Maritime Topics On Stamps:

D-DAY on stamps!

‘D-Day’ may mean 'decision day', also 'departure date'. Today, ‘D-Day’ stands for the 6th of June 1944, the beginning of the invasion of the Allied forces in Normandy during the Second World War. Germany had occupied Norway, Denmark, Holland, Belgium and France at the beginning of the war and fought in the east against Russia. The Allied goal was to create a second front against Germany in the west. Churchill and Roosevelt had reached their decision in Washington in May of 1943 .

The landing of Allied troops stood under the supreme command of the American General Dwight D. Eisenhower (left) and was code-named ‘Operation Overlord'. It was the largest military invasion in the history of the world. Tactical landing operations were commanded by British General Montgomery (above left). The naval operations were code-named 'Neptune'.

liberty ship
Altogether more than 12,000 airplanes, 185,000 soldiers, and 5,336 vessels, among them 4,126 landing crafts with 50,000 men on board, participated in the invasion. The naval forces consisted of American, English, French, Dutch, Greek and Polish ships, altogether 7 battleships, 2 monitors, 23 cruisers, 105 destroyers, and 1,073 smaller warships. They secured and covered 4,126 landing crafts. The Allied air forces consisted of 5,112 bombers, 2,316 torpedo planes and 5,400 fighters.
(Note: In the literature the numbers differ somewhat.) On the left we see the British destroyer 'Belfast' with camouflage livery, on the right a Liberty ship discharging war materials.

chart The center of Palau’s stamp pane (left) is represented above, enlarged. The map shows the Contentin Peninsula in Normandy. The Allied landing took place on five sections, each with its own code name. At left one can recognize the designations 'Utah' and 'Omaha'. Here the Americans landed as the Western Task Force with 304 warships and 1,700 landing crafts, on the right 'Gold', 'Juno' and 'Sword' beaches are registered. The British landed on 'Gold' and 'Juno', the Canadians on 'Sword'. Both contingents constituted the Eastern Task Force with 348 warships and 2426 landing boats. On the left and on the right one sees parachutes. Here paratroopers landed to provide flank security.
Different deception manoeuvres had preceded the actual landing. Spies transmitted false alarms. In Dover a ghost fleet of landing boat mockups (stamp right) and tanks made of rubber was developed and Calais was bombarded strongly. The Germans were to believe that Calais would be the invasion target.
fake landing crafts

Allied preparations took some 18 months. Approximately 3.5 million soldiers were billeted in Southern England and aboard 5000 ships. Approximately 20 millon tons war materials for the invading army had to be shipped from America to England and then to France. This was done with American 'Liberty' ships. On the two stamps we see the American supply fleet, a T2-tanker, and a beached liberty ship (utilizing high and low tides).

mulberry port
mulberry port
To discharge such enormous quantities of war materials one needed ports. Ports, which had to be available early during the first phase of the invasion.
mulberry This problem was solved with artificial ports, so-called 'mulberries'. Vessels loaded with fast binding cement were sunk as breakwaters at the French coast. They were connected with reinforced concrete pipes and large caissons. Alongside those improvised wharves up to seven liberty ships and 30 landing boats could be unloaded simultaneously. The souvenir sheet of Guyana (left) shows a 'mulberry harbour’ above. The Nicaragua stamp depicts unloading of a liberty ship alongside a Mulberry caisson.
In addition, the laying of undersea oil pipelines from England to the European mainland was prepared and later on actually accomplished.

German defenses were under the command of Fieldmarshals Rommel and von Rundstedt. Hitler had tried to build a protective wall along the occupied coasts with artillery bunkers, the Atlantic Wall. When Rommel visited it in 1943 he was aghast. Rundstedt called the wall a pure propaganda barrier. Rommel ordered to mine the coasts and to ram barriers with explosives and stakes in the surf (see left stamp), which should make a landing more difficult. On the right stamp we see a German defense position, represented here without shelters. On D-Day in Normandy, just 30,000 German soldiers faced the 185,000 men of the Allied Forces. Two infantry divisions secured the approx. 60 km wide landing area.

Although 'maritime topics' is a maritime site, we also must refer to the crucial role played by the Allied airplanes. They commanded absolute air sovereignty. They deployed troops and materials with gliders far into the hinterland. They destroyed German positions with a constant hail of bombs. In broad daylight German troops were unable to move around the landscape, they were immediately attacked from the air. On D-Day, the Allied Air Forces flew 10,743 missions and dispatched 11,912 tons of bombs.
The coast at Omaha Beach remained undamaged at first, with fateful consequences for the Americans. Their bombs landed 5 km behind enemy lines and German positions remained intact.

For such an enormous invasion visibility had to be good and the tides had to be right. The Allied landing was planned originally for 5th June, but then delayed one day due to bad weather. Between midnight and three o'clock in the morning British and American troops parachuted behind enemy positions. They were to secure the flanks and occupy bridges. The English squadrons were successful. The Americans miscalculated. Their soldiers jumped off directly over a city and found themselves immediately under bombardment. Gliders landed on meadows, first fights had begun.

Around four o'clock all hell broke loose for the Germans at Juno, Gold, and Sword beaches. Carpetbombing by ever new waves of British airplanes destroyed shelters and gun emplacements. And among them the heavy cannons of the invasion fleet roared. The whole horizon was a flashing wall of the firing invasion Armada.
The stamps above show the American battleship 'Nevada' on the left, and the British battleship ‘Ramillies’ on the right.
Some 10,000 French civilians perished in the Allied hail of bombs.

Around six o'clock the sun rose and the bombardment of Utah and Omaha Beach began. The landing craft drove off. But for thousands it became a trip to death. The first losses were demanded by the rough seas. Landing crafts capsized, soldiers cried out for help, their heavy combat gear made them drop like stones. The other boats drove past them, under orders not to stop for any rescue operations. More than 200 landing crafts sank!
At Omaha beach the situation for the Americans was disastrous. Here the bombers had missed the German positions. A constant hail of fire from cannons and machine guns rained into the landing craft and onto the men wading ashore. The first units were nearly totally wiped out, their tanks immediately set ablaze. The second and third wave lost over half of their soldiers. After four hours of fighting some 3,000 dead and severely wounded person lay along the six kilometer stretch of beach.

But the American strength was overwhelming. New landing craft approached all the time, soldiers climbed over corpses, blew away Rommel’s beach obstacles, other tanks landed and fired into the sight slots of the bunkers. Thousands of German soldiers died too. On their beaches, British and Canadians also were met by strong defense fire but the plane bombardments had hit their targets and there were only few opponents. The Germans offered courageous resistance to the first landing waves, but then the few survivors had to retreat.
On the stamps we see on the left soldiers wading ashore, in the center the unloading of a tank,and at right, the American battle ship 'Texas' firing on land positions.

landing craft
crab tank
The stamps at left show an amphibious landing craft, in the center we see an open landing boat and on the right a 'Sherman Crab Mark 1' tank, also called a 'flail tank'. Between two arms there is a rotating bar with chains and balls. Driving forward the balls pound on the soil, exploding mines and leaving a mine-free trail for those following behind.

Towards 1 p.m. American marines connected with U.S. paratroop forces. Between 2 to 4 p.m. the landed tanks had formed into divisions and began to roll into the countryside. By evening the Allies were in firm control of the occupied coastal regions. At the end D-Day, often called ‘the longest day', the Allies had not reached all operational aims, nevertheless, Montgomery was said to have been satisfied. The second front against Germany was established.
On the left we see soldiers wading by barriers and on the right the British battle ship 'Warspite'.

On D-Day the Allies suffered approximately 9,000 dead and thousands of other casualties. Nobody counted the losses of the Germans. By D-Day’s end the Allies had brought ashore 160,000 soldiers. Other sources speak of the evening of the second day, by which the Allies had landed 176,000 soldiers and 20,000 vehicles. Hitler ordered German soldiers to fight to the death for any foot of soil. Consequently, German combat forces were sacrificed senselessly during unwinnable fighting. On 28th June Cherbourg capitulated. On 15th July Rommel reported to Hitler that he had lost 97,000 men and asked him to draw the consequences from this desolate situation. Two days later he was seriously injured by a bomb attack. Hitler ordered Paris to be handed into enemy hands just as a field of rubble. Yet, the commanding general delivered a preserved undamaged city to General de Gaulle on 25th August. Hitler asked for the destruction of Paris with V1 rockets but his generals defied these orders as well.


Jersey’s souvenir sheet shows a map of northern France in the colors of the tricolor. In addition, the landing areas of the American, British and Canadians forces with flags and coats of arms of the units involved in the operations. On the left, two landing craft with passenger gangways at the bow. On European soil, the Second World War cost the lives of 19.1 million soldiers and 14.7 million civilians. In addition, there were 5.9 millions murdered Jews. In the Asian and Pacific theaters some 5.3 millions soldiers and 15.7 million civilians perished. These figures add up to 55.3 million lives lost during the Second World War. Between 1st Sept.1939 to 7th May 1945 the German Reich found itself at war with altogether 53 nations -- Hitler’s outstanding 'master stroke' at world-wide diplomacy...

Following the invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944, (left stamp) the Allies landed in the south of France in five places of the Provence on the Mediterranean coast, on August 15, 1944 (right stamp).

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