MISSION: WATER 8 HEADLINE SURFACE WATER BACKGROUND On June 6, 1944 the largest, most complex amphibious invasion in history took place on the beaches of Normandy, France. The selection of a site was one of the biggest decisions of World War II. Allied planners needed a sheltered location with flat, firm beaches and within range of aircraft support from military bases in England. Five beaches, code- named Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword, on the northern coast of Normandy, France, met the criteria and were chosen as invasion sites. The military operation began the liberation of German- occupied northwestern Europe and contributed to the Allied victory in World War II. Operation Overlord was the code name for the Allied invasion and the assault phase was known as Operation Neptune. The term ‘D-Day’ is a military designation used to indicate the start date for specific operations; but the Allied invasion of Northern France is by far the most famous D-Day. Operation Overlord took three years to plan and involved military tacticians, scientists and engineers; working together to develop equipment and methods capable of transferring an army across the English Channel. Many of the innovations employed were previously untested and today the Normandy seabed offers insight into the ingenuity of those involved. The invasion fleet of almost 7,000 vessels was comprised of warships, minesweepers, landing craft, ancillary craft, and merchant vessels. Aerial support was provided by nearly 11,000 planes and by the end of June 11th, over 300,000 troops, over 54,000 vehicles and over 100,000 tons of supplies had landed on the Normandy beaches. In anticipation of the invasion, the Germans had heavily fortified the Atlantic coast over a number of years and the Allies suffered heavy losses. As a result, the seabed is littered with an enormous number of wrecks and other military assets includingthosedevelopedinthe3-yearoperationthatledtoD-Day. The Germans believed that Calais (a town and major ferry port in northern France) would be the most likely invasion point because it has a port and is the closest point in continental Europe to Britain. Calais was therefore the most heavily fortified region. Nevertheless, Field Marshal Rommel believed that the Normandy coast could be a possible landing point, so he built concrete gun emplacements at strategic points along the coast, and to counteract landing craft and impede tanks, he placed wooden stakes, metal tripods known ashedgehogs,mines,andlargeanti-tankobstaclesonthebeaches. As the Supreme Allied Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force, General Eisenhower was under enormous pressure to launch the invasion. Each passing day further risked German discovery of the plan, however extremely poor weather conditions delayed the invasion. Even tides were a factor in the determination of the invasion date because a low tide extended the period in which landings were possible. Ultimately, the weather broke and the decision was made: D-Day would be June 6, 1944. D-Day Invasion Map June 6th 1944