D-Day and How the Weather Helped Shape the Battle of Normandy
WE REMEMBER… on this day… JUNE 6 IN 1944… when more than 160,000 Allied troops landed along a 50-mile stretch of heavily-fortified French coastline… to fight Nazi Germany on the beaches of Normandy in France.
Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower called the operation a crusade in which… “we will accept nothing less than full victory.”
More than 5,000 Ships and 13,000 aircraft supported the D-Day invasion… and by day’s end… the Allies gained a foot-hold in Continental Europe. The cost in lives on D-Day was high. More than 9,000 Allied Soldiers were killed or wounded… but their sacrifice allowed more than 100,000 Soldiers to begin the slow… hard slog across Europe… to defeat Adolph Hitler’s crack troops.
German military leaders expected an Allied invasion on the Channel coast in late May of 1944… when there was high tide… a full moon… good visibility and little wind. When it did not come… and when the weather turned in June with a depression bringing storms… they felt they could relax.
While German weather forecasters saw no possibility for invasion… Allied forecasters were frantically looking for an opening.
They found one on June 6… and on the 70th anniversary of the pivotal invasion… we're looking at how they did it.
On June 3… two meteorologists at U.S. base Widewing in England… Irving Krick and Ben Holzman… said the planned invasion on June 5 was possible.
However… teams of meteorologists at the British Admirality and the British Meteorological office… including most notably the Norwegian Sverre Petterssen… said an attempted landing would be unsafe. Chief meteorologist James Stagg persuaded General Dwight D. Eisenhower at the last moment to cancel the June 5 invasion. It's a good thing he listened… stormy weather would likely have made the landing a disaster.
But on June 4… the three teams recognized an opportunity on June 6 as one storm was leaving and another storm appeared to have stalled. This left a window of opportunity!!!
The Normandy landings were a go.
As the weather map on the left shows... clearing skies and calmer winds set up on the English Channel... which made the weather conditions better for a go.
Around midnight on the evening of June 5… the Allies began extensive aerial and naval bombardment as well as an airborne assault. The intricately coordinated attack continued in the early morning… as minesweepers cleared the channel for an invasion fleet comprising nearly 7,000 vessels.
Allied infantry and armored divisions began landing on the coast of France at 06:30. By the end of that day… they had gained a foothold in German-occupied Western Europe that proved critical to winning the war.