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Extra resources for D-Day: Operation Overlord and the Battle for Normandy

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D-DAY – OVERLORD 43 THE NORTHERN COAST OF FRANCE Operation The Allied landings on D-Day, June 6, 1944 44 D-DAY – OVERLORD Overlord D-DAY – OVERLORD 45 CHAPTER 8 ‘To hell with it, let’s get cracking’ The airborne assault While seemingly endless lines of Allied warships, troopships and landing craft steadily threaded their way through holes made in the offshore minefields meant to protect the French coast, hundreds of transport aircraft sped through the dark skies overhead. Before dawn broke on D-Day, Allied paratroopers were already causing chaos behind enemy lines… G etting troops in behind the Atlantic Wall to prevent or delay German reinforcements from reaching the landing zone was deemed an essential part of the Overlord plan from its earliest days as a COSSAC project in 1943.

The two main types of front line assault landing craft used on D-Day were the British Landing Craft Assault (LCA) and American LCVP (Landing Craft Vehicle, Personnel) or ‘Higgins Boat’. However, the Americans had another highly successful landing craft which saw action during the Pacific campaign but which simply wasn’t used on D-Day. The Landing Vehicle Tracked (LVT) or ‘Amtrac’ could only carry 18 fully equipped soldiers – half the number that the Higgins boat could manage – but it was amphibious.

The bridges were separated by a 1650ft strip of marshy ground strewn with ditches and small streams. The Bénouville bridge, defended by a trio of machine gun positions on the Caen side and one on the central strip, was the smaller of the two at just 190ft across, compared to the Ranville bridge’s 350ft. The Ranville bridge was more lightly defended with nothing on the central strip and a single pillbox with anti-tank and antiaircraft guns on the eastern bank. To its north were two machine guns.

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