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How World War II was won: The D-Day invasion

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D-Day: How weather forecasting helped turn the tide of WWII

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They were tasked with blasting channels through the beach obstacles, but German gunfire from above the beach took a heavy toll, and more than half their engineers were killed in the process. However, without the accurate knowledge of the exact timing of the fast-rising tide, things would have been even worse. At Utah, the westernmost of the five invasion beaches, American demolition teams had cleared the entire beach of obstacles by 8am, with only six engineers killed and eleven wounded.

An unexpectedly strong tidal current actually helped the invaders by sweeping their landing craft 2km southeast of the intended landing spot, to a stretch of beach that transpired to be more lightly defended. Skip to main content. The tidal range from one low water to the next high water along the entire French coast of the English Channel was never less than six metres.

At low tide, those large tidal ranges exposed long stretches of beach that Allied soldiers would have to cross under heavy German fire. There were thousands of underwater obstacles in the intertidal zone, built during by German troops from steel, cement and wood.

Timeline of the D-Day landings of 6th June 1944 hour by hour as events unfolded on the day

Positioned every two or three yards across the front, and hidden when submerged by the tide, these were designed to rip out the bottoms of any landing craft but Allied aerial reconnaissance had spotted the obstacles and recognised their purpose. From low water, the water would rise at a rate of at least a metre per hour, sometimes even faster due to shallow-water effects.

Five landing beaches had been identified code-named Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword and the timing of the tidal conditions varied between them. Between the farthest of them, separated by only about km, the difference was more than an hour — so the landing time on each beach, had to be staggered according to the tidal predictions.

Initial landings needed to be soon after low tide so that demolition teams could blow up enough obstacles to open corridors through which the following landing craft could navigate to the beach.