Excerpts from "the first rough draft of history" as reported in
The Washington Post on this date in the 20th century.
The Allied invasion of Normandy during World War II was perhaps the most important event of the century, saving Europe, and possibly the world, from Axis domination. Over 150,000 troops landed on five beachheads, opening the way for the liberation of Europe. The victory came at a tremendous cost, however, with many thousands killed and wounded. An excerpt from The Post of June 6, 1944:
Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force, June 6 (AP).-
Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower's headquarters announced today that Allied troops began landing on the northern coast of France this morning strongly supported by naval and air forces.
Text of the communique:
Under the command of Gen. Eisenhower Allied naval forces supported by strong air forces began landing Allied armies this morning on the northern coast of France.
"Fierce fighting against Allied forces in the Caen area," 10 miles inland from the Normandy Coast and 30 air line miles southwest of La Havre, was reported by the Germans.
Caen is near the base of the Cotentin or Normandy Peninsula. Cherbourg is at the tip of the peninsula.
"Considerable parts of the parachute units on the Normandy Peninsula and on the river mouths were wiped out," Berlin said. ...
The River Vire empties into the Atlantic 30 miles southeast of Cherbourg, indicating that the reported landing was occurring all along the northern side of the Normandy Peninsula stretching along the bay of the Seine between Cherbourg and Le Havre ...
Another Berlin "flash" said the "first center of gravity is Caen," the big city at the base of the Normandy peninsula.
Caen is 120 miles west-northwest of Paris.
A second announcement by SHAEF said that "it is announced that Gen. B.L. Montgomery is in command of the army group carrying out the assault. This army group includes British, Canadian and U.S. forces."
The Allied bulletin did not say exactly where the landing was taking place, but Berlin earlier gave these details:
Allied naval forces, including heavy warships, are shelling Le Havre. "It is a terrific bombardment," Berlin said.
Allied parachute troops floating down along the Normandy coast were landing and being engaged by German shock troops.
Other Allied units were streaming ashore into Normandy from landing barges.
In a special order of the day issued to all soldiers, sailors and airmen under his command, General Eisenhower said:
"We will accept nothing except full victory."
Eisenhower told his men they were "embarking on a great crusade toward which we have striven these many months," and warned them that they were facing a tough, well-prepared enemy. ...
Huge troopship armadas slipped out of English ports in the darkness and sped toward Europe where four years ago almost to the day Britain brought back the last battle-worn defenders of Dunkerque. ...
The German radio gave the first reports of the invasion while correspondents were hurriedly summoned from bed to Supreme Press Headquarters and locked in a press conference room until the communique was released several hours after the landings were made.
It was made known at start that the supreme command felt it necessary to yield the initiative in the war of words to the Germans in order to retain the initiative on land and keep German high command in the dark as long as possible.