June 6, 2004 marks the 60th anniversary of D-Day. We commemorate this day by re-printing a D-Day story from a local Latino perspective. We are indebted to the U.S. Latinos and Latinas & World War II Oral History Project, organized by the University of Texas at Austin Department of Journalism, who conducted the interviews and compiled the information for this story and the story on Lauro Vega For further information on this project please visit their web site at: http://www.utexas.edu/projects/latinoarchives/index.html
By Aryn Sedler
At the break of dawn on June 6 1944, the Allied troops launched the most massive military undertaking of World War II. The American, Canadian, British and other Allied forces attacked with everything they had as they invaded Normandy. The stage was set for the beginning of the end of the German occupation of France.
The D in “D-day” stands for the day an operation begins. There were many d-days during World War II, but this particular one stands out as one of the most crucial and important. The Allies turned the tides of the war with this invasion, and attacked Germany with everything that they had. Between 2.6 and 2.7 million people participated in successfully invading Normandy, including soldiers and other personnel. The Allies hit the Germans with the largest Aerial invasion ever. They sent between 10,000 and 11,000 planes and around 13,000 paratroopers filled the skies that morning.
Delays played a crucial role in the invasion. The soldiers on the ships became prisoners of the sea as the weather conditions kept a delay on the invasion. The invasion was to originally take place on May 1 but more supplies were needed. The men then had to wait until the desired tide conditions and moonlight where to occur. There where only three days a month that these conditions occurred simultaneously, June 5, 6, and 7 in 1944.
The invasion was then to take place on June 5, but the weather did not agree. Low clouds, reduced visibility, high winds, five-foot waves, and four foot surf on the beaches delayed the invasion a second time. The meteorologists said that there would be a thirty-six hour period of good weather and at 4:15 A.M. on June 5, President Eisenhower decided that the invasion would take place at 6:30 A.M. on June 6. Had the invasion been delayed another two weeks the landings would have been totally swamped by a heavy storm with “higher than-gale-force” winds.
Even though the weather made many of the men sea sick, and the pilots had low visibility, the bad weather gave the Allies an advantage. The Germans did not think that the Allies would attack in such poor weather conditions. The attack was a shock because of the weather, and the Germans were unprepared for such a massive invasion.
Weather was not the only trick that the Allies had up their sleeves. The Allied armies had been filling up the south of England for weeks. Due to the indecipherable Enigma cipher machines, the Allies tricked the Germans into believing that the large invasion was to occur South of Boulogne. This kept more than 250,000 German soldiers tied up in Norway. The Germans did not think that the Normandy invasion was anything to worry about, a trick that allowed the Allies to successfully invade Normandy.
Characteristics of the beaches were taken into consideration for the exact site of the landings. Normandy was chosen because of their pastoral landscape borage, patchworks old earthwork and hedge rows that protected the men from the harsh Atlantic winds. Normandy is also away from the heavy traffic in the London metropolitan area.
The invasion was successful, but there were a lot of Allied causalities. Over 6,000 lives were lost within the first day. In an interview in Dwight D. Eisenhower reflected on D-day and the many men who lost their lives: “This day has a special meaning for me. Not just because of the anxiety of the day but because I knew that so many of these men would become casualties . . . But these young boys, they were cut off in their prime, they have families that still grieve I devoutly hope and pray that history will learn more.”