Friday, June 5, 2009

June 4, 1944

So today, of course, marks the sixty-fifth anniversary of one of the most significant military operations in history-- the D-Day landings, by the Allied forces, on the beaches of northern France.

Involving nearly 300,000 men from Canada, the U.S., Britain, and members of the French resistance, the attack took place along fifty miles of beaches, and was the successful beginning to pushing the German army back across France.

In addition to arial bombardment and naval shelling of key positions, the ground assault happened along Utah, Omaha, Juno, Gold, and Sword beaches, with the Canadian forces being concentrated on Juno (hence the name of the music award).

Here's what Wikipedia has to say: "The Canadian forces that landed on Juno Beach faced 14 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 of Canadian attack suffered 50% casualties, the second highest of the five D-Day beachheads.

Despite the obstacles, the Canadians were off the beach within hours and beginning their advance inland... The Canadians were the only units to reach their D-Day objectives, although most units fell back a few kilometres to strengthen defensive positions.

By the end of D-Day, 15,000 Canadians had been successfully landed, and the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division had penetrated further into France than any other Allied force."

The anniversary of this event was marked today with veterans from both sides of the conflict gathering on the beaches to meet, swap stories, and remember their fallen comrades.

1-- Bény-Sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetary, Normandy, France, containing the graves of all the Canadians killed at Normandy, plus four British soldiers and one French resistance fighter.
2--D-Day, the Assault, by Orville Fisher. (Canadian War Museum).
3--Canadian troops landing, Juno Beach. (Nat. Archives of Canada)

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