Operation Neptune: Images from the D-Day Invasion of Normandy:

Operation Neptune was the codename for the Allied amphibious and airborne invasion of Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944.  It was the first phase of Operation Overlord, the overall Allied plan to establish a second front in continental Europe.

The Normandy landing was the largest invasion in history, consisting of 5000 ships, 1200 planes and nearly 160,000 men. Below are some selected images of the American effort in Operation Neptune.

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Soldiers of the 1st Infantry Division head towards Omaha Beach



Airborne Assault

In the early morning hours of D-day, 13,100 American paratroopers of the 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions began landing in Normandy. Many of the paratroopers, particularly those of the 101st, were miss-dropped and landed miles away from their intended drop zones. The Germans also flooded the low fields of Normandy drowning some of the paratroopers who were weighed down by their heavy equipment.

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Bob Noody, and fellow paratroopers of Fox Company 506 Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division wait to take off for Normandy.

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Paratroopers of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division mingle with villagers from St. Marie-du-Mont



Glider Landings

American gliders landed in both pre-dawn assaults and re-supply missions conducted in the evening of D-day. Although most of the gliders landed intact and on target, one of the casualties was General Don Pratt, Assistant Division Commander of the 101st Airborne Division, killed when his glider crashed into a hedgerow after it was unable to stop on the wet tall grass of the landing zone.

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Soldiers killed in a glider crash in Normandy

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The remains of General Don Pratt’s WACO glider. The glider was named “Fighting Falcon” and was paid for by students of Greenville, MI who raised $72,000 in war bonds.

Amphibious Landings

The American amphibious landings of Operation Neptune began at 6:30am on beaches codenamed Omaha and Utah.

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Soldiers from Easy Company 16th Infantry Regiment of the 1st Infantry Division land on Omaha Beach



Utah Beach

The landing of the 4th Infantry Division on Utah Beach took an unexpected turn when strong currents pushed the invasion force 2000 yards away from its intended landing site. The 4th Infantry Division’s Assistant Commander, Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt Jr., the senior office on the beach, realized the division had caught a lucky break as the new site was not as well defended by the Germans. Roosevelt decided to “start the war from right here”, and ordered further waves to be re-directed to the new landing zone. The Americans suffered 197 casualties (killed, wounded and missing) on Utah Beach which were the lightest of all the Allied beaches. On September 28, 1944, Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt Jr. was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions on D-Day.  The award came posthumously as he had died of a heart attack on July 12, 1944.

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Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt Jr.

 

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Medics treat one of the 197 casualties on Utah Beach

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Soldiers of the 4th Infantry division move inland from Utah Beach

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Medics from the 4th Infantry Division give candy to a French girl wounded during the invasion These children were two of the nearly 3000 civilians killed or injured during the landings

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Soldiers of the 359th Infantry Regiment, 90th Infantry Division prepare to land on D-day. The 90th’s 359th infantry and 915th Field Artillery Battalion landed on Utah Beach in the afternoon of D-day



Omaha Beach

The American 1st and 29th Infantry Divisions landing on Omaha Beach faced a well defended beach with high bluffs and multiple German strongpoints. Rough seas had sunk many of the amphibious tanks sent to support the infantry and a planned pre-invasion aerial and naval bombardment of the beach had been ineffective. Casualties among the first wave were severe, over 90% in some units with casualties in the second wave being almost as high. However, some Infantry Companies were fortunate to land relatively intact in areas of the beach that were either less defended by the Germans or covered with smoke caused by fires from the beach and surrounding bluffs. Small groups of American soldiers banded together to assault German positions and move inland. They were aided by the few surviving amphibious tanks on the beach and naval gunfire from the invasion fleet. By the early afternoon of D-Day, American troops had cleared the beach and were advancing inland. American casualties on Omaha Beach are estimated at around 2000 killed, wounded and missing. The 29th Infantry Division estimated it suffered 928 casualties including 390 men killed, 511 wounded and 27 missing. Casualties in the 1st Division are similar, estimating 970 total casualties. The remainder of the casualties on Omaha Beach comes from the nine Ranger Companies, Engineers, Tank Battalions and other support units involved in the landing.

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Soldiers take cover on Omaha Beach

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Omaha Beach on D-day

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Dead soldiers of the 1st Division’s 16th Infantry on Omaha Beach

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Soldier killed on Omaha Beach

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Gathering the dead on Omaha Beach



Point du-hoc

Another part of Operation Neptune took place at Point du Hoc, the highest point of land between Utah and Omaha Beach.  Realizing its strategic location, the Germans fortified Point du Hoc with six 155mm guns that overlooked both beaches.  Allied commanders wanted the area seized and three companies of Rangers were sent to scale the 100ft cliffs and destroy the guns. Landing under heavy mortar and machine gun fire, the Rangers forced their way to the top Point du Hoc with fire support from the Destroyers USS Satterlee and HMS Talybont. Reaching the fortifications the Rangers discovered that the guns had been removed by the Germans. The Rangers sent out patrols and found five of the guns nearby and successfully destroyed their firing mechanisms with thermite grenades.

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The cliffs at Point du Hoc

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Rangers demonstrate the techniques they used to scale the 100 foot cliffs 

Aftermath

Operation Neptune had been a success. By the end of D-day, the Allies had gained a strong foothold in occupied France. But tough fighting lay ahead as the Allies pushed into the Norman hedgerow country. It would take almost 2 months of heavy fighting before the Allies could breakout of Normandy and into Northern France.

For Related Articles See:

To read more about the D-Day Landing check out:

The Longest Day

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