Plymouth D-Day Festival 2004
The Invasion of Europe
Contact Information for Festival for the 60th Anniversary of D-D
Soldiers land on beaches of Europe
It was on 6th June 1944 that Operation Overlord - the long anticipated Allied invasion of Nazi-held Europe - went into action. What came to be known as the 'D-day landings' had been set in motion the day before with Operation Neptune, the naval aspect of Overlord. The scope of this massive naval action is aptly described by Cornelius Ryan:
"They came, rank after relentless rank, ten lanes wide, twenty miles across, five thousand ships of every description. There were fast new attack transports, slow rust-scarred freighters, small ocean liners, Channel steamers, hospital ships, weather-beaten tankers, coaster and swarms of fussing tugs. There were endless columns of shallow-draft landing ships-great wallowing vessels, some of them almost 350 feet long. ... Ahead of the convoys were processions of mine sweepers, Coast Guard cutters, buoy-layers and motor launches. Barrage balloons flew above the ships. Squadrons of fighter planes weaved below the clouds. And surrounding this fantastic cavalcade of ships packed with men, guns, tanks, motor vehicles and supplies, ... was a formidable array 702 warships." The Longest Day
More than 50 years later, extensive historical research had been conducted at invasion-related sites all along the Normandy shoreline. However, no attempt had been made to correlate the remaining undersea archaeological material with the historical record of the naval aspects of the invasion, which continued for months as hundreds of thousands of troops came ashore to liberate Europe from Nazi rule.
Instead, the undersea record has been subjected to decades of erosion, and beach and shore clearing of hazards to navigation - most notably, shipwrecks. In 1997, however, this problem was recognised, by Brett Phaneuf and Robert Neyland of the Institute of Nautical Archaeology at Texas A&M University (INA). As a result of the determination of these two men, and in cooperation with the Naval Historical Center's Underwater Archaeology Branch, a team of scientists embarked upon the first underwater archaeological reconnaissance adjacent to the American D-Day landing beaches, in the summer of 2000.
'... hundreds of thousands of troops came ashore to liberate Europe from Nazi rule.'
The landing areas were surveyed from Utah Beach in the west, to Point du Hoc, and across Omaha Beach in the east. The goal was to determine the location of landing craft, artillery, ships, ordinance and other equipment from Operation Neptune, map the sites, and enter them into the Geographic Information System (GIS), designed to manage 'spatial' data - charts, maps, sonar imagery and geomagnetic contours. This was in the hope that a detailed history of the losses at sea close to shore could be written.