Preparations for Operation Overlord, the largest military invasion in history, had been underway since 1942.
In the fall of 1943, the North African Campaign was over. Italy had surrendered and German Army units that had been defeated at Ortona and Rome retreated to their European strongholds. Now was the time to free Western Europe from the Nazi scourge that had occupied France, Belgium and Holland.
Operation Overlord, the largest military invasion in history, was about to get underway. Years of assault training had been undertaken based on the lessons of the attempted Dieppe invasion. Thousands of tanks, trucks, artillery, guns and equipment were marshalled in southern English ports for loading in preparation for the D Day landings.
Floating piers, rocket and artillery batteries, amphibious tanks and bulldozers designed to clear beach obstacles and mines, as well as massive fire support from both air and sea, were moved into position to be taken to France.
Frantic preparations were undertaken to move this equipment, while at the same time maintain absolute secrecy, a very difficult undertaking, but the Allied Armies, including Canada’s, pulled it off with only minor glitches.
The Normandy Invasion
The choice of the assault area had been determined by the Allied High Command lead by General Dwight Eisenhower. It was agreed that the D Day landing target would be the Normandy beaches between Cherbourg and Le Havre. After a twenty four hour postponement due to bad weather over the English Channel, Gen. Eisenhower gave the order. After hearing the last comments from his advisors, he said simply; "Okay, we’ll go."
Thus, the decision was made, 5,300 ships and landing craft would put to sea carrying 1,500 tanks, 150,000 soldiers and all their equipment ashore. In addition, 12,000 planes were assigned to cover the assault on the Normandy shore on the 6 June 1944. Canada’s involvement in the Normandy invasion was extensive.
Our contribution was 110 Royal Canadian navy vessels, 16 RCAF fighter squadrons and the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division consisting of approximately 14,500 soldiers. Canada, along with her British and American allies, was about to face the toughest, most professional military machine in history.
A Canadian Soldier’s Thoughts on D Day
"My God; finally, we’re going to fight the Germans! I’m so tired of training; I thought we would never meet the enemy! God, this landing craft rocks back and forth so badly, I think I’m going to be sea sick.
I'm so excited, I can hardly think. I'm anxious to meet the enemy, but I hear that the German soldiers are tough and terrible. What if I'm the first to get killed? I’m glad I spoke to the Padre last night. My God, if I do get shot, will I survive? I’d rather die quickly than suffer in pain. I know we are doing what’s right. I know that we must stop the Germans from invading any more countries, but what am I doing here?
Maybe I should have stayed home in Canada. Maybe I'll never see my Mom and Dad again. God, I miss them so much! I mustn’t think of this any more. I must only concentrate on the battle to come. I'll stay near my buddies Johnny and Mike. We'll look out for each other. I know they'll watch out for me!
I love those guys! I must not show my fear. They would be disappointed in me if I'm afraid. I better pay attention. The Platoon Sergeant is coming to give us our last minute instructions and I can see the coast of France in the distance. I've got to find Johnny and Mike because the time is getting near. Lord, please help me to be brave and not let them down!"