The Run-Up To DDay
Updated: May 14, 2019
The DDay Invasion of the beaches of Normandy, France, changed the course of the war, and of the world. Here's Bud's account of June 6, 1944, and the moment when they realized the invasion was on.
“Operation Overlord,” which kicked off with the Allied invasion of the beaches of Normandy, France, commenced on D-Day, June 6, 1944. At that moment, the war had been raging on for five years. France was under Nazi occupation and Hitler’s troops were carrying out extensive bombing missions over England. The Allied leaders knew a bold move had to be made in order to turn the tide of the war and thus the carefully planned Normandy invasion was launched.
From Bud’s diary comes this first person account of D-Day, from the air. The secrecy placed around the invasion has been much noted in the war’s history. Here Bud notes that the men had no idea what was coming; they were only informed of the invasion late at night on June 5. The massive Allied invasion of France took place early the next morning.
CHERBOURG PENINSULA, FRANCE
JUNE 6, D-DAY
“We Knew Something Big Was Up”
(From My Diary)
Last night, the fifth of June, we were alerted for a briefing at 11 PM. Because of two hours of daylight saving time, it was still light out when we walked the half mile from our hut to the briefing room through the cool still air.
We knew something big was up as all the local brass was standing around. There was an exciting rumor around that we might be in on a shuttle run to Russia such as had been in the papers lately.
I’ll never forget the quiet in that big room when they told us that “This is the morning we’ve been waiting for. Today our men are invading France.” We all had a hard lump in our stomachs. Not that we were afraid for ourselves—it was the same old thing for us—but the thought of all those men in the boats walking into what we thought would be a bloody beach. We were to lay a pattern of bombs right on the beach when the boats were only 600 yards off shore.
The colonel read a message from Doolittle (8th AAF Commander) and Eisenhower “Don’t let your bombs fall short…”
We drew our courses on the maps with the other navigators. I remember how nervous the lead navigators were about making the rendezvous come out right. I remember the course formed a great figure eight over England and the channel coast. Then we got into our flying suits and caught a truck out to the field in the darkness. The whole crew was already at the plane and Tres, the bombardier, was busily checking the bombs. The rest stood around talking, speculating on the invasion and figeting. During this time a plane from another field took off and crashed. We saw the explosion but wisely didn’t talk and we were spared that jangle to the nerves.
At 0322 we took off and climbed into the dirty overcast to assemble on top. It was a long nerve-wracking climb and we didn’t break out into the bright moonlight on top till we were above 10,000 feet.
We were the only plane to find our leader and we followed him dutifully all the way even when he jinked in the early dawn joining a PFF ship by which to bomb through the clouds.
Nothing could be seen of the invasion—just solid grayness below us and I dropped Koltun’s “Bomb!” by hitting the salvos bar when the toggle switch didn’t work.
Quite a day—caught a little flak going by the Channel Islands.
I hope the paddle-feet do all right. How nice we have it.