D-Day 1944

Flight Journal - - FEATURES -

“The Long­est Day” was one of the few WW II bat­tles fought in a sin­gle day. The An­glo-Amer­i­can land­ings in north­ern France on June 6, 1944, ended in a strate­gic Al­lied vic­tory from which Ger­many never re­cov­ered. The as­sault troops waded ashore be­neath an um­brella of un­prece­dented mag­ni­tude, with some 11,000 Amer­i­can and Bri­tish air­craft over the Nor­mandy beaches and far­ther in­land.

Luft­waffe sor­ties are not well doc­u­mented but pos­si­bly did not ex­ceed 300. Only two FW 190s ac­tu­ally at­tacked the beaches, straf­ing the Bri­tish and Cana­dian land­ing zones.

The path to Nor­mandy had been paved across the At­lantic, hav­ing de­feated the U-boats the year pre­vi­ously, and in Euro­pean skies. By June, the Jagdwaffe had been worn down to the point that monthly at­tri­tion some­times reached 40 per­cent air­craft and 25 per­cent air­crew. On D-Day, Bri­tish and Amer­i­can pi­lots only claimed 30 shoot­downs—a mea­sure of Al­lied air supremacy.

Al­lied air­craft losses were far less than many com­man­ders ex­pected. Col. Don­ald Blakeslee of the Fourth Fighter Group said, “I am pre­pared to lose the en­tire group.” And while the Deb­den Ea­gles lost 10 Mustangs, to­tal Al­lied losses were barely 100 to all causes.

In vivid contrast to ex­pec­ta­tions, D-Day proved the big­gest air bat­tle that never oc­curred.

A 101st Air­borne Di­vi­sion para­trooper armed with a M1A1 ba­zooka stands in the door­way of a C-47 Sky­train on June 5, 1944. (Photo cour­tesy of Jack Cook) Para­troop­ers of the 101st Air­borne Di­vi­sion check their gear by C-47A s/n 42-92717 8Y-S of the 98th Troop Car­rier Squadron 440th Troop Car­rier Group at Ex­eter, Eng­land, on the evening of June 5, 1944. (Photo cour­tesy of Jack Cook)

Cap­tion 5

Dozens of English makeshift air­fields out of reach of the Luft­waffe were used to store C-47s for even­tual D-Day op­er­a­tions. (Photo cour­tesy of Stan Piet)

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