise Line’s matching vessels, the Disney Magic and Disney Wonder.
The Normandie Hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico
The SS Normandie also inspired the architecture and design of the Normandie Hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Items from Normandie were sold at a series of auctions after her demise, and many pieces are considered valuable Art Deco treasures today.
First Class Swimming Pool
The rescued items include the ten large dining room door medallions and fittings, and some of the individual Jean Dupas glass panels that formed the large murals mounted at the four corners of her Grand Salon.
Also surviving are some examples of the 24,000 pieces of crystal, some from the massive Lalique torchères, that adorned her Dining Salon. Also some of the room’s table silverware, chairs, and gold-plated bronze table bases. Custom-designed suite and cabin furniture as well as original artwork and statues that decorated the ship, or were built for use by the French Line aboard Normandie, also survive today.
Pieces from the Normandie occasionally appear on the BBC TV series Antiques Roadshow.
A public lounge and promenade was created from some of the panels and furniture from the SS Normandie in the Hilton Chicago.
Ateliers et Chantiers de Saint-Nazaire Penhoët built L'Atlantique at Saint-Nazaire. Her keel was laid on 28 November 1928.  She was launched on 15 April 1930 and completed on 7 September 1931. 
The ship's length overall was 733 feet (223 m), and because of the shallowness of the Río de la Plata she was given a draught of only 29.5 feet (9.0 m) and unusually broad beam of 92 feet (28 m).   Unusual for her time, she was designed with very little sheer and camber.  She displaced between 40,000  and 42,500.  Her gross register tonnage was 42,512. 
The ship's main engines were four sets of triple-expansion steam turbines driving four propellers. They developed a total of 45,000 shaft horsepower and gave her a speed of 21 knots (39 km/h). 
L'Atlantique had berths for 1,238 passengers, of which 488 were in first class, 88 in second class and 662 in third class, and 663 crew.  All of her first and second class cabins were "outside" cabins with a porthole. 
Unusually, the ship had a companionway up to 20 feet (6.1 m) wide running the length of each of her passenger decks.  There was a foyer at the center of the ship three decks high. 
The ship's interior décor was largely Art Deco. Furnishings were designed by painter Albert Besnard and architect Pierre Patout (one of the founders of the Art Deco style.  ), along with Messieurs Raguenet et Maillard.  Decorations were largely made of glass, marble, and various woods, making for a more subdued atmosphere than on other CGT ships such as Ile de France. 
L'Atlantique made her maiden voyage between 29 September and 31 October 1931.  
Her size, speed and luxury exceeded the level of demand between Europe and South America, and she was seldom fully booked. She relied on a substantial subsidy from the French government. 
In 1932 the height of her funnels were increased by 16.5 feet (5 m). 
On 4 January 1933, while traveling between Bordeaux and Le Havre to be dry docked  and repaired, the ship caught fire about 25 miles (40 km) off Guernsey.   The fire was believed to have started in a first class state room, and was discovered by the ship's crew at around 0330 hrs.  The fire spread rapidly, killing 19 of the crew. By early morning the ship's captain, Rene Schoofs, ordered the crew of 200 to abandon ship. 
One of the first lifeboats to be launched was lost when the ropes by which she was being lowered from her davits broke. Seven or eight crewmen fell from her into the sea and drowned. 
The ship's wireless distress message reached the French Navy bases in Brest and Cherbourg.  Four cargo ships in the area went to assist.  One account states that the Hamburg America Line motor ship Ruhr rescued some of the surviving crew.  Another states that the Dutch steamship Achilles rescued the last crew to leave the ship, including men who were in the water. 
Another account states that Thomas Henry Willmott, of Sunderland, first officer of the collier Ford Castle, was in charge of a lifeboat which went alongside the burning liner at considerable risk to pick up survivors that had been missed by other rescuing ships. For this the French Ministry of Merchant Marine awarded him the Medaille de Sauvetage and the owners of the L'Atlantique presented him with a gold watch. 
The fire buckled some of L'Atlantique ' s hull plates.  By late afternoon she was listing 20 degrees to port.  She drifted northeast, and on 5 January she came within 3 nautical miles (5.6 km) of the Isle of Portland on the English coast.  Nine tugs towed the still burning ship to Cherbourg. The operation took 30 hours, during which several of the tugs were damaged. 
The New York Times claimed that on 5 January the French Ministry of Marine issued a statement saying the ship was considered a total loss.  In fact the fire was not extinguished until 8 January  and the ship's fate was not decided for another three years.
After the fire was extinguished, the bodies of five of her crew were found in the lower part of the ship. Only two were identifiable. 
The fire had gutted her accommodation from A to F deck and her plates were buckled above the waterline, but her engines and boiler rooms were relatively undamaged.  Her owners wanted the ship written off as a total loss but her underwriters contended that she was not beyond economic repair. The hulk remained at Cherbourg while a committee of experts was appointed, which obtained repair estimates from shipbuilders. 
Eventually the underwriters agreed that L'Atlantique was beyond economic repair. They paid Compagnie de Navigation Sud Atlantique the equivalent of US$ 6.8 million  or UK£ 2 million for the loss. 
In February 1936 L'Atlantique was sold for scrap and towed to Port Glasgow, where the company of Smith and Houston  started breaking her up in March. 
Her owners used her insurance settlement to order a smaller but faster replacement ship, Pasteur,  which was launched in 1938 and completed in 1939.
L'Atlantique was one of five French ocean liners destroyed by fire within a decade. Four of those liners belonged to CGT. In May 1932 Messageries Maritimes' motor ship Georges Philippar had burned and sunk on her maiden voyage with the loss of 54 lives.  The fire aboard L'Atlantique came only eight months later.
In 1935 the French government responded with new regulations. The use of wood was banned at vulnerable points such as stairs and lift shafts. Carpets and fabric wall-hangings had to be treated with fire retardants. Crews must be trained to fight fires, and any ship of more than 15,000 tons must carry three professional firemen. 
Despite the new regulations there were more fires. In May 1938 CGT's Lafayette was destroyed by fire in dry dock in Le Havre.  In April 1939 CGT's Paris caught fire and capsized, also in Le Havre.  And in February 1942 CGT's flagship Normandie caught fire and capsized in New York while being converted into a troop ship.
WWII Sniper Edgar Rabbets: Second to None in Fieldcraft
Edgar Rabbets was a soldier in the 5th Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment, a Territorial Army unit. A country man from Boston in Lincolnshire, he was capable of catching a rabbit in his hands. When his unit was deployed to France he was appointed as a company sniper and given complete freedom of action to engage enemy snipers and high-value targets. By choice, he worked alone, although the common practice is for snipers to work in pairs.
During the retreat to Dunkirk, Rabbets was ordered forward to eliminate a German sniper operating in a Belgian village. According to Rabbets, “The sniper had got himself up in a roof and knocked a few slates away. He’d got a good field of fire if anyone walked into the square he was roughly in the centre of one side of the square and his mate was in the corner. And they covered the whole square that way, the one effectively protecting the other.”
After the sniper had fired at a British officer entering the square, Rabbets found out “roughly where the flash had come from and went into a house opposite. The sniper was hanging out of the roof I shot him from the bedroom window and he fell forward.” The observer fired blindly at Rabbets, thus revealing his own position. Rabbets was “firing deep from out of the bedroom window, and I wasn’t exposed to view. He assumed wrongly that I was a lot nearer to the bedroom window than I was. And he gave himself away, so that was his lot.”
Rabbets was an excellent marksman, capable of a first-round hit at 400 yards with the standard .303 Lee-Enfield rifle. But his outstanding fieldcraft, which may be generally defined as the use of camouflage and concealment, enabled him to close with the enemy and improve his chances of success. He also combined shooting with intelligence gathering, his freedom to roam giving him access to important information. He later wrote, “One day I went out and found a German military policeman standing at a crossroads the only reason they stand at a crossroads is to direct a unit into a new position. I wanted to know what he was doing, so I crawled to within 150 yards range. He gave himself away by continually looking up the road to where he expected the unit to come from, and because there was only one direction to our lines, I knew roughly where they were going to. I shot him and then bundled him out of the way so that when the enemy got to the crossroads they wouldn’t know where they were going. Then I went back to my unit to give them this intelligence.”
Sniping began to take on greater significance after the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. The Red Army had been practically the only army in the world to actively encourage sniping during the 1930s, and this had received added impetus from experience during the Spanish Civil War and the Russo-Finnish conflict. The Finns had seriously embarrassed the numerically superior Soviets, particularly showing great prowess with sniping. Many of them were hunters and naturally adept at the military application of their sport. Simo Häyhä was a farmer and hunter who went out to “hunt Russians.” He claimed more than 500 before being seriously wounded, and the hard lessons were not lost on the Soviets. They actively encouraged sniping and incorporated it into their infantry tactics. Their definition was broader than that of the West, tending to include general sharpshooting. They operated in pairs, and at low tactical levels, often being assigned to companies or even platoons, with junior officers experienced in handling them.
After the German Army invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin began pressing his new allies for the creation of a second front in western Europe.  In late May 1942 the Soviet Union and the United States made a joint announcement that a ". full understanding was reached with regard to the urgent tasks of creating a second front in Europe in 1942."  However, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill persuaded U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt to postpone the promised invasion as, even with U.S. help, the Allies did not have adequate forces for such an activity. 
Instead of an immediate return to France, the western Allies staged offensives in the Mediterranean Theatre of Operations, where British troops were already stationed. By mid-1943 the campaign in North Africa had been won. The Allies then launched the invasion of Sicily in July 1943 and subsequently invaded the Italian mainland in September the same year. By then, Soviet forces were on the offensive and had won a major victory at the Battle of Stalingrad. The decision to undertake a cross-channel invasion within the next year was taken at the Trident Conference in Washington in May 1943.  Initial planning was constrained by the number of available landing craft, most of which were already committed in the Mediterranean and Pacific.  At the Tehran Conference in November 1943, Roosevelt and Churchill promised Stalin that they would open the long-delayed second front in May 1944. 
The Allies considered four sites for the landings: Brittany, the Cotentin Peninsula, Normandy, and the Pas-de-Calais. As Brittany and Cotentin are peninsulas, it would have been possible for the Germans to cut off the Allied advance at a relatively narrow isthmus, so these sites were rejected.  With the Pas-de-Calais being the closest point in continental Europe to Britain, the Germans considered it to be the most likely initial landing zone, so it was the most heavily fortified region.  But it offered few opportunities for expansion, as the area is bounded by numerous rivers and canals,  whereas landings on a broad front in Normandy would permit simultaneous threats against the port of Cherbourg, coastal ports further west in Brittany, and an overland attack towards Paris and eventually into Germany. Normandy was hence chosen as the landing site.  The most serious drawback of the Normandy coast—the lack of port facilities—would be overcome through the development of artificial Mulberry harbours.  A series of modified tanks, nicknamed Hobart's Funnies, dealt with specific requirements expected for the Normandy Campaign such as mine clearing, demolishing bunkers, and mobile bridging. 
The Allies planned to launch the invasion on 1 May 1944.  The initial draft of the plan was accepted at the Quebec Conference in August 1943. General Dwight D. Eisenhower was appointed commander of Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force.  General Bernard Montgomery was named commander of the 21st Army Group, which comprised all land forces involved in the invasion.  On 31 December 1943, Eisenhower and Montgomery first saw the plan, which proposed amphibious landings by three divisions with two more divisions in support. The two generals insisted that the scale of the initial invasion be expanded to five divisions, with airborne descents by three additional divisions, to allow operations on a wider front and to hasten the capture of Cherbourg.  The need to acquire or produce extra landing craft for the expanded operation meant that the invasion had to be delayed to June.  Eventually, thirty-nine Allied divisions would be committed to the Battle of Normandy: twenty-two U.S., twelve British, three Canadian, one Polish, and one French, totalling over a million troops  all under overall British command. 
Operation Overlord was the name assigned to the establishment of a large-scale lodgement on the continent. The first phase, the amphibious invasion and establishment of a secure foothold, was codenamed Operation Neptune.  To gain the air superiority needed to ensure a successful invasion, the Allies undertook a bombing campaign (codenamed Operation Pointblank) that targeted German aircraft production, fuel supplies, and airfields.  Elaborate deceptions, codenamed Operation Bodyguard, were undertaken in the months leading up to the invasion to prevent the Germans from learning the timing and location of the invasion. 
The landings were to be preceded by airborne operations near Caen on the eastern flank to secure the Orne River bridges and north of Carentan on the western flank. The Americans, assigned to land at Utah Beach and Omaha Beach, were to attempt to capture Carentan and Saint-Lô the first day, then cut off the Cotentin Peninsula and eventually capture the port facilities at Cherbourg. The British at Sword and Gold Beaches and Canadians at Juno Beach would protect the U.S. flank and attempt to establish airfields near Caen on the first day.   (A sixth beach, code-named "Band", was considered to the east of the Orne.  ) A secure lodgement would be established with all invading forces linked together, with an attempt to hold all territory north of the Avranches-Falaise line within the first three weeks.   Montgomery envisaged a ninety-day battle, lasting until all Allied forces reached the River Seine. 
Under the overall umbrella of Operation Bodyguard, the Allies conducted several subsidiary operations designed to mislead the Germans as to the date and location of the Allied landings.  Operation Fortitude included Fortitude North, a misinformation campaign using fake radio traffic to lead the Germans into expecting an attack on Norway,  and Fortitude South, a major deception involving the creation of a fictitious First United States Army Group under Lieutenant General George S. Patton, supposedly located in Kent and Sussex. Fortitude South was intended to deceive the Germans into believing that the main attack would take place at Calais.   Genuine radio messages from 21st Army Group were first routed to Kent via landline and then broadcast, to give the Germans the impression that most of the Allied troops were stationed there.  Patton was stationed in England until 6 July, thus continuing to deceive the Germans into believing a second attack would take place at Calais. 
Many of the German radar stations on the French coast were destroyed in preparation for the landings.  In addition, on the night before the invasion, a small group of Special Air Service operators deployed dummy paratroopers over Le Havre and Isigny. These dummies led the Germans to believe that an additional airborne landing had occurred. On that same night, in Operation Taxable, No. 617 Squadron RAF dropped strips of "window", metal foil that caused a radar return which was mistakenly interpreted by German radar operators as a naval convoy near Le Havre. The illusion was bolstered by a group of small vessels towing barrage balloons. A similar deception was undertaken near Boulogne-sur-Mer in the Pas de Calais area by No. 218 Squadron RAF in Operation Glimmer.  
The invasion planners determined a set of conditions involving the phase of the moon, the tides, and the time of day that would be satisfactory on only a few days in each month. A full moon was desirable, as it would provide illumination for aircraft pilots and have the highest tides. The Allies wanted to schedule the landings for shortly before dawn, midway between low and high tide, with the tide coming in. This would improve the visibility of obstacles on the beach while minimising the amount of time the men would be exposed in the open.  Eisenhower had tentatively selected 5 June as the date for the assault. However, on 4 June, conditions were unsuitable for a landing: high winds and heavy seas made it impossible to launch landing craft, and low clouds would prevent aircraft from finding their targets. 
Group Captain James Stagg of the Royal Air Force (RAF) met Eisenhower on the evening of 4 June. He and his meteorological team predicted that the weather would improve enough for the invasion to proceed on 6 June.  The next available dates with the required tidal conditions (but without the desirable full moon) would be two weeks later, from 18 to 20 June. Postponement of the invasion would have required recalling men and ships already in position to cross the English Channel and would have increased the chance that the invasion plans would be detected.  After much discussion with the other senior commanders, Eisenhower decided that the invasion should go ahead on 6 June.  A major storm battered the Normandy coast from 19 to 22 June, which would have made the beach landings impossible. 
Allied control of the Atlantic meant German meteorologists had less information than the Allies on incoming weather patterns.  As the Luftwaffe meteorological centre in Paris was predicting two weeks of stormy weather, many Wehrmacht commanders left their posts to attend war games in Rennes, and men in many units were given leave.  Field Marshal Erwin Rommel returned to Germany for his wife's birthday and to meet with Hitler to try to obtain more Panzers. 
Nazi Germany had at its disposal fifty divisions in France and the Low Countries, with another eighteen stationed in Denmark and Norway. Fifteen divisions were in the process of formation in Germany.  Combat losses throughout the war, particularly on the Eastern Front, meant that the Germans no longer had a pool of able young men from which to draw. German soldiers were now on average six years older than their Allied counterparts. Many in the Normandy area were Ostlegionen (eastern legions)—conscripts and volunteers from Russia, Mongolia, and other areas of the Soviet Union. They were provided mainly with unreliable captured equipment and lacked motorised transport.   Many German units were under strength. 
In early 1944, the German Western Front (OB West) was significantly weakened by personnel and materiel transfers to the Eastern Front. During the Soviet Dnieper–Carpathian offensive (24 December 1943 – 17 April 1944), the German High Command was forced to transfer the entire II SS Panzer Corps from France, consisting of the 9th and 10th SS Panzer Divisions, as well as the 349th Infantry Division, 507th Heavy Panzer Battalion and the 311th and 322nd StuG Assault Gun Brigades. All told, the German forces stationed in France were deprived of 45,827 troops and 363 tanks, assault guns, and self-propelled anti-tank guns.  It was the first major transfer of forces from France to the east since the creation of Führer Directive 51, which eased restrictions on troop transfers to the eastern front. 
The 1st SS Panzer Division "Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler", 9th, 11th, 19th and 116th Panzer divisions, alongside the 2nd SS Panzer Division "Das Reich", had only arrived in March–May 1944 to France for extensive refit after being badly damaged during the Dnieper-Carpathian operation. Seven of the eleven panzer or panzergrenadier divisions stationed in France were not fully operational or only partially mobile in early June 1944. 
- Oberbefehlshaber West (Supreme Commander West OB West): Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt
- (Panzer Group West: General Leo Geyr von Schweppenburg)
- : Field Marshal Erwin Rommel
- LXXXIV Corps under General der ArtillerieErich Marcks
- 729th Grenadier Regiment 
- 739th Grenadier Regiment 
- 919th Grenadier Regiment 
- 914th Grenadier Regiment 
- 915th Grenadier Regiment (as reserves) 
- 916th Grenadier Regiment 
- 726th Infantry Regiment (from 716th Infantry Division) 
- 352nd Artillery Regiment 
- 914th Grenadier Regiment 
- 915th Grenadier Regiment 
- 916th Grenadier Regiment 
- 352nd Artillery Regiment 
- 736th Infantry Regiment 
- 1716th Artillery Regiment 
- 100th Panzer Regiment  (at Falaise under Hermann von Oppeln-Bronikowski renamed 22nd Panzer Regiment in May 1944 to avoid confusion with 100th Panzer Battalion) 
- 125th Panzergrenadier Regiment  (under Hans von Luck from April 1944) 
- 192nd Panzergrenadier Regiment 
- 155th Panzer Artillery Regiment 
- Plan Vert was a 15-day operation to sabotage the rail system.
- Plan Bleu dealt with destroying electrical facilities.
- Plan Tortue was a delaying operation aimed at the enemy forces that would potentially reinforce Axis forces at Normandy.
- Plan Violet dealt with cutting underground telephone and teleprinter cables. 
- : GeneraloberstFriedrich Dollmann
Allied forces attacking Utah Beach faced the following German units stationed on the Cotentin Peninsula:
- 709th Static Infantry Division under GeneralleutnantKarl-Wilhelm von Schlieben numbered 12,320 men, many of them Ostlegionen (non-German conscripts recruited from Soviet prisoners of war, Georgians and Poles). 
Americans assaulting Omaha Beach faced the following troops:
- 352nd Infantry Division under GeneralleutnantDietrich Kraiss, a full-strength unit of around 12,000 brought in by Rommel on 15 March and reinforced by two additional regiments. 
Allied forces at Gold and Juno faced the following elements of the 352nd Infantry Division:
Forces around Caen
Allied forces attacking Gold, Juno, and Sword Beaches faced the following German units:
- 716th Static Infantry Division under GeneralleutnantWilhelm Richter. At 7,000 troops, the division was significantly understrength. 
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 strongpoints 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 beaches 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 water 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. 
German armaments minister Albert Speer notes in his 1969 autobiography that the German high command, concerned about the susceptibility of the airports and port facilities along the North Sea coast, held a conference on 6–8 June 1944 to discuss reinforcing defenses in that area.  Speer wrote:
In Germany itself we scarcely had any troop units at our disposal. If the airports at Hamburg and Bremen could be taken by parachute units and the ports of these cities seized by small forces, invasion armies debarking from ships would, I feared, meet no resistance and would be occupying Berlin and all of Germany within a few days. 
Rommel believed that Germany's best chance was to stop the invasion at the shore. He 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 under way. Hitler made the final decision, which was to leave threePanzer 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.   
Commander, SHAEF: General Dwight D. Eisenhower
Commander, 21st Army Group: General Bernard Montgomery 
The First Army contingent totalled approximately 73,000 men, including 15,600 from the airborne divisions. 
- VII Corps, commanded by Major General J. Lawton Collins
- 4th Infantry Division: Major General Raymond O. Barton82nd Airborne Division: Major General Matthew Ridgway90th Infantry Division: Brigadier General Jay W. MacKelvie101st Airborne Division: Major General Maxwell D. Taylor
- V Corps, commanded by Major General Leonard T. Gerow, making up 34,250 men 
- 1st Infantry Division: Major General Clarence R. Huebner29th Infantry Division: Major General Charles H. Gerhardt
British and Canadian zones
Commander, Second Army: Lieutenant General Sir Miles Dempsey 
Overall, the Second Army contingent consisted of 83,115 men, 61,715 of them British.  The nominally British air and naval support units included a large number of personnel from Allied nations, including several RAF squadrons manned almost exclusively by overseas air crew. For example, the Australian contribution to the operation included a regular Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) squadron, nine Article XV squadrons, and hundreds of personnel posted to RAF units and RN warships.  The RAF supplied two-thirds of the aircraft involved in the invasion. 
- British I Corps, commanded by Lieutenant General John Crocker
- 3rd Canadian Division: Major General Rod Keller
- British I Corps, commanded by Lieutenant General John Crocker 
- 3rd Infantry Division: Major General Tom Rennie6th Airborne Division: Major General R.N. Gale
79th Armoured Division: Major General Percy Hobart  provided specialised armoured vehicles which supported the landings on all beaches in Second Army's sector.
Through the London-based État-major des Forces Françaises de l'Intérieur (French Forces of the Interior), the British Special Operations Executive orchestrated a campaign of sabotage to be implemented by the French Resistance. The Allies developed four plans for the Resistance to execute on D-Day and the following days:
The resistance was alerted to carry out these tasks by messages personnels transmitted by the BBC's French service from London. Several hundred of these messages, which might be snippets of poetry, quotations from literature, or random sentences, were regularly transmitted, masking the few that were actually significant. In the weeks preceding the landings, lists of messages and their meanings were distributed to resistance groups.  An increase in radio activity on 5 June was correctly interpreted by German intelligence to mean that an invasion was imminent or underway. However, because of the barrage of previous false warnings and misinformation, most units ignored the warning.  
A 1965 report from the Counter-insurgency Information Analysis Center details the results of the French Resistance's sabotage efforts: "In the southeast, 52 locomotives were destroyed on 6 June and the railway line cut in more than 500 places. Normandy was isolated as of 7 June." 
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, which was drawn from eight different navies, comprised 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, which provided 892 warships and 3,261 landing craft.  In total there were 195,700 naval personnel involved of these 112,824 were from the Royal Navy with another 25,000 from the Merchant Navy 52,889 were American and 4,998 sailors from other allied countries.   The invasion fleet was split into the Western Naval Task Force (under Admiral Alan G. Kirk) supporting the U.S. 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, 20 cruisers, 65 destroyers, and two monitors.  German ships in the area on D-Day included three torpedo boats, 29 fast attack craft, 36 R boats, and 36 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 British battleships HMS Warspite and Ramillies. After attacking, 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 the American destroyer USS Corry off Utah and submarine chaser USS PC-1261, a 173-foot patrol craft.  In addition, many landing craft were lost. 
Bombing of Normandy began around midnight with more than 2,200 British, Canadian, and U.S. bombers attacking targets along the coast and further inland.  The coastal bombing attack was largely ineffective at Omaha, because low cloud cover made the assigned targets difficult to see. Concerned about inflicting casualties on their own troops, many bombers delayed their attacks too long and failed to hit the beach defences.  The Germans had 570 aircraft stationed in Normandy and the Low Countries on D-Day, and another 964 in Germany. 
Minesweepers began clearing channels for the invasion fleet shortly after midnight and finished just after dawn without encountering the enemy.  The Western Task Force included the battleships Arkansas, Nevada, and Texas, plus eight cruisers, 28 destroyers, and one monitor.  The Eastern Task Force included the battleships Ramillies and Warspite and the monitor Roberts, twelve cruisers, and thirty-seven destroyers.  Naval bombardment of areas behind the beach commenced at 05:45, while it was still dark, with the gunners switching to pre-assigned targets on the beach as soon as it was light enough to see, at 05:50.  Since troops were scheduled to land at Utah and Omaha starting at 06:30 (an hour earlier than the British beaches), these areas received only about 40 minutes of naval bombardment before the assault troops began to land on the shore. 
The success of the amphibious landings depended on the establishment of a secure lodgement from which to expand the beachhead to allow the buildup of a well-supplied force capable of breaking out. The amphibious forces were especially vulnerable to strong enemy counter-attacks before the arrival of sufficient forces in the beachhead could be accomplished. To slow or eliminate the enemy's ability to organise and launch counter-attacks during this critical period, airborne operations were used to seize key objectives such as bridges, road crossings, and terrain features, particularly on the eastern and western flanks of the landing areas. The airborne landings some distance behind the beaches were also intended to ease the egress of the amphibious forces off the beaches, and in some cases to neutralise German coastal defence batteries and more quickly expand the area of the beachhead.  
The U.S. 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions were assigned to objectives west of Utah Beach, where they hoped to capture and control the few narrow causeways through terrain that had been intentionally flooded by the Germans. Reports from Allied intelligence in mid-May of the arrival of the German 91st Infantry Division meant the intended drop zones had to be shifted eastward and to the south.  The British 6th Airborne Division, on the eastern flank, was assigned to capture intact the bridges over the Caen Canal and River Orne, destroy five bridges over the Dives 6 miles (9.7 km) to the east, and destroy the Merville Gun Battery overlooking Sword Beach.  Free French paratroopers from the British SAS Brigade were assigned to objectives in Brittany from 5 June until August in Operations Dingson, Samwest, and Cooney.  
BBC war correspondent Robert Barr described the scene as paratroopers prepared to board their aircraft:
Their faces were darkened with cocoa sheathed knives were strapped to their ankles tommy guns strapped to their waists bandoliers and hand grenades, coils of rope, pick handles, spades, rubber dinghies hung around them, and a few personal oddments, like the lad who was taking a newspaper to read on the plane . There was an easy familiar touch about the way they were getting ready, as though they had done it often before. Well, yes, they had kitted up and climbed aboard often just like this—twenty, thirty, forty times some of them, but it had never been quite like this before. This was the first combat jump for every one of them. 
The U.S. airborne landings began with the arrival of pathfinders at 00:15. Navigation was difficult because of a bank of thick cloud, and as a result, only one of the five paratrooper drop zones was accurately marked with radar signals and Aldis lamps.  Paratroopers of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions, numbering over 13,000 men, were delivered by Douglas C-47 Skytrains of the IX Troop Carrier Command.  To avoid flying over the invasion fleet, the planes arrived from the west over the Cotentin Peninsula and exited over Utah Beach.  
Paratroops from 101st Airborne were dropped beginning around 01:30, tasked with controlling the causeways behind Utah Beach and destroying road and rail bridges over the Douve River.  The C-47s could not fly in a tight formation because of thick cloud cover, and many paratroopers were dropped far from their intended landing zones. Many planes came in so low that they were under fire from both flak and machine-gun fire. Some paratroopers were killed on impact when their parachutes did not have time to open, and others drowned in the flooded fields.  Gathering together into fighting units was made difficult by a shortage of radios and by the bocage terrain, with its hedgerows, stone walls, and marshes.   Some units did not arrive at their targets until afternoon, by which time several of the causeways had already been cleared by members of the 4th Infantry Division moving up from the beach. 
Troops of the 82nd Airborne began arriving around 02:30, with the primary objective of capturing two bridges over the River Merderet and destroying two bridges over the Douve.  On the east side of the river, 75 per cent of the paratroopers landed in or near their drop zone, and within two hours they captured the important crossroads at Sainte-Mère-Église (the first town liberated in the invasion  ) and began working to protect the western flank.  Because of the failure of the pathfinders to accurately mark their drop zone, the two regiments dropped on the west side of the Merderet were extremely scattered, with only four per cent landing in the target area.  Many landed in nearby swamps, with much loss of life.  Paratroopers consolidated into small groups, usually a combination of men of various ranks from different units, and attempted to concentrate on nearby objectives.  They captured but failed to hold the Merderet River bridge at La Fière, and fighting for the crossing continued for several days. 
Reinforcements arrived by glider around 04:00 (Mission Chicago and Mission Detroit), and 21:00 (Mission Keokuk and Mission Elmira), bringing additional troops and heavy equipment. Like the paratroopers, many landed far from their drop zones.  Even those that landed on target experienced difficulty, with heavy cargo such as Jeeps shifting during landing, crashing through the wooden fuselage, and in some cases crushing personnel on board. 
After 24 hours, only 2,500 men of the 101st and 2,000 of the 82nd Airborne were under the control of their divisions, approximately a third of the force dropped. This wide dispersal had the effect of confusing the Germans and fragmenting their response.  The 7th Army received notification of the parachute drops at 01:20, but Rundstedt did not initially believe that a major invasion was underway. The destruction of radar stations along the Normandy coast in the week before the invasion meant that the Germans did not detect the approaching fleet until 02:00. 
British and Canadian
The first Allied action of D-Day was the capture of the Caen canal and Orne river bridges via a glider assault at 00:16 (since renamed Pegasus Bridge and Horsa Bridge). Both bridges were quickly captured intact, with light casualties by the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Regiment. They were then reinforced by members of the 5th Parachute Brigade and the 7th (Light Infantry) Parachute Battalion.   The five bridges over the Dives were destroyed with minimal difficulty by the 3rd Parachute Brigade.   Meanwhile, the pathfinders tasked with setting up radar beacons and lights for further paratroopers (scheduled to begin arriving at 00:50 to clear the landing zone north of Ranville) were blown off course and had to set up the navigation aids too far east. Many paratroopers, also blown too far east, landed far from their intended drop zones some took hours or even days to be reunited with their units.   Major General Richard Gale arrived in the third wave of gliders at 03:30, along with equipment, such as antitank guns and jeeps, and more troops to help secure the area from counter-attacks, which were initially staged only by troops in the immediate vicinity of the landings.  At 02:00, the commander of the German 716th Infantry Division ordered Feuchtinger to move his 21st Panzer Division into position to counter-attack. However, as the division was part of the armoured reserve, Feuchtinger was obliged to seek clearance from OKW before he could commit his formation.  Feuchtinger did not receive orders until nearly 09:00, but in the meantime on his own initiative he put together a battle group (including tanks) to fight the British forces east of the Orne. 
Only 160 men out of the 600 members of the 9th Battalion tasked with eliminating the enemy battery at Merville arrived at the rendezvous point. Lieutenant Colonel Terence Otway, in charge of the operation, decided to proceed regardless, as the emplacement had to be destroyed by 06:00 to prevent it firing on the invasion fleet and the troops arriving on Sword Beach. In the Battle of Merville Gun Battery, Allied forces disabled the guns with plastic explosives at a cost of 75 casualties. The emplacement was found to contain 75 mm guns rather than the expected 150 mm heavy coastal artillery. Otway's remaining force withdrew with the assistance of a few members of the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion. 
With this action, the last of the D-Day goals of the British 6th Airborne Division was achieved.  They were reinforced at 12:00 by commandos of the 1st Special Service Brigade, who landed on Sword Beach, and by the 6th Airlanding Brigade, who arrived in gliders at 21:00 in Operation Mallard. 
Some of the landing craft had been modified to provide close support fire, and self-propelled amphibious Duplex-Drive tanks (DD tanks), specially designed for the Normandy landings, were to land shortly before the infantry to provide covering fire. However, few arrived in advance of the infantry, and many sank before reaching the shore, especially at Omaha.  
Utah Beach was in the area defended by two battalions of the 919th Grenadier Regiment.  Members of the 8th Infantry Regiment of the 4th Infantry Division were the first to land, arriving at 06:30. Their landing craft were pushed to the south by strong currents, and they found themselves about 2,000 yards (1.8 km) from their intended landing zone. This site turned out to be better, as there was only one strongpoint nearby rather than two, and bombers of IX Bomber Command had bombed the defences from lower than their prescribed altitude, inflicting considerable damage. In addition, the strong currents had washed ashore many of the underwater obstacles. The assistant commander of the 4th Infantry Division, Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt Jr., the first senior officer ashore, made the decision to "start the war from right here," and ordered further landings to be re-routed.  
The initial assault battalions were quickly followed by 28 DD tanks and several waves of engineer and demolition teams to remove beach obstacles and clear the area directly behind the beach of obstacles and mines. Gaps were blown in the sea wall to allow quicker access for troops and tanks. Combat teams began to exit the beach at around 09:00, with some infantry wading through the flooded fields rather than travelling on the single road. They skirmished throughout the day with elements of the 919th Grenadier Regiment, who were armed with antitank guns and rifles. The main strongpoint in the area and another 1,300 yards (1.2 km) to the south were disabled by noon.  The 4th Infantry Division did not meet all of their D-Day objectives at Utah Beach, partly because they had arrived too far to the south, but they landed 21,000 troops at the cost of only 197 casualties.  
Pointe du Hoc
Pointe du Hoc, a prominent headland situated between Utah and Omaha, was assigned to two hundred men of the 2nd Ranger Battalion, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel James Rudder. Their task was to scale the 30 m (98 ft) cliffs with grappling hooks, ropes, and ladders to destroy the coastal gun battery located at the top. The cliffs were defended by the German 352nd Infantry Division and French collaborators firing from above.  Allied destroyers Satterlee and Talybont provided fire support. After scaling the cliffs, the Rangers discovered that the guns had already been withdrawn. They located the weapons, unguarded but ready to use, in an orchard some 550 metres (600 yd) south of the point, and disabled them with explosives. 
The Rangers fended off numerous counter-attacks from the German 914th Grenadier Regiment. The men were isolated, and some were captured. By dawn on 7 June, Rudder had only 90 men able to fight. Relief did not arrive until 8 June, when members of the 743rd Tank Battalion and others arrived.   By then, Rudder's men had run out of ammunition and were using captured German weapons. Several men were killed as a result, because the German weapons made a distinctive noise, and the men were mistaken for the enemy.  By the end of the battle, the Rangers casualties were 135 dead and wounded, while German casualties were 50 killed and 40 captured. An unknown number of French collaborators were executed.  
Omaha, the most heavily defended beach, was assigned to the 1st Infantry Division and 29th Infantry Division.  They faced the 352nd Infantry Division rather than the expected single regiment.  Strong currents forced many landing craft east of their intended position or caused them to be delayed.  For fear of hitting the landing craft, U.S. bombers delayed releasing their loads and, as a result most of the beach obstacles at Omaha remained undamaged when the men came ashore.  Many of the landing craft ran aground on sandbars, and the men had to wade 50–100m in water up to their necks while under fire to get to the beach.  In spite of the rough seas, DD tanks of two companies of the 741st Tank Battalion were dropped 5,000 yards (4,600 m) from shore however, 27 of the 32 flooded and sank, with the loss of 33 crew.  Some tanks, disabled on the beach, continued to provide covering fire until their ammunition ran out or they were swamped by the rising tide. 
Casualties were around 2,000, as the men were subjected to fire from the cliffs above.  Problems clearing the beach of obstructions led to the beachmaster calling a halt to further landings of vehicles at 08:30. A group of destroyers arrived around this time to provide fire support so landings could resume.  Exit from the beach was possible only via five heavily defended gullies, and by late morning barely 600 men had reached the higher ground.  By noon, as the artillery fire took its toll and the Germans started to run out of ammunition, the Americans were able to clear some lanes on the beaches. They also started clearing the gullies of enemy defences so that vehicles could move off the beach.  The tenuous beachhead was expanded over the following days, and the D-Day objectives for Omaha were accomplished by 9 June. 
The first landings on Gold Beach were set for 07:25 because of the differences in the tide between there and the U.S. beaches.  High winds made conditions difficult for the landing craft, and the amphibious DD tanks were released close to shore or directly on the beach instead of further out as planned.  Three of the four guns in a large emplacement at the Longues-sur-Mer battery were disabled by direct hits from the cruisers HMS Ajax and Argonaut at 06:20. The fourth gun resumed firing intermittently in the afternoon, and its garrison surrendered on 7 June.  Aerial attacks had failed to hit the Le Hamel strongpoint, which had its embrasure facing east to provide enfilade fire along the beach and had a thick concrete wall on the seaward side.  Its 75 mm gun continued to do damage until 16:00, when an Armoured Vehicle Royal Engineers (AVRE) tank fired a large petard charge into its rear entrance.   A second casemated emplacement at La Rivière containing an 88 mm gun was neutralised by a tank at 07:30. 
Meanwhile, infantry began clearing the heavily fortified houses along the shore and advanced on targets further inland.  The No. 47 (Royal Marine) Commando moved toward the small port at Port-en-Bessin and captured it the following day in the Battle of Port-en-Bessin.  Company Sergeant Major Stanley Hollis received the only Victoria Cross awarded on D-Day for his actions while attacking two pillboxes at the Mont Fleury high point.  On the western flank, the 1st Battalion, Royal Hampshire Regiment captured Arromanches (future site of Mulberry "B"), and contact was made on the eastern flank with the Canadian forces at Juno.  Bayeux was not captured the first day because of stiff resistance from the 352nd Infantry Division.  Allied casualties at Gold Beach are estimated at 1,000. 
The landing at Juno Beach was delayed because of choppy seas, and the men arrived ahead of their supporting armour, suffering many casualties while disembarking. Most of the offshore bombardment had missed the German defences.  Several exits from the beach were created, but not without difficulty. At Mike Beach on the western flank, a large crater was filled using an abandoned AVRE tank and several rolls of fascine, which were then covered by a temporary bridge. The tank remained in place until 1972 when it was removed and restored by members of the Royal Engineers.  The beach and nearby streets were clogged with traffic for most of the day, making it difficult to move inland. 
Major German strongpoints with 75 mm guns, machine-gun nests, concrete fortifications, barbed wire, and mines were located at Courseulles-sur-Mer, St Aubin-sur-Mer, and Bernières-sur-Mer.  The towns had to be cleared in house-to-house fighting.  Soldiers on their way to Bény-sur-Mer, 3 miles (5 km) inland, discovered that the road was well covered by machine gun emplacements that had to be outflanked before the advance could proceed.  Elements of the 9th Canadian Infantry Brigade advanced to within sight of the Carpiquet airfield late in the afternoon, but by this time their supporting armour was low on ammunition so the Canadians dug in for the night. The airfield was not captured until a month later as the area became the scene of fierce fighting.  By nightfall, the contiguous Juno and Gold beachheads covered an area 12 miles (19 km) wide and 7 miles (10 km) deep.  Casualties at Juno were 961 men. 
On Sword Beach, 21 of 25 DD tanks of the first wave were successful in getting safely ashore to provide cover for the infantry, who began disembarking at 07:30.  The beach was heavily mined and peppered with obstacles, making the work of the beach clearing teams difficult and dangerous.  In the windy conditions, the tide came in more quickly than expected, so manoeuvring the armour was difficult. The beach quickly became congested.  Brigadier Simon Fraser, 15th Lord Lovat and his 1st Special Service Brigade arrived in the second wave, piped ashore by Private Bill Millin, Lovat's personal piper.  Members of No. 4 Commando moved through Ouistreham to attack from the rear a German gun battery on the shore. A concrete observation and control tower at this emplacement had to be bypassed and was not captured until several days later.  French forces under Commander Philippe Kieffer (the first French soldiers to arrive in Normandy) attacked and cleared the heavily fortified strongpoint at the casino at Riva Bella, with the aid of one of the DD tanks. 
The 'Morris' strongpoint near Colleville-sur-Orne was captured after about an hour of fighting.  The nearby 'Hillman' strongpoint, headquarters of the 736th Infantry Regiment, was a large complex defensive work that had come through the morning's bombardment essentially undamaged. It was not captured until 20:15.  The 2nd Battalion, King's Shropshire Light Infantry began advancing to Caen on foot, coming within a few kilometres of the town, but had to withdraw due to lack of armour support.  At 16:00, the 21st Panzer Division mounted a counter-attack between Sword and Juno and nearly succeeded in reaching the Channel. It met stiff resistance from the British 3rd Division and was soon recalled to assist in the area between Caen and Bayeux.   Estimates of Allied casualties on Sword Beach are as high as 1,000. 
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, Saint-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 beachheads 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. 
The Allied 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 obliged to defend a huge stretch of coastline.  The Allies achieved and maintained air supremacy, which meant that the Germans were unable to make observations of the preparations underway in Britain and were unable to interfere via bomber attacks.  Infrastructure for transport 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 were also factors in the Allied success. 
At Omaha Beach, parts of the Mulberry harbour are still visible, and a few of the beach obstacles remain. A memorial to the U.S. National Guard sits at the location of a former German strongpoint. Pointe du Hoc is little changed from 1944, with the terrain covered with bomb craters and most of the concrete bunkers still in place. The Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial is nearby, in Colleville-sur-Mer.  A museum about the Utah landings is located at Sainte-Marie-du-Mont, and there is one dedicated to the activities of the U.S. airmen at Sainte-Mère-Église. Two German military cemeteries are located nearby. 
Pegasus Bridge, a target of the British 6th Airborne, was the site of some of the earliest action of the Normandy landings. The bridge was replaced in 1994 by one similar in appearance, and the original is housed on the grounds of a nearby museum complex.  Sections of Mulberry Harbour B still sit in the sea at Arromanches, and the well-preserved Longues-sur-Mer battery is nearby.  The Juno Beach Centre, opened in 2003, was funded by the Canadian federal and provincial governments, France, and Canadian veterans.  The British Normandy Memorial above Gold Beach was designed by the architect Liam O'Connor and opened in 2021. 
Many people think that “mad as a hatter” refers to the mental and physical side effects hatmakers endured from using mercury in their craft. Though scholars dispute whether this is actually the origin of the phrase, many hatters did develop mercury poisoning. And even though the phrase has a certain levity to it, and while the Mad Hatter in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was silly and fun, the actual maladies hatmakers suffered were no joke—mercury poisoning was debilitating and deadly.
In the 18th and 19th century, a lot of men’s felt hats were made using hare and rabbit fur. In order to make this fur stick together to form felt, hatters brushed it with mercury.
“It was extremely toxic,” says Alison Matthews David, author of Fashion Victims: The Dangers of Dress Past and Present. “Especially if you inhale it. It goes straight to your brain.”
One of the first symptoms was neuromotor problems, like trembling. In the hat-making town of Danbury, Connecticut, this was known as the “Danbury shakes.”
Then there were the psychological problems. “You would become very shy, very paranoid,” Matthews David says. When medical examiners visited hatters to document their symptoms, hatters “thought they were being observed, and they would throw down their tools and get angry and have outbursts.”
Many hatters also developed cardiorespiratory problems, lost their teeth, and died at early ages.
Although these effects were documented, many viewed them as the hazards that one had to accept with the job. And besides, the mercury only affected the hatters—not the men who wore the hats, who were protected by the hats’ lining.
“There was always kind of a bit of a pushback from the hatters themselves,” Matthews David says of these dangerous working conditions. “But really, honestly, the only thing that made [mercury hatmaking] disappear was the fact that men’s hats went out of fashion in the 1960s. That’s really when it dies. It was never banned in Britain.”
Dream Catcher History & Legend
Dream catchers are one of the most fascinating traditions of Native Americans. The traditional dream catcher was intended to protect the sleeping individual from negative dreams , while letting positive dreams through. The positive dreams would slip through the hole in the center of the dream catcher, and glide down the feathers to the sleeping person below. The negative dreams would get caught up in the web, and expire when the first rays of the sun struck them.
The dream catcher has been a part of Native American culture for generations. One element of Native American dream catcher relates to the tradition of the hoop. Some Native Americans of North America held the hoop in the highest esteem, because it symbolized strength and unity. Many symbols started around the hoop, and one of these symbols is the dream catcher.
Dream Catcher Lore:
Native Americans believe that the night air is filled with dreams both good and bad. The dream catcher when hung over or near your bed swinging freely in the air, catches the dreams as they flow by. The good dreams know how to pass through the dream catcher, slipping through the outer holes and slide down the soft feathers so gently that many times the sleeper does not know that he/she is dreaming. The bad dreams not knowing the way get tangled in the dream catcher and perish with the first light of the new day.
How the Dream Catcher is made:
Using a hoop of willow, and decorating it with findings, bits and pieces of everyday life, (feathers, arrow heads, beads, etc) the dream catcher is believed to have the power to catch all of a person’s dreams, trapping the bad ones, and letting only the good dreams pass through the dream catcher.
D-Day: The Normandy Landings In Pictures
D-Day – codenamed Operation Neptune – involved more than 156,000 Allied troops and thousands of vessels and aircraft.
D-Day on 6 June 1944 was the largest amphibious invasion in history and was vital in the defeat of the Nazis in the Second World War.
More than 156,000 Allied troops landed on the shores of Normandy in Nazi-occupied France on D-Day.
The assault on the beaches in northern France began at 06:30am, with American, British and Canadian troops landing along a 50-mile stretch of the Normandy coast after crossing the English Channel.
D-Day: All You Need To Know About 1944's Normandy Landings
The landings took place on five beaches codenamed Utah, Omaha, Gold, Sword and Juno.
British and Canadian forces faced relatively light German opposition as they captured Gold, Juno and Sword beaches.
Similarly, US troops encountered and overcame light opposition on Utah beach.
However, most of the casualties happened on Omaha beach, where American forces faced heavy combat and resistance and it is estimated that some 2,000 US troops perished there.
Despite the German resistance, within less than a week Allied troops had officially conquered and secured the beaches.
The operation involved nearly 7,000 vessels (80% of those were British) and more than 11,500 Allied aircraft.
D-Day marked the start of the Allies' liberation of France and laid the foundations for the eventual victory in the war.Assault landing crafts carrying Royal Marines form up in the Channel on the night of 5 June 1944, ahead of taking part in the D-Day assault the next morning (Picture: PA). American soldiers in a landing barge sail across the Channel ahead of landing in Normandy (Picture: TopFotoP/PA). American assault troops get ready to land on Omaha beach (Picture: Chronicle/Alamy Stock Photo). US Army troops disembark from a landing craft on a Normandy beach (Picture: PA). Troops wade ashore from a landing craft onto a Normandy beach (Picture: PA). Commandos land ashore on D-Day (Picture: PA). View of a Normandy beach during the D-Day invasion on 6 June 1944 (Picture: PA). Landing craft, barrage balloons and Allied troops assault (Picture: US Maritime Commission). Aerial view of the Allied sea invasion on D-Day (Picture: World History Archive/Alamy Stock Photo). USS Nevada (BB-36) opens fire on positions ashore during the landings on Utah beach (Picture: Niday Picture Library/Alamy Stock Photo). Allied troops wade ashore (Picture: Everett Collection Historical/Alamy Stock Photo). British soldiers struggle ashore on Sword beach (Picture: Pictorial Press Ltd/Alamy Stock Photo). American B-26 Marauder returns to UK base, flying across the invasion on Sword beach (Picture: Pictorial Press Ltd/Alamy Stock Photo). US personnel help injured soldiers ashore on Utah beach (Picture: LOC Photo/Alamy Stock Photo). Royal Marine commandos move off a Normandy beach on D-Day (Picture: PA).