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D-Day minute by terrifying minute: Joltingly vivid account retells how Operation Overlord unfolded as 150,000 Allied troops gambled every thing to defeat the Nazis and alter the course of historical past

Tomorrow marks the eightieth anniversary of D-Day at Normandy, the most important seaborne invasion in historical past, which begun of the liberation of France and western Europe from the Nazis.

Operation Overlord, the code identify given to the invasion, noticed greater than 150,000 troops from the Allied forces land on 5 seashores in Normandy.

Candles might be lit on graves throughout Normandy this night to recollect the fallen, whereas world leaders, together with the King and US President Joe Biden might be attending occasions on Thursday in commemoration. 

The next is an adaption for MailOnline from D-Day Minute by Minute by Jonathan Mayo, who relives the landings minute by minute with by no means earlier than revealed element. 

Monday June 5, 1944

7.30am: At this second exactly, naval officers are breaking open their sealed orders and discovering the best-kept navy secret in historical past. Tomorrow, they’ll be crusing for Normandy. The Allied invasion will centre on 5 seashores, every of which has been given a code identify. The British and Canadians have opted for Gold, Juno and Sword — from an inventory provided by the British Military. The Individuals will land on Utah and Omaha — names chosen by their generals.

9.00: Already, the largest invasion drive the world has ever seen is mobilising off the South Coast. In all, D-Day will contain greater than 6,203 vessels — 1,213 warships, 4,126 touchdown craft and 864 service provider vessels.

1.00pm: On the Berghof, Adolf Hitler’s headquarters within the Bavarian Alps, his private physician Dr Theodor Morell is arriving for his every day appointment. The 54-year-old Fuhrer is a hypochondriac — and willingly takes the 28 totally different drugs and injections Morell provides him every single day. At Downing Road, as common, Winston Churchill is having a big lunch with loads of wine.

Boats filled with United States troops ready to depart Weymouth, Southern England, to participate in Operation Overlord in Normandy, June 1944. This location was used as a launching place for Allied troops collaborating within the invasion

Operation Overlord Normandy troops are boarding a Landing Craft Infantry in Southern England on 5th June 1944

Operation Overlord Normandy troops are boarding a Touchdown Craft Infantry in Southern England on fifth June 1944

DUKWs, amphibious trucks useful for beach landings, are loaded onto an LST (Landing Ship - Tank) during preparations for the D-Day invasion, June 1944

DUKWs, amphibious vehicles helpful for seaside landings, are loaded onto an LST (Touchdown Ship – Tank) throughout preparations for the D-Day invasion, June 1944

1.55: Out within the Channel, on board the British troop ship Princess Ingrid, virtually each soldier is on the higher deck, ready for a church service to start. Abruptly, a gust of wind catches the fabric overlaying a makeshift altar, and a small silver cross falls on to the deck and breaks in two. The padre and the troops are distraught at this horrible omen. Ronald Seaborne, a naval telegraphist, displays that he now is aware of the precise that means of the phrase ‘concern of God’.

2.10: The person accountable for the German military in France, 69-year-old Discipline Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt, is leaving his workplace to have lunch together with his son Hans at his favorite Parisian restaurant, the Coq Hardi. He’s simply learn an intelligence report confirming there’s no probability of imminent invasion. 

In any case, the Germans expect Allied troops to go for the Pas de Calais — the place the principle Panzer [tank] regiments might be able to assault them. To assist cement this perception, the Allies have been enjoying methods. Faux plane, touchdown craft product of wooden and canvas, and inflatable tanks have been positioned in fields and rivers on the Suffolk and Norfolk coast. There’s additionally pretend radio site visitors — and a pretend oil storage depot close to Dover, constructed by technicians from Shepperton Movie Studios.

6.00: The sound of bagpipes is echoing throughout the waters of the Solent. Standing within the bows of the primary in a line of twenty-two ships, piper Invoice Millin, wearing kilt and full battledress, is enjoying stirring martial music that’s being relayed over a loudspeaker. Rupert Curtis, flotilla officer for touchdown craft 519, later recalled: ‘The skirl of the pipes labored some unusual magic, for it set the troops within the ready transports cheering from ship to ship.’ 

American troops in a landing craft approaching Utah beach on D-Day

American troops in a touchdown craft approaching Utah seaside on D-Day 

This photograph from the National Archives taken on June 6, 1944, shows US Army troops wading ashore at Omaha Beach in north-western France, during the D-Day invasion

This {photograph} from the Nationwide Archives taken on June 6, 1944, exhibits US Military troops wading ashore at Omaha Seaside in north-western France, in the course of the D-Day invasion

Picture taken on June 6, 1944 in Normandy showing the Allied forces soldiers involved in the landing operation aimed at fighting the German Wehrmacht as part of the Second World War

Image taken on June 6, 1944 in Normandy displaying the Allied forces troopers concerned within the touchdown operation aimed toward preventing the German Wehrmacht as a part of the Second World Warfare

7.00: On the Berghof, Hitler, his girlfriend Eva Braun, and propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels are watching the most recent newsreel with studies of the conflict. They’re waited on by SS bodyguards wearing white waistcoats and black trousers.

7.20: Hundreds of paratroopers from the Allied airborne forces are being helped into their planes. They’re carrying a lot gear that they’ll barely stroll. Their canine tags have been taped collectively to stop them making a noise. Faces are black with soot or boot polish. Some have shaved their heads to seem like Mohicans — they wish to look as intimidating as potential.

8.45: On board the troop ship Empire Battleaxe, the decks are crowded with lots of of males. The troopers of the first Suffolk Regiment have already gambled away their English cash — so that they’re beginning on the French foreign money they’ve simply been issued.

9.30: Now, 2,700 ships have converged on an space south of the Isle of Wight — rapidly nicknamed Piccadilly Circus. Quickly they’ll make a 90-degree flip and head for France down channels marked with buoys and swept away from mines. Not one of the ships are receiving messages from the surface world. Nonetheless, in case the Germans ought to turn out to be suspicious at a discount in wire site visitors, meaningless messages are being despatched from ship to ship.

9.50: Churchill is within the underground Map Room in Nice George Road, not removed from No 10. Clementine is available in to want her husband good night time. ‘Do you realise,’ he tells her, ‘that by the point you get up within the morning 20,000 males might have been killed?’

10.15: In a studio on the BBC’s Bush Home, an announcer is studying some traces of a Nineteenth-century poem by Paul Verlaine. It’s a coded message to the French Resistance that the invasion will start inside 48 hours. On the headquarters of the German fifteenth Military, near the Belgian border, intelligence officer Lieutenant Colonel Hellmuth Meyer is aware of precisely what it means, as a result of a member of the French Resistance is on his payroll. Speeding into an workplace the place two generals are enjoying bridge with different officers, Meyer provides them the information. However they aren’t impressed. ‘What kind of normal would announce a forthcoming invasion on the radio? You’ll be able to neglect it,’ says Basic Blumentritt.

Photograph taken on June 6, 1944, shows soldiers unloading equipment on Omaha Beach, Normandy, north-western France after the initial D-Day invasion

{Photograph} taken on June 6, 1944, exhibits troopers unloading gear on Omaha Seaside, Normandy, north-western France after the preliminary D-Day invasion

Allied Forces landing on the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944

Allied Forces touchdown on the seashores of Normandy on June 6, 1944

6th June 1944: In the distance American Infantrymen are wading towards the beach on the Northern Coast of France during the D-Day Landings

sixth June 1944: Within the distance American Soldiers are wading in direction of the seaside on the Northern Coast of France in the course of the D-Day Landings

10.30: On a troop ship heading for Juno Seaside, 24-year-old Lieutenant James Doohan from Canada has gained £3,600 enjoying craps. The cash is tucked safely away in his uniform. On anotherboat heading for Juno, Sergeant Kenneth Lakeman of the Royal Corps of Alerts watches one in every of his males, clearly on edge, prising open a packing case with an unfamiliar serial quantity. The person goes pale: the field is stuffed with white crosses. ‘God, I don’t thoughts going to my dying, however to take my very own cross . . .’ he says, deeply upset.

10.35: One of many leaders of the elite U.S. Rangers is drunk. On a former ferry heading for Omaha seaside, Main Cleveland Lytle is saying on the prime of his voice to his fellow officers that their mission is suicidal. (It’s actually harmful: 200 Rangers must climb 100ft cliffs to seize German gun emplacements on the prime.) Medical officer Captain Walter Block tries to intervene, however Lytle punches him. Different officers then assist restrain the drunken main, and he’s taken to his cabin.

11.25: Three Halifax bombers, every towing a glider, are approaching the French coast. Contained in the plywood and canvas Horsa gliders are males from the British sixth Airborne Division, led by 31-year-old Main John Howard. None of them have been in fight earlier than. Everybody’s singing and smoking Gamers cigarettes. As the primary of 156,000 males who will participate in D-Day, they’ve a very daring mission: to seize two bridges from a German garrison — and maintain them.

11.30: Pierre Vienot, the ambassador for the French authorities in exile in London, is nose to nose with a livid Winston Churchill. Because the Prime Minister has simply discovered, Basic Charles de Gaulle, the chief of the Free French, is refusing to broadcast a D-Day message on the BBC. The explanation? He’s seen the textual content of Basic Eisenhower’s speech — attributable to be broadcast at 10am tomorrow — and resents the truth that it makes no point out of himself or the Free French. Churchill doesn’t mince his phrases. He tells the ambassador that de Gaulle is responsible of ‘treason on the peak of battle’ and that the sacrifice of the Allied troopers is: ‘Blood that has no worth for you!’

Rangers firing from a bunker between Pointe du Hoc and Omaha Beach

Rangers firing from a bunker between Pointe du Hoc and Omaha Seaside

Picture taken on June 6, 1944 in Normandy showing the Allied forces soldiers involved in the landing operation aimed at fighting the German Wehrmacht as part of the Second World War

Image taken on June 6, 1944 in Normandy displaying the Allied forces troopers concerned within the touchdown operation aimed toward preventing the German Wehrmacht as a part of the Second World Warfare

Tuesday June 6, 1944 

12.07am: Because the Halifax bombers launch the tow-ropes to the gliders, the British paratroopers cease singing. The one sound is of air speeding over plywood wings. Every man is aware of that touchdown might be extraordinarily harmful — that’s why the Horsa gliders have been nicknamed ‘Hearses’. 

12.16: Jim Wallwork can see a metallic bridge speeding in direction of him. Then his glider thumps into French soil and barbed wire at 90 miles an hour. Each he and his navigator are flung by the cockpit window nonetheless of their seats.

12.17: The second glider has crash-landed and damaged in half. A part of it has ended up on a German trench, and the troopers in it have already got their fingers up. The pilot, Oliver Boland, is encouraging the shocked passengers behind him to get out and battle. ‘We’re right here. P*** off and do what you’re paid to do.’ Twenty-two of Main Howard’s males extricate themselves, then cost in direction of the Caen Canal bridge.

12.19: In the meantime, two different gliders have landed. The boys inside handle to safe the opposite bridge — over the River Orne — with out firing a shot. Partly it is because the 2 bridge sentries — a conscripted Pole and one other soldier — are in a close-by brothel. Realising ultimately that one thing is amiss, they pull on their uniforms and run out into the road. Then they let off all their ammunition to present their German superiors the impression they’ve been in a firefight.

12.21: Platoon commander Lieutenant Dennis Fox, who has damaged his arm, has discovered three Germans quick asleep of their dugouts, their rifles neatly stacked close by. When he tries to wake them, they swear at him, pondering it’s a joke, and return to sleep.

12.26: Each bridges are actually safe, at a value to the British unit of two lifeless and 14 wounded. Any German tanks coming from round Calais will now must go by way of Caen, which is a six-hour detour. Air Chief Marshal Leigh-Mallory will name this glider operation the best flying feat of World Warfare II.

12.50: Lieutenant Colonel Terence Otway is on the door of a Dakota airplane, about to leap. As he falls, he realises he’s heading straight for the headquarters of a German battalion. Bullets begin whizzing previous him, and Otway slams into the facet of the constructing. A German soldier opens a window, solely to be met by a brick thrown by one in every of Otway’s males, who has landed within the backyard. The British paratroopers then run away as quick as they’ll.

1.00: Unusual objects are raining down over Normandy. From one airplane, a British paratrooper drops a stuffed moose’s head that he’s stolen from a pub in Exeter. A U.S. paratrooper drops a baseball on which he’s written: ‘To Hell with you, Hitler.’

1.05: By the sunshine of the moon, Colonel David Bruce — aboard the usTuscaloosa — can see scores of touchdown craft filled with seasick troops. On most of them, the sick baggage (‘Bag Vomit. For using’) have already been used, and the troops are resorting to utilizing hearth buckets and even their helmets.

1.30: Lt Col Terence Otway has arrived at an agreed rendezvous: a wooden a mile east of the Germans’ bomb-proof bunker which was bristling with weapons. Referred to as the Merville Battery, it should be knocked out earlier than the British and Canadians begin touchdown on the seaside beneath. However one thing has gone badly incorrect. Simply 120 paratroopers of the deliberate 650 have made it to the rendezvous. Later, it seems that a lot of the 32 planes carrying the ninth Battalion have dropped the parachutists and their gear within the incorrect place. That is mainly as a result of a big mud cloud — brought on by RAF bombs — has decreased visibility. Tragically, 192 males won’t ever be heard of once more — the bulk are assumed to have drowned in flooded fields and marshes.

American assault troops move onto a beachhead code-named Omaha Beach, on the northern coast of France on June 6, 1944, during the Allied invasion of the Normandy

American assault troops transfer onto a beachhead code-named Omaha Seaside, on the northern coast of France on June 6, 1944, in the course of the Allied invasion of the Normandy

US soldiers from the Army Corps of Engineers read letters on an unidentified beach captured during Operation Overlord on D-Day, France, early June 1944

US troopers from the Military Corps of Engineers learn letters on an unidentified seaside captured throughout Operation Overlord on D-Day, France, early June 1944

1.45: Non-public Ken Russell of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment has simply jumped out of a airplane. Under him, he spots a home on hearth. As he fights desperately to steer away from it, the hearth is pulling each oxygen and his parachute in direction of the burning constructing. Then, immediately, Russell hits the church steeple of Sainte-Mère-Église, his traces snagging the highest. He’s now dangling over the sting of the steeple. The identical factor occurs to 22-year-old Non-public John Steele, whose foot is shattered by a German bullet simply earlier than he hits the steeple.

1.47: A redheaded German soldier within the city sq. appears to be like up, spots Russell and Steele on the roof and lifts his machine-gun to fireplace. Straight away, Russell has minimize his parachute traces, fallen to the bottom unhurt, and run for the security of some bushes. Trying up, he sees Steele hanging lifeless from the steeple. Actually, Steele is enjoying lifeless. He’s tried to chop himself down however by accident dropped his knife into the sq.. All he can do now could be hold there and watch the Germans machine-gunning different parachutists as they land. Shut by, Non-public Ernest Blanchard is hanging from a tree within the city sq. and hacking at his harness with a knife. He drops and runs. A couple of moments later, he’ll realise that he’s minimize off the highest of his thumb.

2.00: The German troopers within the fields and villages of Normandy can hear unusual ‘click on click on’ noises. To some, they sound like castanets, to others like crickets. The U.S. paratroopers have every been given two-cent toy clickers as a means of figuring out themselves in the dead of night. One click on should be met with two clicks. It’s an eerie sound, and it’s unnerving the Germans. Nonetheless, one German patrol north of Sainte-Mère-Église has managed to spherical up 20 paratroopers by utilizing a captured clicker. Each time an American responded to a single click on, he was taken prisoner.

2.35: German medical orderly Fritz Müller is on a mercy mission, searching for wounded troops within the Normandy fields. Proper now, he’s strolling beneath bushes crammed with parachutes. Some have empty harnesses; some maintain corpses. In a clearing, Müller finds an American paratrooper mendacity immobile on the bottom, however he can’t inform if he’s lifeless or unconscious.

 Kneeling over the American is a German soldier who’s rummaging by his pockets, and making crude feedback a few image of a lady that he’s discovered within the man’s pockets. Müller yells at him to cease speaking in regards to the lady and go away the poor man alone. The soldier refuses, pulls a hoop off the paratrooper’s finger and walks away. Abruptly, there’s a gunshot and the German soldier drops down lifeless. Müller freezes, then kneels by the American parachutist, who he can now see is alive. Getting out his medical equipment, he begins treating him as finest he can.

Operation Overlord Normandy, Soldiers of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division have set up anti-aircraft guns on Juno Beach where they landed on D-Day on the outskirts of Bernieres-sur-Mer

Operation Overlord Normandy, Troopers of the third Canadian Infantry Division have arrange anti-aircraft weapons on Juno Seaside the place they landed on D-Day on the outskirts of Bernieres-sur-Mer

SAS liberation parade, after the victory in Normandy

SAS liberation parade, after the victory in Normandy

As Müller works, cigarettes begin to fall round him. Solely later does he realise that the cigarettes have been dropped by American parachutists nonetheless hanging within the bushes. It was they who’d shot the German soldier, and the cigarettes had been a thanks to Müller for defending, after which treating, their injured good friend.

2.40: At his headquarters in Paris, the person accountable for the military in France, Discipline Marshal von Rundstedt, is finding out the quite a few studies coming in from Normandy. Naval headquarters say that their radar screens are coated with lots of of blips — certainly, at first the operators thought there should be one thing incorrect with their gear. Von Rundstedt is unimpressed. ‘Perhaps a flock of seagulls?’

2.50: Lt Col Terence Otway’s endurance has been rewarded: 30 extra males have arrived on the rendezvous. Now, he has to attempt to knock out the important Merville four-gun battery defended by 200 males and surrounded by minefields and barbed wire. He takes inventory of his paltry assets: 150 males, one Vickers machine-gun, 6 Bangalore torpedoes (as an alternative of 60), a sign flare and a pigeon to ship a message to England as soon as the assault is over. All the pieces else is misplaced someplace within the countryside.

3.15: Georges Gondrée, the proprietor of a café by the Caen canal bridge, hears knocking on the door. Opening it, he finds two males with smoking Sten weapons and blackened faces. ‘Are there any Germans in the home?’ they ask in French. Gondrée says there aren’t. He’s getting nervous as a result of he can’t place the boys by their accent. There’s silence for a second, then one of many parachutists says, ‘It’s all proper, chum.’ Georges bursts into tears. They’re English! The Gondrées are the primary French household to be liberated.

102-year-old World War 2 veteran Gene Kleindl, from Rockford, Illinois, stands at the grave of his friend Ralph Gaddis at the Normandy American Cemetery on June 04, 2024

102-year-old World Warfare 2 veteran Gene Kleindl, from Rockford, Illinois, stands on the grave of his good friend Ralph Gaddis on the Normandy American Cemetery on June 04, 2024

3.40: Gondrée is now digging in his backyard to retrieve the 98 bottles of champagne that he hid in June 1940 when the Germans invaded.
His spouse Thérèse’s face is grubby from hugging and kissing so many blackened British paratroopers. She’s going to hold her face like that for 3 days, telling anybody who asks that the dust has come from British troopers and she or he’s happy with it.

3.45: At Sainte-Mère-Église, the church bell is tolling. Non-public John Steele remains to be hanging from the steeple, pretending to be lifeless. A lot of the German garrison has now pulled out, however Chief Corporal Rudolph Might and a colleague are nonetheless manning a machine-gun put up within the steeple, just some ft from Steele. They’ve assumed that the immobile parachutist should be lifeless — however now they immediately hear him mutter one thing. Might hauls Steele on to the roof, cuts off his harness with a pocket-knife and takes him prisoner. A couple of days later, Steele will handle to flee and rejoin his division. He’ll be deaf for weeks as a result of he was so near the loud ringing of the church bell.

4.00: Studies are coming in to the German normal Erich Marcks that enemy parachutists are touchdown between Rouen and Le Havre. Marcks orders the 915th Regiment to intercept them instantly. Actually, they’re dummies hooked up to parachutes, designed to tug German forces nicely away from the invasion seashores.

4.50: Outdoors the village of Saint-Côme-du-Mont, about 5 miles from Utah Seaside, males of the sixth German Paratroop Regiment are amazed to see totally different colored parachutes all around the fields. They get out their knives and begin chopping them as much as make silk scarves. Again at their base, different members of the regiment are waking as much as uncover that every one their French drivers (who had been compelled to hitch the German Military in 1940) have abandoned.

4.55: Towards big odds, Lt Col Otway and his males have captured the Germans’ Merville Battery, and now have to get out as rapidly as potential to keep away from Allied bombs. Of the 150 males who started the assault, 75 are lifeless or wounded. As nobody is aware of the secure route out of the encircling minefield, Otway asks his German POWs to paved the way. They refuse, so Otway tries a unique tactic. ‘Effectively, OK, in the event you don’t present us the best way by the mines, we’re going to begin capturing the bottom and also you’re going to lose your ft — and perhaps the mines will go up too.’ That does the trick.

5.10: Ninety-two touchdown craft are actually heading for the Normandy coast. A lot of the males are standing, as their heavy backpacks make it unattainable to take a seat down. Many are eager about what lies in retailer for them. In a single boat, a younger soldier asks the person subsequent to him: ‘Mac, when a bullet hits you, does it go all over?’ On one other, the boys are singing in honour of their colleague Sergeant Walter Geldon. As we speak is his wedding ceremony anniversary. He might be lifeless earlier than the day is out.

  • D-Day Minute By Minute by Jonathan Mayo (Octopus Publishing Group, £12.99). To order a replica for £11.69 go to or name 020 3176 2937. Free UK supply on orders over £25. Promotional worth legitimate till 31/06/2024. 

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