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全新版大学英语综合教程第四册Unit 1B

全新版大学英语综合教程第四册 Unit 1B

The Normandy Landings

The largest and most ambitious military expedition in history was the invasion of Normandy in northern France by British, American and Canadian forces that took place in the summer of 1944. Even nature played a role.

It took more than a year for military planners to orchestrate every movement of troops, artillery, ships and aircraft and to set everything in place for the move that was to open up a second front in Europe. This would liberate France and way for the final assault on Germany itself.

Everything was controlled; right down to the placement of military decoys across the English Channel to fool the Germans into thinking the attack would come from Britain's closest point to France at Pas de Calais rather than in Normandy as planned.

Everything was controlled, that is, except the weather.

D-day, the code name given to the day of invasion, was originally scheduled for 5 June 1944. This date had been arrived at by considering two factors--moonlight and tide. The hour of the invasion would need to be near sunrise, when the seaborne troops would have a rising tide. This would enable them to land close to the obstacles that had been placed to hinder their landing without coming ashore on top of them. The paratroopers needed a full moon for visibility. The days with the proper tide-moonlight formula closest to the target date were 5, 6 and 7 June. (1)The fifth was chosen for D-Day to allow a safety margin in case the attack needed to be postponed.

In addition to moonlight and favourable tides, calm seas were needed for the crossing. (2)But an unusually stormy transition from spring toward summer that year held our little hope that there would be a suitable break in the weather. It also meant the possibility that Operation Overlord, as the invasion was called, might have to be postponed until later in the year or eventhe following year.

With the arrival of 5 June, the weather was so bad that General Eisenhower, supreme commander of the invasion forces, was forced to postpone the invasion by one day. When he met with his staff to review their options, they were faced with the grim reality that 6 June did not look much better than the original D-Day. The meteorological report gave a thin ray of hope Athat a lull in the storm would allow enough time to launch the invasion. Consultations went on late into the night on whether to press ahead. Opinions wew divided. Finally, Eisenhower made his decision. "I am quite positive we must give the order," he said. "I don't like it, but there it is. I don't see how we can do anything else." Within hours, an armada of 3,000 landing craft, 2,500 other ships, and 500 naval vessels began to leave English ports.

Meamwhile, critical errors by the German side allowed them to be taken completely by surprise. Due to the bad weather, the German navy cancelled its usual patrol of the English Channel. Also, a practice drill scheduled for June 6 was called off. The Garman meteorological services were unaware of the break in the weather. On the ever of the attack, many of the top German leaders were absent from their commands. Rommel, the general in charge of the coastal defences, was in Germany visiting his wife on her birthday, and several officers were some distance away in Rennes or on their way there for a war-game exercise.

The assault on Normandy began at 12:15 a.m., when the pathfinders for the American airborne units left their planes and parachuted to earth. Five minutes later, on the other side of the invasion area, the British pathfinders made their jump. The pathfinders were specially trained to find and mark the drop zones. The main airborne assault was to commence within the hour.

The airborne attack became confused because of stiff winds and the evasive flying of the transport planes when they encountered anti-aircraft fire. As a result, the paratroopers were scattered over a wide area and most missed their drop zones, some by as much as 20 miles. Other complications were caused by the terrain, and the worst terrain was on the Cotentin Peninsula. The Germans had laced the open fields with anti-personnel and glider stakes and flooded the low areas. The flooding caused the most trouble for the Americans of the 101st and 82nd Airborne divisions, with many of the troops drowned, laden down by their heavy equipment.

The airborne units were to secure the flanks of the amphibious assault. That meant capturing bridges, crossroads and coastal batteries. After accomplishing those tasks, the paratroopers had to withstand any German counterattacks.

As the airborne units struggled to achieve their goals, the great fleet made its way across the channel to its appointment with destiny. Leading that grand armada were the minesweepers. Behind them followed a vast array of naval vessels of every conceivable type. Never before had such a fleet been assembled. Including the landing craft carried on board, the combined Allied invasion armada numbered up to 6,000 ships. Approximately 150,000 men were to cross the English Channel and land at assault beaches code-named "Utah," "Omaha," "Gold," "Juno" and "Sword."

The first areas of French soil wrested from German control were a group of small islands located three miles off Utah Beach. Allied commanders were concerned that these islands could be used as sites for heavy guns. The men of the U.S. 4th and 24th Cavalry squadrons were designated to take the islands prior to the main invasion. The assault teams found only land mines. The Germans had left the islands unoccupied.

For the majority of the assault troops, however, the war had not begun yet. After spending as long as 48 hours aboard the various transport ships as a result of the delay, many of the men were miserably seasick and in poor shape for the challenge ahead.

The naval bombardment began around 5:45 a.m. The air attack followed. The naval and air bombardments were designed to destroy the beach guns and obstacles, pin down the enemy and provide shelter for the ground troops on the open beaches by making craters. Both, however, largely failed in their objectives. Weather conditions had improved, but they were not perfect. Because of poor visibility caused by low cloud cover, it was decided that the bombers would delay the release of bombs 30 seconds to avoid hitting the assaulting troops. As a result, the bombs fell inland and missed their targets. Although the naval bombardment was more accurate, it was not much more effective against the hardened German gun emplacements.

The weather also was partially responsible for causing some of the assault craft to miss their assigned landing areas. Additionally, many of the landing craft and amphibious tanks foundered in the rough sea. In the Omaha area, most of the craft carrying artillery and tanks intended to support the incoming troops sank in the high waves.

At Utah Beach, however, a strange stroke of good fortune occurred when the assault craft encountered a southerly current that caused them to land in the wrong sector. (3)The German shore batteries that would have contested a landing in the original area would undoubtedly have taken a heavy toll. The landing at the new sector was virtually unopposed.

Despite difficulties, Eisenhower's gamble with the elements was to pay off. The invasion forces succeeded in establishing a toehold on French soil. Reinforcenments began to pour in, thrusting on deep into France. Within a year Hitler's empire, which he had boasted would last a thousand years, lay in ruins.
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