Monday 6 June 2016

D-Day: The Element of Surprise

"Our intention is to honour the survivors and their fallen comrades while the events of June 6, 1944 remain within living memory." (Bill Danard, Canada Post)

On the 60th anniversary of D-Day, Canada Post issued a stamp to commemorate the historic event of World War II. "With the imagery of this stamp, we aim to capture the experience of the very first Canadian troops to land on Juno Beach that day.  We tried to balance a sense of victory achieved with an acknowledgment of the human price," explained Bill Danard of Canada Post (

Much preparation went into the D-Day invasion, which included Canadian, American and British troops.  The Allies wanted to capitalize on a number of factors.  The moon had to be full (June 5, 6 or 7).  The tides had to be low.  The weather had to be appropriate (low winds, light cloud cover).  If all went well, they would catch the Germans sleeping.  The forecast for June 5, the original invasion day, was horrible:  a stiff wind, choppy seas and overcast.  Operation Neptune would have to be postponed for a day.  

The landing place also had to be perfect.  The Allies had dropped clues hinting that they would land at Pas de Calais.  However, it was too fortified.  In the end, they chose Normandy.  The word went out:  "Halycon Five finally and definitely confirmed."  On June 6, 1944, the Canadians debarked at Juno Beach.  By midday, the beachhead had been won.  "[By] nightfall, Canadians had penetrated further inland than any other seaborne forces."  The Canadian Army had proven once again, like in the First World War, that they were a formidable fighting force.  

Why were the Germans caught sleeping?  While the Allies employed expert meteorologists (two British teams and one American team) to predict the Normandy coast weather that month, so too did the Germans.  The former had decided that a Beaufort Scale rating of 4 or lower was acceptable for winds while the latter had decided that 4 was too strong.  Furthermore, General Eisenhower went ahead and made the ultimate decision to launch the D-Day invasion whereas General Rommel, shopping for birthday shoes with his wife in Berlin, waited for an ultimate order from Hitler, which never came.

Sadly, Canadians suffered 359 losses while the Allies suffered 12,000 deaths on D-Day.  However, the number was a lot lower than the 75,000 predicted without the element of surprise.  

What a glorious sight!  D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944 courtesy

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