June 6, 1944 – D-Day Invasion
June 6th is the anniversary of the D-Day landings on the Normandy Coast of Northern France. While there were actually many D-Day landings in World War Two, the invasion by Allied forces to liberate Europe from Nazi rule is the one everyone remembers.
Of the nearly 150,000 Allied troops who landed or parachuted onto the Normandy coast, 14,000 were Canadians.
Canadian soldiers departed England to load into assault ships to attack one of the invasion beaches codenamed “Juno”. The British and other allied armies landed on Gold and Sword Beaches. The Americans had Utah and Omaha Beaches.
The Royal Canadian Navy contributed 110 ships & 10,000 sailors in support of the landings while the RCAF had helped prepare the invasion by bombing targets inland.
On D-Day & during the ensuing campaign, 15 RCAF fighter & fighter-bomber squadrons helped control the skies over Normandy and attacked enemy targets.
On D-Day, June 6, 1944, Canadians suffered 1074 casualties, including 359 killed.
First Reports of Invasion Were on German Radio
What not many people know, is that the first reports that the invasion of Nazi Germany’s Fortress Europa was not from Allied sources, but rather from German short-wave radio.
Those reports were picked up by American and British radio stations, which quickly shifted into carrying the unconfirmed coverage to their audiences. Those radio reports started at about 2:50 am Eastern War Time from New York.
Each message from German radio was reported, however, NBC and CBS who rapidly were reporting the news were also responsibly making sure to report that these German reports were unconfirmed reports and that they were also suspect because the German propaganda ministry was thought to make these false broadcasts in order to draw out members of the underground resistance in order to capture them.
The BBC issued the first confirmation when John Snagge read Communique #1 at 03:32 AM Eastern War Time – This report was issued by Allied Expeditionary Force under the command of American General Dwight D. Eisenhower.
The original broadcast was issued on June 6th by Colonel R.Ernest Dupuy at 3:32 am.
This report quotes the actual words by Colonel Dupuy although John Snagge has a more eloquent voice, nevertheless, this was “history in the making” and for many, radio’s finest moment.
Some of the most significant Canadian Army footage of the D-Day landings on Juno Beach as the Canadians headed inland on the beach was shot by Sergeant Bill Grant.
The man with someone’s hand on his back in the picture was John Daniel Sweeney from Spring Hill Nova Scotia. Sweeney made it ashore that day but died later in the war.
Working with local historians and officers of the Bathurst, New Brunswick-headquartered North Shore Regiment, the Royal Canadian Mint has solved the mystery of the identity of the soldier whose face is dramatically portrayed on its 2019 Proof Silver Dollar commemorating the 75th Anniversary of D-Day.
That soldier has been identified as Private George Herman Baker, a member of No. 3 Platoon, A Company, of the North Shore Regiment who landed with his comrades at Juno Beach, between Courseulles and St-Aubin-sur-Mer, France on June 6, 1944.
Private Baker lived through the Second World War and returned home to Liverpool, Nova Scotia where he raised a family in peacetime. He is survived by his daughter Karen McLeod, to whom the Mint was honoured to present this coin in honour of her late father. Like so many other brave Canadians on D-Day, Private Baker risked everything to help restore an Allied foothold on the Western Front and eventually win the Second World War for Canada and its allies.
BILL GRANT, CANADIAN ARMY FILM AND PHOTO UNIT, COURTESY THE GREGG CENTRE, UNB