D-Day 1944 (3): Sword Beach and British Airborne Landings (Campaign, Volume 105)

D-Day 1944 (3): Sword Beach and British Airborne Landings
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Operational Staff Luftwaffenfuehrungsstab and on the writer's personal knowledge. During this stage of the war the German air units had, decreased in strength from early in the year to an average of aircraft; losses amounted to 8 to During May the G. The formations showed a further marked decline of between 50 to aircraft.

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This decline was a clear warning. It showed that the fighting potential of Luftflotte 3 was being sacrificed to retaliation propaganda at a time when the Allies might any day spring the decisive operation of the war. In the place of a planned economy of forces in,attacks on the allied invasion fleet, and instead of building up moans of wireless communication and control, Luftflotte 3 prepared for a possible landing mainly by putting out of action coastal airfields and landing grounds and setting up a "circular system" of defense on other airfields, air force supply depots and ammunition dumps.

The British, on the other hand, made , daily sorties arid kept firmly to their objective. It was hopeless from the outset for Luftflotte 3 to attempt to wrest air supremacy over western France from the Allies with six fighter Gruppen and three night fighter Gruppen as their whole available strength. Towards the end of March, for example, planes were destroyed on the ground in two days.

Sword Beach & the British Airborne Landings

Out of nine railroad bridges between Rouen and Paris only one was fit for use; the junctions in the Paris zone were almost wholly destroyed and the rolling stock had suffered considerable damage; from the end of February to the end of March, railway engines had been totally wrecked. Yet the defense of the Reich would not permit of any change in the allotment of forces in favor of the west. German communications in the west and consequently supplies for army, air force and navy, were seriously affected.

It was therefore extremely probable, given satisfactory weather conditions, that the allies would invade. As has already been indicated, the Germans held that favorable weather conditions were the first essential for a successful landing operation.

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After a spell of fine weather the first stream of cold air brought a change on 30 May. On 3 June a depression from southwest Ireland traveled slowly to the southeast, causing. Such conditions did not augur well for a landing, particularly if large-scale air operations were involved.

At the British radio was issuing directives to French guerillas to attack certain prearranged targets roads, main roads, canals, communications within 24 or 48 hours. Towards American bomber command began to transmit weather reports, and from onward, American twin-engined aircraft started meteorological reconnaissance. Also about the radio intercept service learned of the transfer of the British tactical air force to the south.

Shortly before midnight, London radio announced that the invasion was to begin within the next 48 hours from 6 June The fact that these indications overlapped and that the American heavy bomber formations had not previously flown meteorological reconnaissance at that hour, caused the Paris radio intercept reporting center West, to alert the subordinate stations. It is not known to the author how much of this information reached the supreme commands.

From it was ascertained that American heavy bomber formations were concentrating north of London. Aerial bombardment and paratroop landings began at in the zone between the Seine and the mouth of the Orne and lasted until , continuing in the area south of Cherbourg, until The invasion had begun, the order "imminent danger West" went out from the Supreme Command West at midday of 6 June.

No description of the German situation would be complete without a general outline of allied operations in the invasion area.

Sword Beach & the British Airborne Landings

On the nights of 6 and 7 June, two American air-borne divisions were landed on the Cotentin peninsula while one British air-borne and one Canadian paratroop, battalion were dropped to the south and east of Caen and near Deauville. From of the 6th allied landing craft were identified from the coast and from landings were made over a stretch of 63 kms.

The 21st allied army group made the landings; it comprised the 1st U. The landing accomplished, a bridgehead 30 km.

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After the capture of St. Mere Eglice, another bridgehead was established to the east of the Cotentin peninsula. More paratroops were dropped during the night of the 7th in the Isigny sector. By the 8th, the bridgehead at Caen had been enlarged to an average depth of 10 to 12 km. The next day, after heavy fighting north of Caen, and southeast and southwest of Bayeux, the bridgehead was further extended to the south and contact established with the second bridgehead near Caen.

On 10 June, the Allies advanced, from Isigny to the Vire and on the 11th, extended the bridgehead at Bayeux in the direction of St. Fighting centered around the area north of Carentan and west of St. Mere Eglise at which point the opponent drove as far as Etienville.

British Army during the Second World War

According to " War at Sea " Vol. Tanks were carried in the first wave and, within a quarter of an hour, fifty-six medium tanks had already been landed.

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On 12 June, after 7 days' operation, the five bridgeheads were effectively linked up. Up to midday of 13 June, a total of , men and , tons of material had been landed by 62, ships. General Montgomery moved his headquarters to northern France. The Allies had successfully completed the first phase of the invasion. Thus in spite of all the signs and warnings described above, the Allies achieved tactical surprise and made a successful landing at the first attempt.

Apart from the choice. Since German coastal batteries and German divisions had failed to prevent the Allies from obtaining a foothold, the High Command's only chance was now to try to stop them from gaining any further ground, and then to throw them back to the sea. In anticipation of such a task, which called for the bringing up and assembly of German tanks and infantry, the air force had a decisive part to play. In conjunction with the navy, it must harass and finally paralyze the Allies' cross-channel supply lines and, in addition, attempt to shatter the bridgeheads.

The numerical strength of the formations had sunk steadily since January, , for example, the aircraft included in Fliegerkorps IX in January had dropped to by June, Luftflotte 3's total fighting strength on 5 June, , was aircraft, including 64 reconnaissance and fighter aircraft. When, on 6 June, according to German records, the Allies disposed of 2, 4-engined, two-engined and 3,, single-engined aircraft, Luftflotte 3 could counter only with aircraft for both day and night operations - a relative strength of From early dawn to late twilight, allied fighters operated continuously over the terrain.

On days when major operations were in progress, the proportion of allied to German planes was The G. The fighter ground organisation which was not affected, was chiefly centered north and northwest of Paris so that German formations on the way to the battle area were continually open to flank attack. Air reconnaissance by day over the bridgehead was hardly possible but widespread and systematic reconnaissance from the south coast of Ireland to the east of the Channel as well as off the west coast of Cherbourg, gave a clear picture of the mainstream of the allied Invasion forces.

Due to the allied air supremacy, the fighters' main task was defense of the army's supply lines, for only by concentrated operations were the German units enabled to maintain mobility on land for a limited period. The already unfavorable situation deteriorated visibly, particularly after 10 June, when the Allies succeeded in securing a first airfield on the bridgehead for fighter operations.

From then on, if the weather was good and large-scale allied sorties were reported, German fighters could not go up. Losses amounted to 2 to 3 aircraft out of every In view of this situation, sorties could be made only at night.

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Fliegerkorps IX used bombs, aircraft mines and BM over the inner Seine bay and the bridgehead while Fliegerdivision 2 made torpedo attacks on allied transports in the Channel. The latter unit consisted in the main of 2 Gruppen of KG 26; it was stationed in the south of France and operated over intermediate airfields in the sector Chalons sur Saone--Dijon and Fecamp into the target area, returning to the bases in the south of France after the attacks.

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On an average, the torpedo units flew one sortie a week with 40 aircraft. In order to keep the numbers of the bomber and fighter formations up to a reasonable level, all available sources both at home and in Italy Luftflotte 2 were exploited. Control and direction of the units was complicated by the activities of allied sabotage troops who had cut almost all tho telephone wires, while radio control was unreliable duo to the weather.

Air reconnaissance, reports from the inner Seine bay were rare and operations had frequently to rely on data from observations at the naval coastal stations area Le Havre. Despite all these obstacles Luftflotte 3 lost no time in coming to grips with the allied-Invasion fleet. In addition to operations against ship targets in the extensive region of the Seine bay and the Channel area, attacks on vessels unloading at and near the bridgeheads took place daily.

On 9 June, 49 bomber aircraft mined the sea area north of Carentan with BM On 13 June, the attack was repeated on the same target area with a load of 94 BM Observation during these nightly sorties was very difficult. Numerous searchlights, concentrated anti-aircraft fire and smoke cover over the target areas, precluded all possibility of successful observation. The reports of the crews were therefore treated with caution. Luftflotte 3 claimed the following successes in the first days:.

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The listening post 9 , accessed via a crawl trench, was manned at night to guard against infiltration. Hugh Evan-Thomas. However, its rugged construction, powerful engine and heavy armament of four 20 mm cannons, bombs and rockets made it excellent for low-level attacks. The shores of Suffolk, north and south Devon and Dorset were among the main practice areas where Brigades were landed with live ammunition firing overhead. Navy Communities.

Actual results, however, by no means tallied with these reports, being considerably lower. Contemporary British sources War at Sea Vol.

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V mention the following sinkings by the Luftflotte :. Losses of small craft are not reported. On 13 June, they were concentrated south of Carentan, and on the 14th, fighting became heavier in the Caumont area, with the aim of encircling Caen from the west. Other focal points developed on both sides of the Bayeu--St.

By 15 June, according to German calculations, the Allies had 23 to 25 divisions on the bridgehead. During the ensuing period there was a lull in the fighting around the mouth of the Orne tout pressure in the west for the purpose of cutting off Cotentin was maintained. The decisive event of 15 June was that the Allies broke through the German front near St. Sauveur le Vicomte westward.