H/T Beyond The Band Of Brothers.

In three weeks we will be observing D-Day plus 74 years here is some trivia about that day.

Some of the lesser known details of the invasion.

We will be celebrating the 74th anniversary of the D-Day landings in three weeks. The greatest amphibious assault in history cracked open the German defenses in Normandy, establishing a new front in Western Europe and leading to the inevitable fall of the Third Reich. In today’s article we’ll cover some of the more obscure details of the invasion.

One of Robert Capa’s famous photographs of the landing on Omaha Beach

D-Day was almost betrayed by the weather – twice.
The invasion was planned to occur in the morning of June 5 but bad weather prompted a 24-hour delay. This actually ended up beneficial, since the Germans had less information about meteorological conditions over the Atlantic than the Allies and they weren’t aware of the brief window of opportunity on June 6. As a result, General Rommel, who was in charge of the Normandy defenses, went back to Germany to celebrate his wife’s 50th birthday.

Artillery equipment being loaded into LCTs in England before the invasion

D-Day, however, was already imperiled by the weather once, about a year earlier. An early version of the invasion plan was left in a room of Norfolk House in London, a building that housed the offices of numerous senior military officers. The summer breeze blew the papers out the window and they were found by a passerby. Fortunately, the man turned the papers in, mentioning his eyesight was too bad to read the text.

Artist Unknown, ‘Norfolk House’, circa 1937. Norfolk House, at 31 St James’s Square, London, was built in 1722 for the Duke of Norfolk. The house was demolished in 1938. From The Studio Volume 117. [The Offices of the Studio, London, New York, 1939.] (Photo by Print Collector/Getty Images)

Almost a hundred photos of the invasion were lost to incompetence.
Famous Hungarian-born war photographer Robert Capa landed on Omaha Beach with the second wave, shooting 106 photographs while under enemy fire. Unfortunately, only 11 of those survived. The unprocessed rolls were sent to London, where a fifteen-year-old lab assistant, Dennis Banks, dried the negatives at too high a temperature, destroying the rest of the irreplaceable frames.

One of Capa’s eleven surviving photos of the landing

Allied leaders feared defeat.
Before the invasion, General Eisenhower wrote a letter labeled “In case the Nazis won.” It read: “Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.” By accident, he signed it with the date of July 5, instead of June.

.Eisenhower talking to members of the 101st Airborne on June 5

Churchill also had his share of doubts. On the eve of the landings, he asked his wife “Do you realize that by the time you wake up in the morning 20,000 men may have been killed?”

The invasion went better than expected.
Despite such fears, the actual landing involved much fewer casualties than expected. Some preliminary estimates calculated with 10,000 dead and 30,000 wounded on the first day on the Allied side. Actual losses ended up being roughly 4,000 dead and over 6,000 wounded.

Casualties being evacuated

However, the going got rough afterwards.
In many ways, D-Day was the easy part as the subsequent breakout from Normandy became a much deadlier affair. The British expected to capture the city of Caen on the first day but only secured it after a month of fighting. The bocage terrain of Normandy, small fields separated by thick and tall lines of hedgerows, allowed the defenders to dig in and extract a high prize for every mile. Daily casualty rates became comparable to that of the trench warfare of World War I and slightly above the average for the Battle of the Somme.

U.S. troops along a hedgerow in the bocage

Churchill wanted to be close to the action.
The British Prime Minister announced that he will be present, watching the invasion from aboard the HMS Belfast. Many people were against exposing the PM to danger, including King George VI. It took the King to convince Churchill to change his mind and he only achieved it by announcing that if the Prime Minister goes, so will he.

One defender of the beaches was Korean.
Yang Kyoungjong was conscripted into the Japanese Army at the age of 18, in 1938. The next year he was captured by the Soviets at the Battle of Khalkhin Gol, sent to the gulag and pressed into military service against the Germans in 1942. He was captured again, this time by the Germans, the following year and was assigned to a battalion comprised of former POWs. He was taken captive a third time during the Battle of Normandy by the Airborne, who though he was a Japanese soldier in German uniform.

Yang Kyoungjong being processed as a POW

Both the Germans and some fishermen were confused by Allied subterfuge.
Part of the web of deception before the invasion involved not only coded instructions to the French Resistance broadcast over the Voice of America radio station but also messages intended to mislead the Germans. In the days leading up to the attack, several messages were sent, each following the formula “Fishermen, longitude X, latitude Y. Stop fishing and make for port.” The exact coordinates varied, designating the Danish, Norwegian, Belgian and French coasts. German intelligence predictably misinterpreted these as invasion orders. Later it turned out that the messages also confused the fishermen of the noted areas, who did make for port after hearing the broadcasts.

A German-language reader for Voice of America in 1942

The troops were tested by feminine wiles.
British Lieutenant Colonel Terence Otway was slated to command the vital British airborne assault on the Merville Battery. Before the invasion, he had 30 members of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force go to local pubs and see if they could get his men to spill any information. They all failed, as the men remained tight-lipped about their top secret mission.

Some of Otway’s men during the attack on the battery

Some men in the invasion were also tested by women’s charms during the operation. On the morning after D-Day, police raided a wrecked landing craft on the beach, where local prostitutes had set up a makeshift brothel.

Some men fought in their pajamas.
Obviously, they also wore their battledress. Still, many men, such as British Lieutenant Herbert Jalland of the Durham Light Infantry, wore their PJs underneath to prevent chafing from the backpack.

Soldiers of the Durham Light Infantry, Jalland’s unit. Without pajamas, presumably.

You can learn more about the lesser-known tidbits of the Normandy landings on our tours covering Western Europe in World War II, particularly our D-Day 75th anniversary tours in 2019.