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ON THIS DAY

06 June 1944: D-Day marks start of Europe invasion. Thousands of Allied troops have begun landing on the beaches of Normandy in northern France at the start of a major offensive against the Germans. Thousands of paratroops and glider-borne troops have also been dropped behind enemy lines and the Allies are already said to have penetrated several miles inland. The landings were preceded by air attacks along the French coast. About 1,300 RAF planes were involved in the first wave of assaults then
1,000 American bombers took up the attack dropping bombs on targets in northern France. The Prime Minister Winston Churchill has told MPs that Operation Neptune – the codename for the Normandy landings – is proceeding “in a thoroughly satisfactory manner”. He said the landing of airborne troops was “on a scale far larger than anything there has been so far in the world” and had taken place with extremely little loss. The assault began shortly after midnight under the command of General Bernard Montgomery. Timing of the Normandy landings was crucial. They were originally scheduled to take place in May – then postponed until June and put off again at the last minute for 24 hours by bad weather. Upwards of 4,000 ships and several thousand smaller craft crossed the Channel to the northern coast of France. Enemy reports say the landings took place between the port of Le Havre and the naval base at Cherbourg. King George VI broadcast a message last night warning of the “supreme test” the Allies faced and he called on the nation to pray for the liberation of Europe. The Allied naval commander, Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay, said the landings had taken the Germans completely by surprise. There were no enemy reconnaissance planes out and the opposition of coastal batteries was much less than expected. He added: “There was a slight loss in ships but so slight that it did not affect putting armies ashore. “We have got all the first wave of men through the defended beach zone and set for the land battle.” A statement broadcast from Berlin at midday said the German troops were “nowhere taken by surprise”. It said many parachute units were wiped out on landing or taken prisoner. Hits were also scored on battleships and on landing craft from the “guns of the Atlantic Wall” – the German defensive positions. President Franklin D Roosevelt told a news conference the invasion did not mean the war was over. He said: “You don’t just walk to Berlin, and the sooner this country realises that the better.” (Source: BBC)

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