On June 6, 1944, Allied troops landed at Normandy in northern France, in a massive assault that became known as D-Day. Here are 5 shocking facts you didn’t know about this turning point in World War II…
D-Day Was the World’s Biggest Military Operation Preparations started in August 1943 when the Allies began planning for an amphibious invasion along the beaches of Normandy, France, to make a massive push against the Nazis. Initially, three divisions were planned to land at Normandy, but that number eventually grew to be much larger, with 39 Allied divisions committing to the invasion at the beach in France. By the end of the D-Day invasion on June 11, more than 160,000 Allied troops had landed, along with 104,328 tons of supplies and 54,186 vehicles, making it the largest military operation in history.
The Plans For the Invasion Were Almost Leaked to the Public Secrecy was important during the planning of the D-Day invasion, so word would not get back to the Germans. As plans for the invasion were made, the information was even kept from high ranking officers. During 1943, a draft of the planned Normandy landing was blown out a window by the wind at Norfolk House but was picked up by a passerby and returned. In another close call, three days before the invasion, a teletype operator in London was practicing her typing by composing a make-believe news release about the invasion. It was accidentally picked up by the AP and announced over 500 U.S. radio stations, but the news was quickly corrected three minutes later.
Eisenhower Wrote a Letter of Resignation in the Event the Invasion Failed. General Eisenhower had his doubts and prepared a letter of resignation and apology. Here's what it says: "Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that Bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone."
A Pigeon Named Gustav Brought the First Report of the Landing News of the Normandy invasion came by an unlikely source, a pigeon named Gustav, that carried the message strapped to its leg. The message read that troops were 20 miles away from the beaches, and the first of the assault troops had landed at 7:30 a.m. with no interference. It took Gustav five hours and 16 minutes to reach Thorney Island along the Thames River and deliver the message. For their service, that day, Gustav and three other pigeons, as well as Brian the dog, received the Dickin Medal, an animal version of the Victoria Cross.
The British Constructed a Fake Army to Fool the Germans. The Germans knew that an invasion was planned, but they didn’t know where. An elaborate ruse was put into operation so they would think the attack would be in France at Calais. A ghost army of rubber airplanes, inflatable tanks, vehicles and camps were built in Essex and Kent to throw them off. Juan Pujol Garcia, a British double agent known as Garbo, fed the news to the Germans, and it eventually reached Hitler.