D-Day: Canada's role
Robin Rowland, CBC News Online | June 5, 2003
The sun was just coming up over the Normandy coast at about 5 a.m. on June 6, 1944 D-Day.
The Allied navies Canadian, British, American had brought a huge invasion fleet from England to France in total darkness. For men on the ships, first light showed the black shapes of other nearby vessels. For the Germans on shore, the dawn revealed a vast armada poised to invade occupied France.
The military planners had given Canada a major role on D-Day: to take one of the five designated beaches where Allied forces were to land to begin the liberation of Europe from Nazi Germany. The Americans had Utah and Omaha beaches in the west, then came the British at Gold, then the Canadians at Juno Beach and finally the British at Sword on the east.
The greatest seaborne invasion in history was aimed at 80 kilometres of mostly flat, sandy beach along the Normandy coast, west of the Seine River, east of the jutting Cotentin Peninsula. Canada's objective was right in the middle.
There were about 155,000 soldiers, 5,000 ships and landing craft, 50,000 vehicles and 11,000 planes set for the coming battle. For Canada, 14,000 soldiers were to land on the beaches; another 450 were to drop behind enemy lines by parachute or glider. The Royal Canadian Navy supplied ships and about 10,000 sailors. Lancaster bombers and Spitfire fighters from the Royal Canadian Air Force supported the invasion.
The Canadians who landed on Juno Beach were part of Britain's Second Army, under the command of British Lt. General Miles Dempsey, who had served in North Africa and Italy with the overall British commander, Bernard Montgomery. The Canadian assault forces were the Third Canadian Infantry Division, commanded by Major General R. F. Keller and the Second Canadian Armoured Brigade, with Brigadier R.A. Wyman in charge.
The units were from across the country; from east to west, from the North Nova Scotia Highlanders, to the Canadian Scottish from Victoria.
The bombardment of the beaches began at 6 a.m. Within an hour the lead landing craft were away from the ships.
Two hours later, the German defences at Juno Beach had been shattered and Canada had established the beachhead.
1.1 million Canadians served in WWII,
including 106,000 in the Royal Canadian Navy and 200,000 in the Royal Canadian Air Force
14,000 Canadians landed on D-Day
450 jumped by parachute or landed by glider
10,000 sailors of the RCN were involved
47 taken prisoner
During the first six days of the Normandy campaign, 1,017 Canadians died.
By the end of the Normandy campaign, about 5,020 Canadians had been killed. About 5,400 Canadians are buried in Normandy.
In the two and a half months of the Normandy campaign, Allied casualities (killed, wounded and captured) totalled 210,000.
Canadian casualties totalled more than 18,000, including more than 5,000 dead. German casualties were 450,000.
Canadians on D-Day: The Juno Beach Centre
Commemorative Video and DVD
On June 6, 2003 CBC News provided exclusive live coverage of the museum's opening ceremonies from Courselles-sur-mer, France.
CBC Home Video is available on video and DVD.
Approx. 90 minutes
English / colour