6 June we commemorate the remarkable cross channel landings on Normandy France 71 years ago which was the great launch by the Allies to liberate Europe and the defeat of Nazi Germany.
It seems to me that there will be ever more books and films on D-Day - the implications, individual stories, tragic events, meaningless executions, political dramas, missed opportunities, stupid decisions, astonishing achievements, reckless adventures ... this list is endless.
My aim in this article was to find some fact and statistical answers to some basic D-Day questions and in the midst of my search I discovered not only my intent, but another quite remarkable piece of trivia which I shall come to late later. A good start for anyone wanting to do this kind of research is Questions and Answers of Normandy.
D-Day basic information
The majority of troops who landed on the D-Day beaches were from the United Kingdom, Canada and the US. However, troops from many other countries participated in D-Day and the Battle of Normandy, in all the different armed services: Australia, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, France, Greece, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and Poland.
On D-Day, the Allies landed around 156,000 troops in Normandy. The American forces landed numbered 73,000: 23,250 on Utah Beach, 34,250 on Omaha Beach, and 15,500 airborne troops. In the British and Canadian sector, 83,115 troops were landed (61,715 of them British): 24,970 on Gold Beach, 21,400 on Juno Beach, 28,845 on Sword Beach, and 7900 airborne troops.
Operation Neptune involved huge naval forces, including 6,939 vessels: 1,213 naval combat ships, 4,126 landing ships and landing craft, 736 ancillary craft and 864 merchant vessels. Some 195,700 personnel were assigned to Operation Neptune: 52,889 US, 112,824 British, and 4,988 from other Allied countries.
Painstaking research by the US National D-Day Memorial Foundation figure for the Allied personnel who were killed on D-Day. They have recorded the names of individual Allied personnel killed on 6 June 1944 in Operation Overlord, and so far they have verified 2,499 American D-Day fatalities and 1,914 from the other Allied nations, a total of 4,413 dead (much higher than the traditional figure of 2,500 dead). Further research may mean that these numbers will increase slightly in future.
Losses amongst the British airborne troops are often quoted as some 600 killed or wounded, and 600 missing; 100 glider pilots also became casualties. Casualties for the US airborne were 2,499, of which 238 were deaths. The total German casualties on D-Day are not known, but are estimated as being between 4,000 and 9,000 men.
Naval losses for June 1944 included 24 warships and 35 merchantmen or auxiliaries sunk, and a further 120 vessels damaged. In April and May 1944, the Allied air forces lost nearly 12,000 men and over 2,000 aircraft in operations which paved the way for D-Day.
Across the battle lines
Over 425,000 Allied and German troops were killed, wounded or went missing during the Battle of Normandy. This figure includes over 209,000 Allied casualties, with nearly 37,000 dead amongst the ground forces and a further 16,714 deaths amongst the Allied air forces.
Of the Allied casualties, 83,045 were from 21st Army Group (British, Canadian and Polish ground forces), 125,847 from the US ground forces. The losses of the German forces during the Battle of Normandy can only be estimated. Roughly 200,000 German troops were killed or wounded.
The Allies also captured 200,000 prisoners of war (not included in the 425,000 total, above). During the fighting around the Falaise Pocket (August 1944) alone, the Germans suffered losses of around 90,000, including prisoners. During the battle, between 15,000 and 20,000 French civilians were killed, mainly as a result of Allied bombing. Thousands more fled their homes to escape the fighting.
As I noted earlier this first section was meant to be a statistical eye opener as to the mammoth undertaking to invade a continent. As an aside, the task is quite overwhelming, and we have since discovered the Japanese did not seriously consider invading Australia for this very same reason.
D of the D-Day – the code
The "D" is derived from the word "Day". "D-Day" means the day on which a military operation begins. The term "D-Day" has been used for many different operations, but it is now generally only used to refer to the Allied landings in Normandy on 6 June 1944.
When a military operation is being planned, its actual date and time is not always known exactly. The term "D-Day" was therefore used to mean the date on which operations would begin, whenever that was to be. The day before D-Day was known as "D-1", while the day after D-Day was "D+1", and so on.
This meant that if the projected date of an operation changed, all the dates in the plan did not also need to be changed. This actually happened in the case of the Normandy Landings. D-Day in Normandy was originally intended to be on 5 June 1944, but at the last minute bad weather delayed it until the following day.
What we see here is that the D represents a code.
So too with early Christians
As I pondered on this idea I recalled how the early Christians used several such codes as 'followers of the way' when persecuted and one of these was the sign of a fish – in Greek the acronym spelt out Christ. So too was a Falcon.
The falcon is a symbol of liberty, freedom, and victory. Therefore, it also symbolises hope to all those who are in bondage whether moral, emotional, or spiritual. In Christianity, wild falcons represents the unconverted Gentile, as well as sinful thoughts and deeds.
The tamed falcons symbolises the Christian convert with his lofty thoughts, hopes, and aspirations. On the tours we lead with InnerFaith Travel to the early church sites in Turkey such Falcon carvings can be readily seen.
Yes there had to be a D-Day. 71 years ago D-Day 6 June was unveiled as the greatest sea invading armada of all time and it too bought liberty, freedom and victory to the free world and that we might worship the Lord in such freedom. Our vigilance today represents those same ideals we need to address this constantly to our elected politicians. They forget, if we were over run by an enemy / ideology, they'd be the first one lined and dispatched.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html