U.S. troops prepare to storm the beaches of Normandy on D-Day.
U.S. troops prepare to storm the beaches of Normandy on D-Day. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

At the start of World War II, First Army was assigned to defend the United States’ Atlantic Coast. But when American intelligence determined that Germany lacked the ability to invade the East Coast, a shift was made from defense to offense.

On Oct. 20, 1943, Lt. Gen. Omar Bradley assumed command of First Army, and the unit established new headquarters in Bristol, England. From there, training commenced for the eventual invasion of Northern France. Total strength included about 105,000 Soldiers in 10 infantry divisions and two armored divisions. By D-Day, First Army’s strength numbered 520,000 Soldiers.

Allied Command was expecting about 43,000 casualties in the first 10 days following the Normandy landing. Because of this, Bradley requested the invasion take place under cover of darkness. But the Allies launched a daytime assault to ensure the landings took place on the right beaches and make accurate shelling and bombing more likely.

Ironically, landing crafts still missed their intended sites due to strong currents. Moreover, bomber crews were careful not to shell too close to the Allied forces on the ground, so most of their bomb loads landed too far inland to be effective.

D-Day was initially slated for June 5, but weather pushed it back a day. So on June 6, 1944, 60,000 First Army Soldiers and 6,500 vehicles made the initial landings on Omaha and Utah Beaches. By midnight, casualties were being reported as 1,145 killed, 3,184 wounded, 1,928 missing, and 26 captured.

Along with People and Mission, History is one of three pillars that form First Army's foundation. D-Day took place 77 years ago this year but the lessons learned are as crucial now as they were then. A full 42-page First Army After Action Report on the Normandy invasion is here: