Friday, June 29, 2018

The Story Behind 'Rosie The Riveter'

‘Rosie The Riveter’ Created A 
Revolution For Working Women 


World War II was a conflict where Americans bought into the need to support service members and the military, perhaps more than ever before or since. A part of that equation, in light of men joining and getting drafted into the armed forces, was a first-of-its-kind campaign to recruit women into defense production jobs.
"Rosie the Riveter"

   “Rosie the Riveter” was a symbol of that government campaign. She represented the American working woman taking on manufacturing jobs traditionally held by men.

   The government’s Rosie the Riveter campaign took place between 1940 and 1945. Before the Rosie campaign, ideas about women holding certain manufacturing jobs went against societal and cultural norms of the day. In fact, this campaign, and the resulting women in the workforce amounted to a sea-change for American women.

   Prior to World War II, approximately 27 percent of American women were working. Within a few years of the Rosie campaign that percentage would increase to 37 percent. And, by 1945, one out of every four married women were working outside the home.
Women were recuited into defense jobs during World War II

   Overall, women were a notable presence throughout defense manufacturing. However, the aircraft industry saw the greatest rise in female employment, with 310,000 women employed by 1943. Within the aircraft industry, this amounted to 65 percent of the total workforce. This was a remarkable increase, considering that, before the war, women only numbered one percent of the aviation industry.

   So, was there a real Rosie the Riveter? Yes and no. The Rosie campaign was based, in small part, on the life of a real munitions worker. But, Rosie was primarily a work of fiction. However, this iconic character, clad in work clothes with a red bandana on her head could be found in movies, newspapers, posters, photographs and articles. Part of Rosie’s mission was to appeal to the patriotic natures of America’s women.

   Yet, even though America’s women showed up to the workplace during the war, not everything changed. The pay for women lagged and female workers rarely ever made more than half of what a man might for the same job.
During the war, 19 million women went to work

   During the war, nearly 19 million women held jobs. Many of these women were previously working before the war, but for less than they would during the war. There were also women who returned to the workforce during the war.

   A problem occurred after the war, though. The government had done everything it could to recruit women into jobs traditionally held by men. However, there was the expectation (at least on the part of men), that women would return to working in the home at the end of the war. Of course, the horizons of many women were broadened by this experience and many did not wish to return to being homemakers.

   In a very real way, the Rosie campaign triggered a post-war revolution for women in the workplace. Though the problems of inequality would be a perpetual problem for women, the bell had been rung. And, once rung, could not be ‘un-rung’ by men returning from the war.
Women taking their rightful place in the workforce didn’t happen all at once after World War II. Immediately after the end of the war, female employment fell drastically, from 37 percent down to 26 percent. Women had to fight for their place in the workforce after World War II, even up to today in some ways. The Rosie campaign can at least be given some credit for changing attitudes in America.

   Of special note in the saga of Rosie the Riveter is Elinor Otto. She took a job in the aircraft industry and built airplanes for 50 years afterward. Eventually, Ms. Otto retired at the age of 95 years old, earning her the reputation as the “Last Rosie the Riveter.”

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Bruce Crandall, Medal of Honor, Vietnam War

Crandall Has Committed His Life To Service

Lieutenant Colonel Bruce P. Crandall was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor on February 26, 2007 by President George W. Bush for actions he took during the Vietnam War.
Medal of Honor winner Bruce Crandall 

   LTC Crandall held the rank of major when he was a flight commander serving with the 229th Assault Helicopter Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile). And, if not for his actions during the Battle of Ia Drang, on Nov. 14-16, 1965, untold more lives would have been lost by the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment than the 499 soldiers who died that day.

   He made 22 missions into Ia Drang, bringing in ammunition for the 1st of the 7th as well as providing Medevac for those who were wounded in the landmark battle.

   Bruce Crandall was born on February 17, 1933, in Olympia, Washington, and was a child during World War II. During the war, Bruce’s father served in the Army while his mother became a welder on the home-front. He graduated from high school in 1951 and was drafted into the Army in 1953. Though it was not his initial choice whether to join the service, he soon found he liked Army life.

   By his 21st birthday, Bruce graduated Officer’s Candidate School and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Engineer Corps. Then, he attended flight school, where he learned to pilot both fixed wing aircraft and helicopters. After his training, Bruce served for a decade as an engineer and an aviator.

   As well as serving, Bruce was one of those who contributed to early thinking about air assault techniques and standards. Today, air assault doctrine is integral to the Army’s mission. And, it was Bruce, among others, who contributed to this area of doctrine during its beginning.

   Following his retirement from the Army in 1977, Bruce earned a Master’s Degree in public administration from Golden Gate University, in California. After earning his degree, Bruce made a second career in public service. It was during this time that Bruce was made aware of his selection to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor.

---Jim Purcell

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Rocky Bleier Didn’t Let War Wound Decide His Future


In 1968, a 22-year-old young man was drafted into the Army. He went on to serve as an infantryman in the Vietnam War. He earned the Bronze Star, Purple Heart and Combat Infantryman’s Badge. He also lost part of his right foot and sustained numerous leg injuries.
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rocky Bleier 

   For most people, they would be satisfied with just surviving a war where so many young Americans were getting killed. But, not everyone was Robert Patrick “Rocky” Bleier, a running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers.


   Rocky was born on March 5, 1946, in Appleton, Wisconsin. He was the oldest of four children born to Bob and Ellen Bleier. He was a normal kid with a paper route, who graduated from Xavier High School in 1964. It was clear, though, that Rocky was a great athletic talent. He was a three-time all-state selection as running back. He was also the team captain for his school’s football, basketball and track teams.

   Bleier played his college ball at the University of Notre Dame, in Indiana. He graduated in 1968 with not only a business degree, but also getting chosen in the 16th Round of the 1968 NFL/AFL Draft by the Steelers.

   Things were looking great for the Steeler’s running back when, at the end of his rookie season, Rocky was drafted into the United States Army in December 1968.


   Once in the Army, Rocky volunteered to serve in South Vietnam. So, in May 1969, the football-player-turned infantryman shipped out for Vietnam. Once there, he joined Charlie Company, 31st Infantry Regiment, 196th Light Infantry Brigade. After joining the unit, Rocky was assigned an M79, 40mm grenade launcher and served as his squad’s grenadier.
Spec. 4 Rocky Bleier in South Vietnam

   Rocky got along in his unit and did a good job. But, on August 20, 1969, while his unit was on patrol in a rice paddy, near Heip Duc, Rocky’s platoon was ambushed. During the firefight that ensued, Rocky was shot in his left thigh by enemy rifle fire. While he was down, an enemy grenade landed near his position. The explosion from the grenade sent shrapnel into his lower right leg. The blast also claimed a piece of his right foot.

   Though Rocky earned the Bronze Star during his final action, it wasn’t looking good for a possible return to football once he was out of the service. In fact, while he was recovering from his injuries in a Tokyo hospital, doctors stated that he would never play football again.

   After several surgeries, Specialist 4th Class Rocky Bleier was finally discharged from the Army in July 1970.

The 196th Light Infantry Brigade

   Even though Rocky couldn’t walk without pain, he rejoined the Steelers at their 1970 camp. His weight was also down to 180 pounds, which was light to play his position. So, he was put on injured reserve for the season. But, in 1971, Bleier’s weight rose to 212 pounds and he earned a spot on the Steelers’ special teams unit. For several season, Bleier pushed for more and more playing time on the field. He worked as hard as he could and, in 1974, he earned that coveted spot on the starting line-up for the team.

   Though Bleier was a running back, he was not the primary running back for the Steelers. That honor went to future Hall-of-Famer Franco Harris. But, Bleier was often the lead blocker for Harris. And, in 1976, Bleier went on to gain 1,000 yards during a season.

   Rocky would end up playing for the Steelers between 1970 and 1980 (as well as his rookie year of 1968). He would go on to become part of the Steelers’ world championship teams in 1975, 1976, 1978 and 1979, in Super Bowls IX, X, XIII and XIV, respectively.


   Rocky is the father of four and is married to Jan Gyurina. He is reported to be living in Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania and is a radio personality for Pittsburgh station 104.7 FM, also known as WPGB. He is also co-owner of Bleier Zagula Financial.

   Bleier may not be a football player anymore, but for scores of fans as well as his fellow players, he remains a study in determination for the ages.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

For Those About to Rock: The AC-130


When it is on the job, the AC-130 makes it rain steel. In short, it's a beast. 

   Lockheed built 47 AC130s within about a 50-year period for the United States Air Force. If an enemy were to see one coming during any of the wars between that time, there was the distinct possibility it would be among the last things they ever saw.
The AC-130 has been on the job since 1967

   The AC-130 gunship is a heavily armed, long-endurance ground attack variant of the C-130 Hercules transport. It has served since 1967, into today. Throughout the life of the AC-130, there have been five variants of it: the AC-130A, AC-130E, AC-130H, AC-130J and AC-130U.

  The AC-130’s wingspan stretches 133 feet and it travels at 299 miles per hour, which is hard to outrun from the ground.

   The armaments aboard the AC-130 says it all. The AC-130A is armed with four 7.62mm GAU-2/A miniguns and four 20mm M61 Vulcan cannons. This variant could also alternately be armed with a “surprise package” of two 7.62mm GAU/2A miniguns, two 20mm M61 Vulcan cannons and two 40mm L/60 Bofors cannons.

   The AC-130E Pave Aegis took armaments to the next level, being equipped with two 20mm M61 Vulcan cannons, one 40mm L/60 Bofors cannon and one 105mm M102 Howitzer. This array was also used for the AC-130H Spectre gunship.

   During its flight, the AC-130 has an unpressurized cabin, with weaponry mounted to fire from the port side of the fuselage. When the plane is going to attack, its pilots would execute a pylon turn, flying in a large circle around their target. This allowed for the crew to unload the plane’s ordnance for a longer duration than most conventional strafing runs.
The AC-130 opens up against a target

   The AC-130 line of aircraft traces its origins to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, in Ohio. It was there that the first Hercules C-130 transport was transformed into the offensive monster that is the AC-130. The plane replaced the Douglas AC-47 Spooky gunship.

   The Air Force was seeking a successor to the Spooky in order to improve mission endurance and capacity to carry munitions. The AC-130 was able to accommodate these specifications with ease over the older plane.

   During 2007, the Air Force Special Operations Command initiated a program to upgrade the AC-130’s armaments. The test program planned for the 25mm GAU-12/U and 40mm Bofor cannons on the AC-130U to be replaced with two 30mm Mk44 Bushmaster II cannons. However, this program was canceled the following year, after it was discovered that the Bushmaster cannons did not have the accuracy needed to replace the 25mm GAU-12/U and the Bofor cannons.

   During its long service, the AC-130 has seen service in every American conflict and war, beginning with the Vietnam War. In addition to wartime service, the AC-130 has been called upon for standby during U.S. operations in Central America during the 1980s.
   As time goes by, some things change – and some things don’t. The AC-130’s variants continue to be a force to be reckoned with on modern battlefields. With its potent punch from the sky, it can easily be characterized as ‘the infantryman’s best friend.’

Monday, June 18, 2018

The Purcell Chronicles Closes In On 100,000 Views

I began this blog in September of 2013. I am a former journalist and wanted to continue writing, but did not want to deal with advertisers or promotions, politics or the like. So, from the very beginning, I was committed to The Purcell Chronicles not allowing any advertising, not seeking any advertising, not taking any advertising if it was offered. Further, I wanted this site to be free of the drama of politics, though I wanted to leave the door open, so to speak, in case there was a political topic I wanted to write about.

   Something else I wanted to make this blog was 'family-friendly.' If a young person, or any person for that matter, arrives on my blog, they will not see smut, foul language or anything shady or socially unacceptable. Saying something with a clear voice is all anyone needs to do; no one needs to curse, use foul language or display lewd content.

   When the blog started, I tried a wide variety of subjects. I promote my articles on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google Plus and Linkedin. But, for the first two or three years, the site was not drawing a lot of views. Then, I started writing about what I know the best -- military history and militaria. Specifically, I wanted to create credible reports about these subjects from an informed and well-researched perspective. And, it was then that the blog really started finding its audience and its voice.

   Don't get me wrong, I want to branch out from the military history and militaria. However, I would add other topics without taking away the stream of articles I write about the military and militaria.

   I was a soldier during the 1980s and very early 1990s, and the Army has changed so much since then that I celebrate the armed forces in the latter Cold War and its weapon systems and equipment. I don't cover that much about the New Army, because I don't have first-hand knowledge of it. And, whatever I write about, I want to know what I am talking about.

   History is something altogether different. In college, I studied history at Georgian Court College, in New Jersey, and it captivated me. I brought my love of history to the newspapers I worked for after that, and continue to highlight historical events.

   Nowadays, so many people are trying to edit history for the sake of their politics or point-of-view. So, to combat this trend, I research historical articles with at least three good, secondary sources. Of course, if I can come up with a primary source then that is so much better.

   The most important thing I want to do with this column, though, is to thank the readers of this blog. You guys are the reason I write this. So many people have made this site a regular stop for their online news and features. The readers just make me want to do the best job I can.

   Again, thanks for coming around and seeing the articles here.

All the Best,

Jim Purcell

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Haunted Tales: The Cold Harbor Battlefield

The following story is not intended to speak to the truth or falsehood of ghosts or apparitions. Rather, this is a legend based on reports from some residents and visitors in the Mechanicsvile, Virginia area. This article is intended as entertainment and it should be viewed as such.


The Battle of Cold Harbor was fought during the Civil War from May 31 to June 12, 1864. The battle took place near Mechanicsville, Virginia and the heaviest fighting took place on June 3.
Some hear and/or see apparitions on and near the battlefield at Cold Harbor. 

   ColdHarbor is considered one of the bloodiest battles of the war and was the final action that was part of Lt. Gen. Ulysses Grant’s framed Overland Campaign. 

   During the course of the battle, 1,845 Union soldiers were killed; 9,077 were wounded; and 1,816 were either captured or went missing. Meanwhile, the Confederate Army sustained 788 soldiers killed; 3,376 were wounded; and 1,213 were either captured or reported as missing.
The Battle of Cold Harbor was one of the bloodiest of the Civil War

   Reportedly, visitors to the battlefield have reported seeing the apparitions of soldiers (both North and South) wandering the grounds or performing battle maneuvers. In addition, orbs are frequently spotted at night. 

   On June 2, 1864, both armies constructed an elaborate series of fortifications that stretched seven miles long. At dawn on June 3, three Union corps attacked the Confederate works on the southern end of the line, which translated to heavy casualties for both sides.

   Gen, Grant would later say, “I have always regretted that the last assault at Cold Harbor was ever made…No advantage by whatever was gained compensated for the heavy loss we sustained.”
Apparitions have been reported on the battlefield. 

   Still to this day, there are residents who say they can sometimes hear the clopping of horses along Route 156 and, at times, smell gunpowder in the air.

   At the cemetery beside the Cold Harbor Battlefield Park, a little girl dressed in a white dress and bonnet is said to haunt the grounds. The legend behind it is that the girl reportedly died falling out of the window of the Gravekeeper’s house, which still stands. There are some reports that the ghostly little girl can be seen peeking through the windows of the house.

   That same Gravekeeper’s house was also the gravesite for about a hundred hastily buried soldiers.

   No one can definitively say there are ghosts or there are not ghosts, so it is up to the readers to ask themselves what they believe or do not believe. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

The C-141 and its 41 Years of Service


In August 1986, I was going through Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia. My class had gone through Ground and Tower weeks and now it was Jump Week. The night before my first jump, I was nervous and might have gotten two hours of sleep.
Paratroopers exit a C-141 StarLifter

   The next day, my class was transported to Lawson Army Airfield and we put on our parachutes and were checked by our black hats to make sure we got everything on right. This time, it was going to be a “Hollywood Jump,” meaning no equipment.

   Outside of the hangar was a camouflaged C-141 StarLifter. At first it was imposing. But, we ended up waiting on Green Ramp for about an hour and a half for a final check of the plane. Eventually, an Air Force NCO strolled out with his coffee cup in hand and walked around the aircraft. He gave it a ‘thumbs up’ and everything started.

   I was in the second stick, which means order of exit from the door. I was so nervous my teeth got itchy. But, I liked the fact we were in a C-141. There were differences in door exits between the C-141 and the C-130 Hercules. With the C-141, you step out, but with the C-130 you have to jump some. At that point, I didn’t need one more thing to do.

   As the plane approached Fryar Drop Zone, my class was given the visual command to stand up (you couldn’t hear a thing because it was so loud). The first stick gave its “All OK” to the jumpmaster and proceeded to disappear out of the door. Thankfully, my brain stopped thinking and by the time my stick gave the “All OK” I didn’t have anything on my mind but going.

   As I exited the aircraft, I was pulled up hard and fast as the parachute opened. And, when I looked up and saw silk from the T-10 parachute above my head, I was never happier in my whole life. I even started laughing as I got ready for my parachute landing fall. I purposefully slipped away from everyone because I didn’t want anyone to ‘take my air,’ which happens when someone descends directly above you.

   The jump went great, my landing fall went great, so I gathered my parachute and headed over to the bleachers. So began my love affair with the C-141.

THE C-141: BORN IN THE 1960s

   When President John F. Kennedy introduced the C-141StarLifter to the American public, in August 1963, it was the first jet-powered cargo and transport plane in history.
The C-141 was the backbone of the Air Force for 30 years

   The C-141 was designed and produced by Lockheed, in the company’s Marietta, Georgia facility. The plane was created to replace the propeller-driven, slower C-124 Globemaster II and the C-133 Cargomaster. The government specifications for the C-141 were established in 1960 and it took three years to create the first working C-141.

   Though the prototype for the C-141 was created in 1963, it would be two more years for the U.S. Government to receive its initial order of 285 planes: 284 were put into service with the United States Air Force and one C-141 was given to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration for use as an airborne observatory.

   Between 1965 and 2006, the C-141 served as the mainstay of the U.S. military. During its service, the C-141 performed duty in every military action from the Vietnam War through Operation Iraqi Freedom, including Operation Desert Storm, Somalia and the invasions of Granada and Panama, respectively.
The crew of an Air Force c-141C

   The C-141 was categorized as a “strategic airlifter” and began its service with the Military Air Transport Service. Later, the Air Force changed MATS into the Military Airlift Command. MAC then turned into the Air Mobility Command. As the C-141 aged, it became part of the Air Force Reserve and finally was transferred to the air mobility wing of the Air Education and Training Command.


   The C-141 had several variants throughout its long service. There was the C-141A, C-141B, the SOLL II and the C-141C. The aircraft had a crew of between five and seven: two pilots, two flight engineers, one navigator and a load master. It also carried a medical crew of five when on MEDEVAC missions.
C-141 aircraft drop paratroopers during an exercise in Egypt

   The aircraft was 168 feet, 4 inches long; its wingspan was 160 feet; it was almost 40 feet high; weighed 144,492 pounds when empty; and could reach a maximum speed of 567 miles per hour. It had a range of 2,935 miles and could reach up to a ceiling of 41,000 feet. The C-141 could also carry up to 50,000 pounds.

   During the Vietnam War (1955-1975), the aircraft was nicknamed the “Hanoi Taxi,” in 1973, since the C-141 was essential in repatriating 600 American prisoners of war formerly held in North Vietnam. The C-141 also played a pivotal role in the evacuation of Saigon, in 1975. The C-141 also evacuated 78 wounded Marines in the wake of the 1983 Beirut Bombing. Throughout its service, the C-141 performed humanitarian missions in 70 countries around the globe.

   During its four decades of service in the Air Force, former Lieutenant Colonel Eric Wydra, of the 6th Airlift Squadron at McGuire Air Force Base, in New Jersey, stated that modern airlift “grew up around the C-141.” He added that for 30 of its 41 years of service in the Air Force, the C-141 was the backbone of military airlift capabilities. Finally, though, the C-141 was replaced with the C-17 Globemaster III.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

D-Day: June 6th, 1944


My father, then-Corporal James J. Purcell, Sr., was part of the invading force on June 6, 1944, when the Allies under the command of General Dwight D. Eisenhower landed on the Northern Coast of France. His combat engineer outfit was task organized with the 1st Infantry Division during their landing on Omaha Beach. A year before, he lost his brother, Gunner’s Mate Second Class David Purcell at the landing at Anzio beachhead, in Italy.

   My Dad never really talked about D-Day. Rather, he looked away, took a deep drag from his Marlboro cigarette and just said, “That was a real bad day…a real long one.” And, he had tears in eyes when he recalled it. He was looking past me, past our New Jersey suburban property, back through the long stretch of time. He remembered old pain.

   Back when I asked him about D-Day, he said, “It was terrible. So, now I am done talking about it.” Dad crushed out his cigarette on the front porch, folded the Newark Star-Ledger under his arm, and went back into the house and up to my parents’ bedroom. I didn’t see him for the rest of the night. When I saw him again, I got the feeling I shouldn’t ask him about D-Day anymore; or even the rest of the war.

   I got it…even when I was nine years old. Dad had a hard time remembering D-Day and Battlefield Europe. He lost friends on the beach, and in later actions. Dad was in the New Jersey Army National Guard when the war started, so he was technically considered Regular Army. This might also be the reason that he didn’t get out until 1946 and was briefly part of the Army of Occupation in Germany.
American soldiers prepare to land on Omaha Beach

   After that, he started a taxi company in Newark, New Jersey after marrying my Mom, Ruth (nee Ford) Purcell in late 1946. Dad made good, had a nice home and kids. But, he never got over the last part of the war.


   On June 6, 1944, Allied Forces landed 160,000 soldiers on a 50-mile swarth of beaches in Normandy, France in a plan codenamed “Overlord.” The German Army had occupied France since November 1942 and the defenses along Normandy were substantial and included large machinegun nests, barbed wire obstacles, beach obstacles, mines and artillery batteries, to name a few.

   While the overall commander of the invasion was General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Deputy Supreme Commander was Air Marshal A.W. Tedder. The Commander in Chief of Land Forces for the invasion, as well as the commander of the 21st Army Group was British General Sir Bernard Law Montgomery. The Commander of the Expeditionary Force was Admiral B.H. Ramsay and the Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Expeditionary Force was Air Chief Marshal T. Leigh-Mallory.
Gen. Dwight Eisenhower addresses soldiers from the 101st Abn

   The “Allies” was a phrase that covered a multitude of armies of nations fighting side-by-side throughout the war. At Normandy, soldier, sailors, marines and airmen from 13 countries were in the fight. Forces from the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and the Free French were prominent among the invasion forces.

   The Allies practiced their D-Day roles for months before the actual invasion. In fact, off the coast of Devon, in the United Kingdom, a German torpedo boat killed 749 U.S. soldiers and sailors training on landing exercises for Operation Overlord.
A deception plan was also put in place by the Allies, called “Operation Fortitude.” This operation was aimed at confusing the Germans about when and where the landings would take place. Double-agents, among them Juan Pujol, attempted to divert German intelligence away from Normandy as a likely place for attack.

   The English Channel was a major factor in planning for D-Day. It was estimated by the Royal Navy that only 10 days in any given month were suitable for launching Overlord. Another factor in the planning for D-Day was that the Allies needed a full moon for illumination during the crossing from the United Kingdom to the coast of France. Allied airpower had to have the moon’s illumination to navigate the channel.
Allied airpower was limited at Normandy due to weather

   General Eisenhower, in a June 5 meeting, gave the greenlight for Overlord after he was briefed by Chief Meteorologist Group Captain J.M. Stagg that there would be a brief improvement over the channel on June 6. Meanwhile, Admiral Bertram Ramsay confirmed that conditions would be marginally favorable for a June 6 crossing.

   Later, it would turn out that Stagg’s forecast was wrong. As a consequence of that, Allied airpower was limited during the actual invasion and the beaches’ defenses were left virtually intact on Omaha and Juno beachheads.

   However, the Germans were lulled into a false sense of security because of the bad weather. They were caught totally surprised by the invasion. The German High Command would not even be aware that Normandy was the main thrust of the invasion until June 7, when French General Charles de Gaulle made a radio announcement stating Normandy was the main thrust of the invasion to his countrymen.
Soldiers at Omaha Beach had to wade through up to 100ft of water

   Throughout the invasion, men and women of the French Resistance coordinated with U.S. Forces to assist them in the liberation of their country. Using code words via radio broadcasts from Great Britain, Allied Forces signaled the impending invasion covertly to their partners on the continent.


   The Allied units dedicated for Operation Overlord included:
- U.S. V Corps: U.S. 1st Infantry Division and the U.S. 29th Infantry Division
- U.S. VII Corps: U.S. 4th Infantry Division, U.S. 101st Airborne Division and the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division
- British 6th Airborne Division
- British I Corps: 3rd British Infantry Division and the British 27th Armoured Brigade
- British XXX Corps: British 50th Infantry Division and British 8th Armoured Brigade
- British 79th Armoured Division
- 3rd Canadian Infantry Division and 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade
- Naval forces from eight Allied navies contributed 6,939 vessels
- 1,213 warships
- 4,126 transport vessels
- 736 other vessels
- 864 merchant vessels
British 6th Airborne Division soldiers at Normandy


   German units in the direct areas of the landings included:
-       716TH German Infantry Division
-       352nd German Infantry Division
-       91st German Air Landing Division
-       709th German Infantry Division


   Early in the morning hours of June 6, the American 101st and 82nd Airborne divisions dropped 13,100 U.S. paratroopers by parachute and via glider landings in the vicinity of Cherbourg and Carentan. The mission of these airborne soldiers was to disrupt the German defenses that would be opposing U.S. landings on Utah and Omaha beachheads later in the day.
6th British Airborne Division Patch

   Meanwhile, between June 5-7, the British 6th Airborne Division deployed 8,500 soldiers by parachute and glider landings in the vicinity of German defensesthat would oppose the British and Canadian forces at Gold, Sword and Juno beachheads. The mission of the British paratroopers was the same as their American counterparts: Disrupt German defenses, create confusion and in so doing assist the landings.

   Not everything went to plan, though. Due in part to fierce German anti-aircraft artillery and problematic weather, both American and British paratroopers were frequently dropped far from their planned drop zones. Still, these soldiers started the battle, largely, from wherever they landed and fulfilled their missions.

   American paratroopers sustained 1,003 killed, 2,657 wounded and 4,490 missing. Meanwhile British Forces sustained 800 soldiers dead or wounded.
82nd Airborne Division Patch

   In battle, the American paratroopers were responsible for 21,300 killed, wounded or missing among German defenders. British paratroopers were responsible for killing 400 German defenders and capturing an additional 400.


   The beaches of Normandy were assigned codenames: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword.
The American VII Corps, which included the 90th Infantry Division Group and the 4th Infantry Division Group, among others, was assigned to Utah Beach.

   The next beach over, Omaha Beach, was assaulted by the American V Corps and its primary fighting units included the 2nd Infantry Division, 29th Infantry Division Group and the 1st Infantry Division Group.

   The British XXX Corps had primary responsibility for Gold Beach. It primarily included the 33rd Independent Armoured Brigade, the 49th Infantry Division, the 7th Armoured Division and the 50th Infantry Division Group.
Phases of the Allied Invasion of Normandy

   Juno Beach was reserved for the 3rd Canadian Infantry Group, which was subordinate to the British I Corps. Reinforcing the 3rd Canadian Infantry was the 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade.

   The British 51st Division and 4th Independent Armoured Brigade, as well as the 3rd Infantry Division Group were tasked with securing Sword Beach.
British XXX Corps Patch

   Utah Beach’s landings went fairly well overall. Soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division landed at approximately 0630. By the time they landed, British Bomber Command had destroyed one of two strongpoints opposing the beach.

   Initial assault battalions on Utah Beach were quickly reinforced with armor support, along with several combat engineer units (equipped with demolition materials). By 0900, the beach was secured and combat units were moving inland.
Point du Hoc was situated between Utah and Omaha beaches and was assaulted by the 2nd Ranger Battalion. 

   The Rangers approached their targets by scaling steep cliffs to destroy German guns located on the heights. However, after contending with fierce German and French collaborator fire on the way up, the Rangers discovered the guns had already been uninstalled by the Germans. The Ranger casualties included 135 dead and wounded. Meanwhile, German casualties numbered 50 killed and 40 captured. An unknown number of French collaborators were summarily executed.
American soldiers moving off Utah Beach

   The soldiers assaulting Omaha Beach faced the most heavily defended beach of the operation. Water currents were responsible for many landing craft veering off course and being destroyed. Bombers delayed their missions on Omaha Beach for fear of hitting American soldiers. Thus, the defending German units were unscathed when soldiers came from the sea.

   In addition, landing craft ended up frequently coming aground 50-100 meters from shore, forcing invaders to swim and wade through water just to begin the fight for the beach. With fire blasting at them from the beach cliffs, casualties were about 2,000 among Americans.

   At 0830, follow-on landings were suspended. Destroyers were called on to provide off-shore fire against the Germans. However, to exit the beach American Forces had to move gullies that were heavily defended by Germans. Still, late in the morning, a battalion-sized force had broken out and held the high ground. Even though Americans had broken out, it still took three days for American Forces to pacify their beach entirely.
The 4th Infantry Division Patch

   At 0725, the British XXX Corps soldiers landed on Gold Beach. High wind conditions plagued the invasion force making for difficulty for landing craft. Thankfully, four German guns were taken out of service by naval forces supporting the invasion. The last of the German guns was operational and pinned down British Forces until German soldiers surrendered their position on June 7th.

   The Canadian landing on Juno Beach started out with choppy waters. This meant that, while the infantry landed, their armor support was delayed. Consequently, this created a lot of casualties among the invading force (961 men). The Canadians fought hard and made their exits off the beach despite being battered by German defenders. Yet, after finally getting off the beach, soldiers had to clear the towns of Courselles-sur-Mer, St. Aubin-sur-Mer and Bernieres-sur-Mer in house-to-house fighting.  

   On Sword Beach, British tanks were the first wave ashore and were able to cover the infantry as it was shuttled ashore at about 0730. The beach was heavily mined, so this slowed British progress. British forces contended with German guns and it would not be until several days later than one German observation post was taken. French Forces, assigned with the British, captured a casino stronghold relatively soon after the landings.
The path of Allied advance following the landings at Normandy

   At about 1600, the Germans attempted an armored counter-attack against the British Forces on the beach. The German armor units were pulled out to handle Allied attacks in Caen and Bayeux.


   Though approximately 160,000 Allied soldiers had landed on contested beaches on June 6, an additional 875,000 Allied soldiers would disembark on those beaches by the end of June. On the first day, the Allies had sustained 10,000 casualties, with 4,414 confirmed as dead.
President Franklin Roosevelt and British PM Winston Churchill

   The Germans had been dealt a crippling blow along the coast, with 4,000-9,000 either wounded, dead or missing.


   Since 1942, the Western Allies had been promising a new front in Europe to the heavily besieged Soviet Union. Soviet Allies wanted a second European Front against the Germans because the two fronts would begin the process of squeezing German-occupied lands, forcing a retreat of occupiers back to Germany proper. It is much more difficult to manage a two-front war than a single-front war.

   Though American President Franklin Delano Roosevelt wanted to go ahead with a European landing much earlier, it was British Prime Minister Winston Churchill who dissuaded him. It was Churchill’s idea to wait and strengthen Allied Forces and regain strategic strongholds the Germans were occupying in North Africa and Italy.

   Even though Normandy was finally decided upon as the landing site, other potential sites were considered in Brittany, the Cotentin Peninsula and at the Pas de Calais.

   Following the overwhelming success of the Normandy Invasion, Allied Force, led by Free French Forces finally wrested Paris away from Germany’s grasp by August, signaling a new phase of the war.

   The Normandy Invasion can be considered one of the most pivotal victories by the Allies, or in military history for that matter, and led to a string of follow-on victories, which assisted in concluding the wat in favor of the Allies.