Background to D-Day

D-Day Preparations

SHAEF Emblem
SHAEF Emblem

In 1943 Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill agreed the overall strategy to win the war at the Tehran conference. The plan was to attack the Germans from the East and open a second front in the west either at the Pas de Calais or Normandy.  A commander had to be appointed. Eisenhower was appointed and set up SHAEF (Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force) to formulate plans for the invasion of the European Mainland.

Plans were also set up called Operation Fortitude to fool the Germans into thinking the invasion was going to take place in the shortest sea crossing (26 miles) at Calais. This was the biggest deception of the war. The Germans also did not realise that their radio traffic and security had been compromised by Bletchley Park. The code breakers had broken the Germans Naval, Air Force and Wehrmacht codes using Enigma and were monitoring all German radio traffic at Bletchley Park, grading the signals into top level information called Ultra. This meant that SHAEF was able to plan in detail the operations needed for invasion at Normandy. The Operation to invade Normandy was called Operation Overlord. The shipment of units by sea was called Operation Neptune and by air Operation Mallard.

Before Normandy the allies had secured North Africa under General Montgomery and had invaded Sicily and then Italy. Units were stripped from these operations and reformed into other units for training in the United Kingdom. Many units had lost a lot of men and had to be reformed. The airborne units were formed from other regiments and commenced training in 1943. The US units started to arrive in 1943 as well and commenced training.  No one knew the details of what was going to happen and security remained very tight, this was a feat in itself.

The preparations were being made for June 5th 1944, D-Day.


Overall Command, Field Marshall Montgomery.
Areas of attack as follows:

British 2nd Army – General Dempsey – Total 165,479 Men 10 Divisions

British 1st Corps – Lieutenant General Crocker – 1st Waves

Eastern Flank – River Dives to River Orne – 6th British Airborne – Major-General Windy Gale –  7,717 men.
Sword Beach – West River Orne to St Aubin-sur-Mer – British 3rd Division – Major-General T. Rennie – 28,845 men
Juno Beach – St Aubin-sur-Mer to Riviere (Courseulles) – Canadian 3rd Division – Major-General Keller – 28,845 men

British 30th Corps – Lieutenant General Bucknell

Gold Beach – Courseulles-sur-Mer to Longues-sur-Mer – British 50th Division – Major-General Graham – 24,970 men.

US 1st Army – General Omar Bradley – 1st Waves

US 5th Corps – Lieutenant General Gerow

Omaha Beach – Cabourg to Vierville-sur-Mer – US 1st & 29th Divisions – Major-Generals Huebner & Gerhardt – 37,553 men

US 7th Corps – Lieutenant General Collins

Utah Beach – Douvres Estuary to Varaville – US 4th & 90th Divisions – Major-Generals Barton & Mackelvie – 27,313 men
Western Flank – 101st (Carentan) & 82nd Airborne (Sainte-Mère-Église) – Major-Generals Taylor & Ridgway –  10,236 men