June 6 1944: The Tide Turns

Scroll down to explore our collection of D-Day resources!

 

D-DAY

On June 5, 1944, over 7,000 Allied vessels lay at anchor in ports on the English coast and waiting for the command to depart. This was the largest fleet ever assembled in history. Stormy weather had earlier that morning forced a postponement of departure. But meteorologists had predicted a possible window of opportunity opening for June 6.

A defining moment in world history was about to begin.

FIVE LANDING BEACHES

Five beaches in the landing zone were designated and assigned to American, Canadian, and British forces . The landings would take place on a 5 division front—roughly one army division for each beach. The beaches are still known today by their code names.

SWORD BEACH, the most easterly of the five beaches, stretches from Ouistreham to Luc-sur-Mer. This beach was assigned to British forces. On the eastern flank of Sword Beach, the 6th British Airborne Division (which included the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion) were to seize the bridges over the Orne River and Caen Canal to secure the eastern flank

JUNO BEACH stretches from Saint Aubin-sur-Mer to Grey-sur-Mer and Vaux. This beach was assigned to Canada on D-Day. This area was particularly heavily fortified.

GOLD BEACH, assigned to Britain, includes the towns of La Rivière, Le Hamel, and Arromanches. This latter village became the site of the immense artificial port created after D-Day which supplied the Allies during the Battle of Normandy and beyond.

OMAHA BEACH, to the west, was assigned to the American forces. Overlooked by towering bluffs, this beach was estimated to be the most difficult as German troops were able to occupy naturally strong defensive positions.

UTAH BEACH, the most westerly of the landing beaches, was also assigned to American forces. As in the case of Sword Beach, airborne forces were deployed on June 5 to secure the western flank of the invasion force, and cut the bridges on the Douve and Vire Rivers.

D-DAY AT JUNO BEACH

On June 6th, 1944, the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division and the 2nd Armoured Brigade were tasked with establishing a bridgehead at Juno Beach. This was an eight-kilometre long stretch of beach between Sword and Gold landing beaches. The landing was preceded by a saturation barrage from destroyers offshore and from the artillery regiments embarked in landing craft.

At the western end of Juno Beach, the first wave of troops of the 7th Infantry Brigade landed shortly before 0800 near Courseulles-sur-mer. and the Queen’s Own Rifles at Bernières at 0812.Further east, in the sector of the 8th Brigade, the North Shore Regiment landed on the Saint-Aubin beach at 0810 

JUNO BEACH TIMELINE JUNE 6,1944

07:45 – Landing craft reach the beach; first landings begin.

08:00: 08:20 – The first Canadian beachhead is established in Courseulles, but the first waves of Canadians are landing in a killing zone. The Royal Winnipeg Rifles come under particularly heavy fire. A large number of members of the RWR were killed in the water in front of an undestroyed German strong point. The Regina Rifles land to the east of the mouth of the River Seulles under a hail of machinegun fire. The Queen’s Own Rifles land at Bernières. Hidden German cannon and machine gun positions rake the beach. The QOR makes a 300 yard charge from the shore to the seawall under fire. Only a few men of the first company survive. Reinforcements from Le Regiment de la Chaudière finally overwhelm the German defences. At Saint-Aubin, the North Shore Regiment lands under heavy fire and is pinned down at the seawall with many casualties.  The tanks of the Fort Garry Horse followed by Le Regiment de la Chaudière finally enable this stretch of beach to be taken.

10:00 – Canadian soldiers are on the beach in all sectors and moving inland. Reserve troops begin to reach the beach
12:00 – All units of the 3rd Canadian Division are on shore at Juno Beach.

The 3rd Canadian Infantry Division’s D-Day objective was a railway line linking Caen in the east to Bayeux in the west. It was codenamed “Oak.” Here they would deploy defences and await the expected German counterattack.

By the evening of June 6th, the Canadians were well on their way to their D-Day objectives, but the attack was not progressing as quickly in other sectors. The Americans at Omaha had a tenuous foothold and the British at Gold had yet to link up with them. Meanwhile, a counterattack by 21st Panzer Division made it to the coast between Juno Beach and Sword Beach to the east.

At approximately 7pm Lieutenant-General Sir Miles Dempsey (commander of the Anglo-Canadian landing forces for D-Day) ordered the Canadians to dig in at “Elm,” their intermediate objective. They would continue the advance in the morning.

By midnight June 6, it was clear that the Canadians and other Allies had carried out successful landings. A beachhead had been established on the French coast, but at a huge cost.

Of the Canadians, 381 soldiers and airmen were killed, over 584 were wounded and another 131 soldiers captured (read more on how these numbers were calculated).

It was the beginning of the end of the war, but the Canadians had months of deadly battles ahead of them before Germany finally capitulated in May 1945.

Explore the D-Day experiences of Canadian soldiers, sailors and airmen, liberated French civilians, details on the logistics and weapons, and much more with the following resources from the Juno Beach Centre and our partners:

Understanding D-Day:

What is D-Day? – Fact Sheet (downloadable)

D-Day Infographic (downloadable)

Canada’s D-Day Story

Training For D-Day – Article

Canada on D-Day – Article

Why the Code Name Juno? – Article

Canadian Army units in the Normandy landings – Fact Sheet

Beach Obstacles – Fact Sheet

Arms & Weapons During the War – Article

The North Shore (New Brunswick) Regiment on D-Day – Article (with videos, photos and recommended reading links)

D-Day Fatal Casualties – List

Voices of Juno with Desaree Rosskopf – Podcast Episode

First-Hand Experiences:

Legacy of Honour – Video Series

Veterans Voices – Online Exhibition

Six Emblematic D-Day Artefacts – Online Exhibition

Eliane, 12-years old in 1944 – Civilian Story Article

Claude, 14-years old in 1944 – Civilian Story Article

A Conversation with a D-Day Veteran – Recorded Student Webinar (in partnership with EF Tours)

D-Day Veteran Narrates the Landings – Video (courtesy of the Canadian Press). For more on Jim Parks’ war experience click here

People:

William Lyon Mackenzie King – Article

Major-General R.F.L. Keller – Article

General Andrew McNaughton – Article

Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery – Article

John Archibald MacNaughton – Article

I’m Scared Too – Article (on J.A. McNaughton)

Commander E.S.D. Fremantle – Article

General Dwight Eisenhower – Article

Miscellaneous:

Canadian D-Day Bike at the JBC – Article

75th Anniversary of D-Day – Ceremony Information and Photographs

2020 D-Day Ceremony at the JBC – Video and Photographs

2020 Liberty Bells on the Canadian Sector – Video

Canada’s D-Day Tribute – Article and Photographs

Partner Resources (our curated recommendations of excellent D-Day content):

Defining Moments Canada

Project ’44

  • The Road to Liberation – Interactive Story Map (Explore the Allied advance from the landings at D-Day to the celebrations of V-E Day)
  • Lesson Plans – Educational Resources

Valour Canada

Other Great Sites to Explore:

Canadian War Museum

The Navy in European Waters: D-Day and the Normandy Landings – Photographs and Information

Legion Magazine

 

Photographs:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Dispatches from Juno shares all the news, events, and stories from the Juno Beach Centre in France and Canada. Interested in contributing a story to the blog? Email the editor at jbca@junobeach.org.

Leave a Reply