The Casualty toll

Casualty figures for 24 hours of the D-day assault are vague and contradictory, depending on sources. The following numbers are from a U.S. Army after-action report; British figures are estimates:

Canadian: 946

British: 2,500

U.S.: 6,603

Gliders: The Allies landed about 850 gliders in Normandy, most under cover of darkness. The British Horsa Mark II glider could carry 28 fully armed troops or two jeeps. A total of 25 American and 34 British glider pilots died in the invasion.

Medals: Ten Medals of Honor--recognizing supreme bravery in action--were awarded to U.S. soldiers for their roles in Normandy; eight of those were awarded posthumously.


Battlefield Facts

Target practice: For pre-D-day machine-gun practice, Allied gunners filled condoms with helium and released them into the sky. Condoms were also used to keep water out of gun barrels during the invasion.

Transportation: Thousands of British troops took bicycles with them when they set off for Normandy; there is no record of any Americans doing so. One 101st Airborne commander reportedly tried, but his men threw it in the Channel.

Hemingway: Ernest Hemingway was a correspondent for Collier’s magazine in 1944 and landed on Omaha Beach in the seventh wave of D-day. He wrote: “Those of our troops who were not wax-gray with seasickness, fighting it off, trying to hold on to themselves before they had to grab for the steel side of the boat, were watching the (battleship) Texas with a look of surprise and happiness. Under the steel helmets they looked like pikemen of the Middle Ages to whose aid in battle had come some strange and unbelievable monster. There would be a flash like a blast furnace from the 14-inch guns of the Texas that would lick far out from the ship. Then the yellow brown smoke would cloud out and, with smoke rolling, the concussion and report would hit us, jarring the men’s helmets. It struck your ear like the punch of a heavy, dry glove.”

What D-day means: Invasion planners apparently appreciate redundancy. The D in D-day stands for “day.”