November 17, 2010

Great Polish Composer Henryk Gorecki Dies

Famous Polish composer Henryk Górecki died in Katowice on November 12, 2010. He was 76.  Gorecki received international acclaim for his works, in particular, Symphony No. 3, Opus 36, also known as the Symphony of Sorrowful Songs. He wrote it to commemorate the murdered victims of the Holocaust.  It is a masterpiece of musical genius in which Gorecki seems to have woven the souls of humanity amidst melodic notes too sorrowful for any language to express. It is a treasure that will endure through time.

The "Symphony of Sorrowful Songs" (Symfonia pieśni żałosnych) was arranged in three movements, for orchestra and solo soprano. The libretto for the first movement was taken from a 15th century lament,  the second movement used the words of a teenage girl, Helena Błażusiak, which were written on the wall of a Gestapo prison cell in Zakopane to invoke the protection of the Virgin Mary.  The third movement used the lyrics of a Silesian folk song about the pain of a mother searching for a son killed in the Silesian uprisings. The first and third movements were written from the perspective of a parent who lost a child while the second movement is about a child separated his parent. The Symphony became an international success, both critically and commercially and sold more than a million copies. No other 20th-century composer had ever exceeded it even during a lifetime of recordings.

Among the many awards and honours bestowed on Gorecki was also an Honorary Doctorate from Concordia University, in  Montreal, Canada.  Concordia Professor Wolfgang Bottenberg described him as one of the "most renowned and respected composers of our time", and stated that Górecki's music "represents the most positive aspects of the closing years of our century, as we try to heal the wounds inflicted by the violence and intolerance of our times. It will endure into the next millennium and inspire other composers". In 2008, Gorecki received another Honorary Doctorate from the Music Academy in Krakow. At the awarding ceremony a selection of the composer's choral works was performed by the choir of the city's Franciscan Church.

David Zinman, Conductor, and Dawn Upshaw, Soprano

"I do not choose my listeners. What I mean is, I never write for my listeners. I think about my audience, but I am not writing for them. I have something to tell them, but the audience must also put a certain effort into it. But I never wrote for an audience and never will write for because you have to give the listener something and he has to make an effort in order to understand certain things. If I were thinking of my audience and one likes this, one likes that, one likes another thing, I would never know what to write. Let every listener choose that which interests him. I have nothing against one person liking Mozart or Shostakovich or Leonard Bernstein, but doesn't like Górecki. That's fine with me. I, too, like certain things."

Polish composer Henryk Górecki dies, aged 76
Biography of Henryk Gorecki, and music videos (on website of Polish Greatness)

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November 11, 2010



Remembrance Day - The Last Post

In Flanders Fields

Polish Soldiers in WW2

America At War - A Tribute To Sacrifice

Remembrance Day Tribute to Canadian Forces

Remembrance Day - For the ANZACS


November 10, 2010


(1/5) Timewatch Battle for Warsaw World War II (10:01m)

(2/5) Timewatch Battle for Warsaw World War II (10:00m)

(3/5) Timewatch Battle for Warsaw World War II (10:01m)

(4/5) Timewatch Battle for Warsaw World War II (10:01m)

(5/5) Timewatch Battle for Warsaw World War II (08:23m)

Since the end of the September Campaign of 1939, the Polish Underground was already planning for an uprising against the German occupiers. It was to begin only once the Allies were approaching Warsaw, and when Germany's defeat was imminent. Poland's freedom and independence relied entirely on Allied support and cooperation and the Polish government-in-exile had no doubt that the British government was true to its word. According to the Agreement between the two countries, signed on August 25, 1939, both pledged to provide one another with all their support in the event of hostilities from another Power.

The Polish government-in-exile made numerous attempts to confer with Britain on laying the groundwork for a future offensive. Churchill gave the Poles every assurance that Britain would defend Poland at the crucial time. But unbeknownst to the Polish government, England had a hidden agenda. A British Chiefs of Staff report disapproved of any military action taken by Poland because, " it would be politically unacceptable [for Poland] to undertake any such measures without the approval and cooperation of Russia." Furthermore the report made a recommendation that this policy not be mentioned to Poland.

The Home Army sent frequent messages to London requesting that Polish military units be deployed to Warsaw, including their own 1st Polish Independent Parachute Brigade. Britain had control of almost all Polish military troops on land, sea, and air. The Polish request was denied. Churchill applied considerable pressure on the Polish government to give their consent to deploy the Parachute Brigade for battle in the D-Day operations. In exchange, Churchill promised that England would provide assistance in the Uprising, and make “every effort to find aircraft to transport the brigade to Poland.

On August 1, at 5:00 p.m. over 50,000 Polish underground fighters, under the command of Colonel Monter began conducting assaults on German positions, simultaneously all over Warsaw. Only 10% of the Home Army was sufficiently armed. They had the support and cooperation of numerous other underground regiments: the National Armed Forces (NSZ), the Polish People's Army (PAL), the People's Army (AL), and the Security Corps (KB), in addition to numerous partisan groups. Facing them was the German Wermacht comprising 70,000 soldiers backed by bombers and tanks. Before August 3, the Polish fighters successfully captured a series of complexes in Warsaw's most important boroughs: Srodmiescie, Powisle, part of Czerniakow, Zoliborz, Mokotow, the Old Town, Wola, Sadyba, and parts of Ochota and Praga. The Poles made significant advances but could not overtake all the German
strongholds for lack of ammunition.

On August 3, Stalin promised the Polish Prime Minister Wladyslaw Mikolajczyk that the Red Army would fight the Germans if the uprising would last for at least 6 days. The Uprising lasted for all of 63 days, but the Soviets did nothing to help the Polish fighters.

On August 8 and 9, Churchill pressured Air Marshal Slessor to resume flights, but this time using only Polish crews. The drops were successful and throughout the next week 90 more Polish, British, and South African crews flew over the Warsaw area dropping supplies and ammunition. But by the end of the week it was too late. The Germans had reinforced their anti-aircraft defenses. Seventeen of the ninety planes were shot down, others were severely damaged. Many of the supplies that were air dropped, landed in German-controlled areas. British Command denied further requests by Polish airmen to fly to Warsaw.

Polish Home Army Captured Germans
Polish insurgents capture German tank

The fiercest battle took place in the Old Town (Stare Miasto), where German troops used rail-mounted howitzers. In only two weeks of battle, more than 4,000 tons of German bombs were dropped on an area no larger than 3/4 square mile. From August 19 onward, Germans attached the Old Town, but were not able to recapture it until September 2.

News of the devastation on Warsaw and its people did not reach the West.

While the Poles were in the midst of the most hellish of battles, the world was celebrating the liberation of Paris. Churchill had put a publicity ban on all media during the Uprising. Later, he denounced the press for having maintained silence. He lied to the public about the true nature of the Soviet Union, and promoted the Polish people as trouble-makers, and the Soviets as good-natured saviours. Roosevelt was equally deceptive. Of the nine press conferences that he held, he did not mention one word about the Uprising. When the news about the Uprising leaked out to the Press near the end of August, Roosevelt claimed that he didn’ t know much about it. 

Over 100 American planes dropped 1,350 canisters over Warsaw, filled with ammunition, food and medicine but many of the canisters drifted into German occupied zones and were confiscated by the Nazis. The AK managed to receive only 20% of the supplies. Britain and the U.S. treated this so-called "rescue mission" as a great success and praised Stalin for his collaboration. The public was not aware of the situation.

Stalin also sent supplies to Warsaw, albeit for propaganda purposes. The canisters however were hurled out of the planes without parachutes so that when they hit the ground, their contents were smashed to pieces. It was deliberate sabotage of the worst depths of human depravity.

No military reinforcements were dispatched. The British continued to stone-wall, claiming that "no transports could be spared". They did have transport available but they sent the 1st Polish Independent Parachute Brigade to fight in Operation Market Garden - a battle that turned out to be a suicide mission. It resulted in the slaughter of the Parachute Brigade.
General Sosabowski had previously warned the Allies not to embark on this mission but it fell on deaf ears. He turned out to be right. Irregardless, British Command targeted Sosabowski as a scapegoat and blamed him for the debacle. He was then released from command.

On September 19, the Russian troops began firing on the Germans, driving them westward.  As the Germans retreated, they used flamethrowers to destroy whatever was left standing in Warsaw.  Within days the Red Army captured Warsaw.

On October 3, 1944, at 8:00 p.m., General Bor Komorowski signed the surrender at German headquarters. The Warsaw Uprising, which lasted for 63 days, came to an end.

Old Town after Uprising

The total number of AK killed in the Warsaw Uprising was 62,000. From 200,000 to 300,000 civilians were massacred. Ninety per cent of Warsaw was in complete ruin. The combattant strength was almost at par - 40,000 men on each side. German casualties were 26,000 and Polish casualties, 22,200. The Germans lost 310 tanks armored cars and artillery, and 340 trucks and cars.

Click here for Complete Index

Suggested Links:
Warsaw Uprising
Poland in Exile Warsaw Uprising
Polish Greatness


Stanisław Sosabowski: Niepokorny generał 

Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade

The Battle of Arnhem code-named Operation Market Garden was fought in The Netherlands from September 7 to 25, 1944 by Allied forces of the United Kingdom, United States, Free Polish, Dutch Resistance, and Canada. It called for the seizure of bridges across the Meuse River and two arms of the Rhine (the Waal and the Lower Rhine) as well as several smaller canals and tributaries. The Allies hoped that by crossing the Lower Rhine that they would outflank the Siegfried Line and encircle the Ruhr, Germany's industrial heartland.

The Operation was the largest airborne operation in history, delivering over 34,600 men of the 101st, 82nd and 1st Airborne Divisions and the Polish Brigade.  Over 2,000 transport aircraft and 478 gliders including the famous Polish 303 Squadron set off as an airborne armada to breach the western defences and open up the German plains for the final assault on Berlin.  14,589 troops were landed by glider and 20,011 by parachute. Gliders also brought in 1,736 vehicles and 263 artillery pieces. 3,342 tons of ammunition and other supplies were brought by glider and parachute drop.

C-47s Loading

Allied High Command were convinced that German resistance had broken as most of the German Fifteenth Army was withdrawing without sign of any Panzergruppen. Allied Command assessed that the XXX Corps would face only a limited resistance along Highway 69. (The German army had suffered heavy losses and a string of defeats between June 6 and August 14: 23,019 killed in action, 198,616 missing or taken prisoner and 67,240 wounded.)

However, German Command was receiving intelligence reports of a planned Allied attack and intensified their positions with reinforcements. By September 16th, Panzer divisions were mobilizing towards Nijmegen and Arnhem. British intelligence detected an increase in movements and relayed the information to senior Allied Commanders, but the news was not passed further down the chain of command. On September 10, General Eisenhower immediately sent his Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Walter Bedell Smith, to raise the issue with Montgomery but Montgomery refused to change the plans for the landing of 1st Airborne Division at Arnhem.

Major Brian Urquhart, the Chief Intelligence Officer of the Allied Division attempted to intervene and arranged an emergency meeting with Browning to apprise him of the present danger to the men of the 1st Airborne Division, but was rebuffed. Browning had subsequently ordered the senior medical officer of the division to send Urquhart on sick leave on the grounds of "nervous strain and exhaustion." Aerial photographs of Arnhem taken by reconnaissance confirmed the location of German Panzer Divisions.

General Sosabowski’s rebuff and criticism of the plans for Market Garden set the tone of a long campaign under Browning’s direction to discredit the Polish contribution and undermine the leadership of Sosabowski.
Left: Polish General Sosabowski and Gen. Browning

Initially Operation Market Garden opened with Allied success all round. On September 17, the first landing, almost all troops arrived on top of their drop zones without incident. In the 82nd Airborne Division, 89% of troops landed on or within 1,000 metres (3,300 ft) of their drop zones and 84% of gliders landed on or within 1,000 metres (3,300 ft) of their landing zones. In the south the 101st met little resistance and captured four of five bridges. To their north the 82nd arrived and the small group dropped near Grave took the bridge in a rush. They also succeeded in capturing one of the vitally important bridges over the Maas-Waal canal, the lock-bridge at Heumen

The 1st Airborne Division landed at 13:30 without serious incident but problems associated with the poor plan began soon after.

Only half of the Division arrived with the First Lift and only half of these (1st Parachute Brigade) could advance on the bridge. The remaining troops had to defend the drop zones overnight for the arrival of the Second Lift on the following day. Thus the Division's primary objective had to be tackled by less than half a brigade. While the paratroopers marched eastwards to Arnhem, the Reconnaissance Squadron was to race to the bridge in their jeeps and hold it until the rest of the Brigade arrived. The unit set off to the bridge late and having travelled only a short distance the vanguard was halted by a strong German defensive position; the squadron could make no further progress.

This had grave consequences. Five hours after the initial landing, feeling that the British were tied down in Arnhem, the Reconnaissance Battalion of the 9th Waffen-SS Panzer Division was able to cross the Arnhem bridge and drive to Nijmegen and the bridge over the Waal branch of the Rhine. No British airborne unit was at the bridge.

Two of the three battalions of the 1st Parachute Brigade were slowed down by small German units of a training battalion which had quickly established a thin blocking line covering the obvious routes into Arnhem. Lieutenant-Colonel John Frost's 2nd Battalion, advancing eastwards along the southernmost road into Arnhem near the Rhine, found its route largely undefended. They arrived at the bridge in the evening and set up defensive positions at the north end. Two attempts to capture the arched steel bridge and its southern approach failed. Of the other battalions, the 3rd had only covered half the distance to the bridge when they halted for the night, the rear of their column being under attack and needing time to catch up. The 1st Battalion was similarly fragmented, yet pushed on around the flank of the German line throughout the night. Frequent skirmishes resulted in their making little more progress.

The 1st and 3rd Parachute Battalions pushed towards the Arnhem bridge during the early hours of September 18 and made good progress but they were frequently halted in skirmishes as soon as it became light.  By the end of the day the 1st and 3rd Parachute Battalions had entered Arnhem and were within 2 km (1 mile) of the bridge with approximately 200 men, one-sixth their original strength. Most of the officers and non-commissioned officers had been killed, wounded or captured. The Second Lift was delayed by fog and jumped onto a landing zone under heavy attack but landed at full strength (the 4th Parachute Brigade consisting of the 10th, 11th and 156th Battalions of the Parachute Regiment, commanded by Brigadier-General John Winthrop Hackett) and C and D Companies of the 2nd South Staffordshire Regiment.

During the early morning hours of September 19, the 1st Parachute Brigade began its attack towards Arnhem Bridge, with the 1st Battalion leading supported by remnants of the 3rd Battalion, with the 2nd South Staffordshires on the 1st Battalion's left flank and the 11th Battalion following. As soon as it became light the 1st Battalion was spotted and halted by fire from the main German defensive line. Trapped in open ground and under heavy fire from three sides, the 1st Battalion disintegrated and what remained of the 3rd Battalion fell back. The 2nd South Staffordshires were similarly cut off and, save for about 150 men, overcome by midday. The 11th Battalion, (which had stayed out of much of the fighting) was then overwhelmed in exposed positions while attempting to capture high ground to the north. With no hope of breaking through, the 500 remaining men of these four battalions withdrew westwards in the direction of the main force, 5 km (3 miles) away in Oosterbeek.

The 2nd Battalion and attached units (approximately 600 men) were still in control of the northern approach ramp to the Arnhem bridge. The Germans recognized that they would not be moved by infantry attacks such as those that had been bloodily repulsed on the previous day so instead they heavily shelled the short British perimeter with mortars, artillery and tanks; systematically demolishing each house to enable their infantry to exploit gaps and dislodge the defenders. Although in battle against enormous odds, the British clung to their positions and much of the perimeter was held.

September 20: British positions around the north end of Arnhem bridge had weakened considerably. Casualties, mostly wounded, were high from constant shelling. An acute lack of ammunition especially anti-tank munitions, enabled enemy armour to demolish British positions from point-blank range. Food, water and medical supplies were scarce, and so many buildings were on fire and in such serious danger of collapse that a two-hour truce was arranged to evacuate the wounded.

At Arnhem the British 1st Airborne Division met far stronger resistance than anticipated. When ground forces failed to relieve them in time, they were overrun on the 21st. The rest of the division were trapped in a small pocket west of the bridge and had to be evacuated on the 25th. The Allies had failed to cross the Rhine in sufficient force. It remained a barrier to Allied advance until March 1945. The failure of Market Garden ended Allied expectations of finishing the war in 1944.

101st Airborne Division

82nd Airborne Division

British Troops of the 1st Airborne Emplaning

Polish Paratroopers

Aerial View of Glider Landings Arnhem

British XXX Corps cross bridge at Nijmegen

The Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade under the command of Major-General Stanislaw Sosabowski entered the battle on the afternoon of September 21st. Two of the brigade's three battalions were caught in the midst of heavy German gun fire opposite the 1st Airborne Division's position on a new drop zone south of the Rhine near the village of Driel. Furthermore, badly coordinated drops by the RAF resulted in supplies landing 15 km (9 miles) off target on the opposite side of the Rhine.

Polish Soldiers at Driel
September 22 " Black Friday"  The Germans shelled and mortared the airborne positions heavily. By the end of the battle over 110 guns had been brought to Oosterbeek.. Attacks were limited, conducted against specific positions and even individual houses. The survivors of the 1st Airborne were outnumbered 4 to 1.

The Polish 1st Parachute Brigade at Driel, unable to cross the Rhine, nonetheless forced a redeployment of German forces. Fearing a Polish attempt to recapture Arnhem bridge or, worse, an attempt to cut the road to the south and so trap the 10th SS Panzer Division then blocking the route of the Guards Armoured Division to Arnhem, the Germans withdrew 2,400 troops from Oosterbeek. They were moved south of the river to engage the Polish paratroopers at Driel, making attacks to little effect through the day.

Lacking assault craft, British and Polish engineers on both sides of the Rhine had labored throughout the day to improvise a crossing using small boats linked by signals cable, but the cable kept breaking. An unsuccessful attempt was made that night to move Polish troops across the river. They resorted to slowly rowing across the strong current which brought them under enemy fire.

Of the 8th Polish Parachute Company, only 52 soldiers survived the crossing.

Though much of the corridor was firmly in Allied hands, German counterattacks were still being mounted along its length. During the previous night, two mixed armoured formations on either side of Highway 69 attacked between Veghel and Grave; one group managed to cut the highway and prevent any further advance to Arnhem.

September 23 The Germans had figured out what the Poles were attempting to do and they spent the rest of the day trying to cut off the British in their northern bridgehead from the riverside. The British managed to hold on and both sides suffered heavy losses. The Germans also attacked the Poles on the south side in order to tie them down but several tanks arrived from XXX Corps and they were beaten off. Boats and engineers from the Canadian army also arrived that day and another river crossing that night landed 150 troops of the Polish 3rd Parachute Battalion on the north bank of the Rhine.

September 24 Another German unit cut the road to the south of Veghel and set up defensive positions for the night. It was not clear to the Allies at this point how much of a danger this represented but the principal objective of Operation Market Garden, i.e. the Allied crossing of the Rhine, was abandoned this day and the decision made to go over to the defensive with a new front line in Nijmegen. Nonetheless, an attempt was made on Sunday night to reinforce the 1st Airborne Division with the 4th Battalion, The Dorsetshire Regiment. Two companies were put across the river but the location of the crossing point was ill-advised and the Dorsets landed among German positions. Fragmented by their landing and immediately pinned down, of the 315 men who crossed only 75 reached Oosterbeek; the remainder were taken prisoner. As a result of this failure, it was decided to withdraw the 1st Airborne Division from its bridgehead on the northern side of the Rhine.

September 25 The 1st Airborne Division received orders to withdraw across the Rhine. They could not do so until nightfall, and in the meantime struggled to survive.  Meanwhile the Germans formed two potent SS battlegroups and made a significant thrust along a narrow front in the eastern sector. They were able to break through and for some time the Allied division was in peril. The attack met with increasing resistance as it pushed deeper into the British lines and was finally broken up by a heavy bombardment of the 64th Medium Regiment.

Employing every ruse to give the Germans the impression that their positions were unchanged, the 1st Airborne Division began its withdrawal at 22:00. British and Canadian engineer units ferried the troops across the Rhine, covered by the Polish 3rd Parachute Battalion on the north bank. By early the next morning they had withdrawn 2,398 survivors, leaving 300 men to surrender on the north bank at first light, when German fire prevented their rescue.

Of approximately 10,600 men of the 1st Airborne Division and other units who fought north of the Rhine, 1,485 were killed and 6,414 were taken prisoner of whom one third were wounded.

To the south the newly-arrived 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division attacked the Germans holding the highway and secured it by the next day. Allied positions in the Nijmegen Salient were manned throughout the rest of September and October by airborne units, then handed over to the First Canadian Army in November 1944 and remained unchanged until February 1945 when Operation Veritable was launched on the Rhineland, advancing east instead of north towards Arnhem.

British 1st Parachute Battalion

After having failed to establish a bridgehead across the Rhine, the Allies launched offensives on two fronts in the south of the Netherlands in order to secure shipping in the port of Antwerp;  advancing northwards and westwards taking the Scheldt Estuary in the Battle of the Scheldt. They also advanced eastwards in Operation Aintree in order to secure the banks of the Meuse as a natural boundary for the established salient. This attack on the German bridgehead west of the Meuse near Venlo was for the Allies an unexpectedly protracted affair, which included the Battle of Overloon.

Nijmegen after battle September 28, 1944

In February 1945, Allied forces in Operation Veritable advanced from the Groesbeek heights which had been taken during Market Garden, and into Germany crossing the Rhine in March during Operation Plunder. Arnhem was finally liberated by I Canadian Corps on April 14, 1945 after two days of fighting. A surrender of the remaining German forces in the west of the Netherlands was signed on May 5.

People of the Dutch resistance helping to find Germans and guide the Allies in the fields

A tragic consequence of Operation Market Garden was the Hongerwinter (Hungerwinter). During the battle Dutch railway workers, encouraged by the Dutch government in London, went on strike with the intention of helping the Allied assault. In retaliation Germany blocked the transportation of food and in the following winter thousands of Dutch citizens starved to death.


sources:  Wikipedia 

November 9, 2010


THE INVASION OF NORMANDY, or D-Day (also known as Operation Overload) began on Tuesday, June 6, 1944 at 6:30 A.M. The assault was carried out in two phases: by air, landing 24,000 British, American, and Free French troops shortly after midnight, and by amphibious landing of Allied infantry and armoured divisons. In all 175,000 troops were engaged in the assault.  Meanwhile the Allies created decoy operations  code-named Operation Glimmer and Operation Taxable, meant to distract the Germans from the real landing area.

D-DAY June 6, 1944 (03:15m)

Operation Overland was the largest amphibious invasion of all time with over 160,000 troops, 195,700 Allied naval and merchant navy personnel combined in an armada of over 5,000 ships.  Massive numbers of soldiers, and materiel from the UK were transported by troop-laden aircraft, ships, the assault landings, air support, naval interdiction of the English Channel and naval fire-support. The landings took place along a 50-mile (80 km) stretch of the Normandy coast divided into five sectors: the beaches of UTAH, OMAHA, GOLD, JUNO and SWORD.

For the amphibious landings to succeed the allies had to establish a secure lodgement from which to expand the beachhead in order to permit the build up of a well-supplied force capable of breaking out. The amphibious forces were especially vulnerable to strong enemy counterattacks.  In an effort to destroy the enemy's ability to reorganize and launch counterattacks, the Allies relied on airborne operations to seize key objectives such as bridges, road crossings, in particular on the eastern and western flanks of the landing areas. The airborne landings were made some distance behind the beaches and were meant to ease the advance of amphibious forces along the beaches - in addition to neutralizing German coastal defence batteries. Thus the Allies would more quickly expand the area of the beachhead.

Airborne Operations

The British 6th  Airborne Division had the mission to (a) to capture intact the bridges of the Bénouville-Ranville crossing, (b) to defend the crossing against the inevitable armoured counter-attacks, (c) to destroy German artillery at the Merville battery, which threatened Sword Beach, and (d) to destroy five bridges over the Dives River to further restrict movement of ground forces from the east.

The British Airborne troops consisted of paratroopers of the 3rd and 5th Parachute Brigades, as well as from the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion. They began landing after midnight, June 6th and immediately encountered elements of the German 716th Infantry Division. At dawn, the Battle Group von Luck of the 21st Panzer Division counterattacked from the south on both sides of the Orne River. By this time the paratroopers had established a defensive perimeter surrounding the bridgehead. Casualties were heavy on both sides, but the airborne troops held. Shortly after noon, they were reinforced by commandos of the 1st Special Service Brigade. By the end of D-Day, 6th Airborne had accomplished each of its objectives. For several days, both British and German forces took heavy casualties as they battled fiercely for positions around the Orne bridgehead.  On June 10th the German 346th Infantry Division broke through the eastern edge of the defensive line but two days later the British paratroopers were able to overwhelm the entrenched panzergrenadiers in the Battle of Bréville. After that the Germans did not pose a threat to the bridgehead again.

The U.S. 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions were less fortunate in completing their main objectives. In order to achieve surprise, the Allies had to make massive drops were made approaching Normandy from the west during the night. As a result, 45% of the troops were widely scattered and unable to rally. This tactic was not used again for the rest of the war.

Three regiments of 101st Airborne paratroopers were dropped first, followed by the 82nd Airborne.. Each operation involved approximately 400 C-47 aircraft. Two pre-dawn glider landings brought in anti-tank guns and support troops for each division. On the evening of D-Day two additional glider landings brought in two battalions of artillery and 24 howitzers to the 82nd Airborne. Additional glider operations on 7 June delivered the 325th Glider Infantry Regiment to the 82nd Airborne, and two large supply parachute drops that date were ineffective.

After 24 hours only a third of the force dropped. The dispersal of the American airborne troops, however, had the effect of confusing the Germans and fragmenting their response.  Moreover, the Germans' defensive flooding also helped to protect the Americans' southern flank.

Paratroopers continued to roam and fight behind enemy lines for days. Many consolidated into small groups, rallied with NCOs or junior officers, and usually were a hodgepodge of men from different companies, battalions, regiments, or even divisions. The 82nd occupied the town of Sainte-Mère-Église early in the morning of June 6th, giving it the claim of the first town liberated in the invasion.


The assault on Sword Beach began at about 03:00 with an aerial bombardment of the German coastal defences and artillery sites. The naval bombardment began a few hours later. At 07:30, the first units reached the beach. These were the DD tanks of 13th/18th Hussars followed closely by the infantry of 8th Brigade.

The regular British infantry came ashore and suffered light casualties. Although they were able to advance about 8 kilometres (5 mi) by the end of the day, they did not achieve some of the targets established by Montgomery.  Caen, a major objective, was still in German hands by the end of the day and would remain so until mid July.

1st Special Service Brigade, under the command of Brigadier The Lord Lovat DSO, MC, went ashore in the second wave led by No.4 Commando with the two French Troops first. The 1st Special Service Brigade's landing is famous for having been led by Piper Bill Millin.

The British and French of No.4 Commando had separate targets in Ouistreham: the French, a blockhouse and the Casino, the British, two German batteries which overlooked the beach. The blockhouse proved too strong for the Commandos' PIAT (Projector Infantry Anti Tank) weapons, but the Casino was taken with the aid of a Centaur tank. The British Commandos achieved both battery objectives only to find the gun mounts empty and the guns removed. Leaving the mopping-up procedure to the infantry, the Commandos withdrew from Ouistreham to join the other units of their brigade (Nos.3, 6 and 45), moving inland to join-up with the 6th Airborne Division.


The Canadian forces that landed on Juno Beach faced 2 heavy batteries of 155 mm guns and 9 medium batteries of 75 mm guns, as well as machine-gun nests, pillboxes, other concrete fortifications, and a seawall twice the height of the one at Omaha Beach. The first wave suffered 50% casualties, the second highest of the five D-Day beachheads. The use of armour was successful at Juno, in some instances actually landing ahead of the infantry as intended and helping clear a path inland.

 Canadian 9th Infantry Brigade deploying in Nan White Sector D Day 1944

Canadian soldiers on Juno Beach D Day 1944

Royal Winnipeg Rifles advance inland D Day 1944

German soldiers captured by Canadian troops D Day 1944

Canadian soldiers capture German prisoners incl officers

 Corporal Victor Deblois of Le Regiment de la Chaudiere guards German prisoners
Juno Beach - D Day 1944

Despite the obstacles, the Canadians were off the beach within hours and beginning their advance inland. A single troop of four tanks managed to reach the final objective phase line, but hastily retreated, having outrun its infantry support. In particular, two fortified positions at the Douvres Radar Station remained in German hands (and would for several days until captured by British commandos), and no link had been established with Sword Beach.

By the end of D-Day, 30,000 Canadians had been successfully landed, and the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division had penetrated further into France than any other Allied force, despite having faced strong resistance at the water's edge and later counterattacks on the beachhead by elements of the German 21st and 12th SS Hitlerjugend (Hitler Youth) Panzer divisions on June 7th and 8th.


At Gold Beach, the casualties were also quite heavy, partly because the swimming Sherman DD tanks were delayed, and the Germans had strongly fortified a village on the beach. However, the 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division overcame these difficulties and advanced almost to the outskirts of Bayeux by the end of the day. With the exception of the Canadians at Juno Beach, no division came closer to its objectives than the 50th.

No.47 (RM) Commando was the last British Commando unit to land and came ashore on Gold east of La Hamel. Their task was to proceed inland then turn right (west) and make a 16-kilometre (10 mi) march through enemy territory to attack the coastal harbour of Port en Bessin from the rear. This small port, on the British extreme right, was well sheltered in the chalk cliffs and significant in that it was to be a prime early harbour for supplies to be brought in including fuel by underwater pipe from tankers moored offshore.


Elements of the 1st Infantry Division and 29th Infantry Division (US) faced the recently formed German 352nd Infantry Division, a mixed group of Russian "volunteers" and teenagers stiffened with a cadre of east front veterans, unusual in the fact that it was one of the few German divisions remaining with a full complement of three regiments albeit at reduced strength; fifty percent of its officers had no combat experience. However, Allied intelligence was unaware until two weeks before the planned invasion that the 100km stretch of beach originally allocated to be defended by the 716th Infantry Division (static) had been cut into two parts in March, with the 716th moving to the "Caen Zone", and the 352nd taking over the "Bayeux Zone", thus doubling the complement of defenders.

Omaha was also the most heavily fortified beach, with high bluffs defended by funneled mortars, machine guns, and artillery, and the pre-landing aerial and naval bombardment of the bunkers proved to be ineffective. Difficulties in navigation caused the majority of landings to drift eastwards, missing their assigned sectors and the initial assault waves of tanks, infantry and engineers took heavy casualties. Of the 16 tanks that landed upon the shores of Omaha Beach only 2 survived the landing. The official record stated that "within 10 minutes of the ramps being lowered, [the leading] company had become inert, leaderless and almost incapable of action. Every officer and sergeant had been killed or wounded [...] It had become a struggle for survival and rescue".

American survivors of sunken transport D Day
Only a few gaps were blown in the beach obstacles, resulting in problems for subsequent landings. The heavily defended draws, the only vehicular routes off the beach, could not be taken and two hours after the first assault the beach was closed for all but infantry landings. Commanders (including General Omar Bradley) considered abandoning the beachhead, but small units of infantry, often forming ad hoc groups, supported by naval artillery and the surviving tanks, eventually infiltrated the coastal defenses by scaling the bluffs between strongpoints. Further infantry landings were able to exploit the initial penetrations and by the end of the day two isolated footholds had been established. American casualties at Omaha on D-Day numbered around 5,000 out of 50,000 men, most in the first few hours, while the Germans suffered 1,200 killed, wounded or missing. The tenuous beachhead was expanded over the following days, and the original D-Day objectives were accomplished by D+3.


Casualties on Utah Beach, the westernmost landing zone, were the lightest of any beach, with 197 out of the roughly 23,000 troops that landed. The 4th Infantry Division troops landing at Utah Beach found themselves in the wrong positions because of a current that pushed their landing craft to the southeast. Instead of landing at Tare Green and Uncle Red sectors, they came ashore at Victor sector, which was lightly defended, and as a result, relatively little German opposition was encountered. The 4th Infantry Division was able to press inland relatively easily over beach exits that had been seized from the inland side by the 502nd and 506th Parachute Infantry Regiments of the 101st Airborne Division. This was partially by accident, because their planned landing was further down the beach (Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt Jr, the Asst. Commander of 4th Division, upon discovering the landings were off course, was famous for stating "We will start the war from right here.") . By early afternoon, the 4th Infantry Division had succeeded in linking up with elements of the 101st. American casualties were light, and the troops were able to press inward much faster than expected, making it a near-complete success.

The Polish Armed Forces (army, air force and navy), reinforced by compatriots released from the Soviet Union also participated in Operation Overlord. The Polish 1st Armored Division under the command of General Maczek transfered a total of  16 000 men, 380 tanks and 470 guns to France and formed part of the Canadian Corps which won the battles of Falaise and Chambois (August 18 to 22, 1944) and where it closed the “cauldron” thus cutting off the retreating German divisions. They also liberated the cities of Abeville, St. Omar and Cassel in France, as well as Ypres and Gent in Belgium and Breda (October 28 to 30, 1944) in the Netherlands, finally capturing the German seaport of Wilhelmshaven. The Division covered a route of 1800 km, destroyed 260 enemy tanks and self-propelled guns, loosing 4600 soldiers, including more than a 1000 of casualties. In September 1944 the 1st Parachute Brigade was airdropped near Arnhem in the Netherlands during Operation Market Garden and suffered great losses.

1st Polish Armoured Division

1st Polish Armed Forces Normandy
Many of Polish vessels were involved in the "D - Day": The ORP Dragon, a cruiser and four other destroyers. On 8 June 1944, ORP Błyskawica, a Grom-class destroyer took part in a battle with the German destroyers at Ushant.

Polish Destroyer ORP Blyskawica
The ORP Dragon saw action at the Normandy Landings as part of Operation Neptune, shelling German shore batteries at Colleville-sur-Orne and at Trouville (Sword Beach)from a distance of four kilometres. A near miss by a German 105mm (4 in) shore battery gun wounded three sailors. She withdrew under cover of Ramillies and Roberts, whose fire destroyed the battery. In the evening of D-Day she moved to Juno Beach sector, to support the advancing Allied troops. The following day the ship shelled German positions in and around the town of Caen. However, on June 8th a communication systems failure prevented the ship from launching further bombing. It was not until late at night that she again opened fire against the German 21st Panzer Division near Varaville. The following day she took part in an artillery duel with a shore battery at Houlgate, after which she returned to Portsmouth for refuelling and supplies. Between 12 June and 17 June she again shelled German positions near Caen, Gouneville, Lébisey and Varaville. During that time she also evaded a torpedo attack by an unknown submarine. On 18 June she was bound for Portsmouth escorting Nelson which had struck by a mine.

Polish Cruiser ORP Dragon
(June 6, 1944 to August 25, 1944) comprised of troops from many Allies:


By end of August 1944, over 2 million Allied troops were in Northern France alone.  Victory came at a heavy cost. The Allies suffered 226,386 casualties, 4,101 planes, and 4,000 tanks were lost.  Over 19,000 French civilians perished.

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