D-Day at a Glance

Friday, June 06, 2014
∎ D-Day, as the Allied invasion of Normandy during World War II came to be known, occurred on Tuesday, June 6, 1944, 70 years ago today.

∎ The military force was one of the largest ever assembled — about 170,000 men, a fleet of 5,000 ships and landing craft, 50,000 vehicles and 11,000 planes. By nightfall, nearly all the Allied soldiers were ashore at a cost of some 10,000 American, British and Canadian casualties.

∎ The attack target was a 50-mile stretch of Normandy coast divided into five sectors, code named Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword. The sandiest beach, Omaha, proved to be the most difficult to capture, partly because of unanticipated logistical problems and strong German defenses.

∎ The average age of an American soldier on D-Day was 26. As the war continued and more manpower was needed, nearly half of all American troops fighting in Europe would be teenagers.

∎ One in three soldiers had only a grade school education, one in four held a high school diploma, and slightly more than one in 10 had attended college for at least one semester.

∎ A private earned $50 a month, a staff sergeant $96.

∎ Weather forecasting was critically important to the D-Day invasion. More than 500 weather stations were scattered across the United Kingdom, most reporting hourly. Eight U.S. Navy ships also took meteorological readings in the western Atlantic. Reconnaissance planes loaded with instruments flew every day. British beach watchers at 58 wave observation stations reported three times a day on the height of every breaker during a three-minute interval, then sent their reports to a central Swell Forecast station.

∎ Of the 73,000 American troops who participated in the Normandy invasion, fewer than 2,000 are estimated to still be living.

Sources: National World War II Museum; The Guns at Last Light , by Rick Atkinson; Greatest Generations Foundation.

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