Normandy: Juno Beach (Canadian)

D-Day: certainly one of Canada's finest hours of the war

The assault landings on Juno Beach were made by the Canadian 3rd Infantry Division. Their orders were to break through the coastal defences and move rapidly some 16 kilometres inland to cut the Caen-Bayeux road to the west of Caen. Immediately after the landings, contact was to be established with the two British beaches, Sword and Gold, on either side of the Canadians.

Originally, as on the other beaches, the Canadians planned to land midway between low and high tides – reducing the distance the assaulting troops had to cover whilst under fire - yet still exposing the German beach defences, which included mined obstacles. However air photographs revealed offshore rocky shoals, so the landing was delayed by 15 minutes to 0745 so that the landing craft would not run aground. On D-Day, the first assault waves landed at about 0755. By then, many of the obstacles were partially submerged and it was impossible for the demolition engineers to clear a path to the beach. Enemy mines destroyed or damaged a third of the landing craft; scores of soldiers had to wade ashore.

As the Canadians approached the beach they came under heavy machine gun, mortar and artillery fire. The first wave of men ashore also suffered heavy casualties from the well protected German defences, many untouched by the naval and air bombardment. A series of fierce battles followed, supported by amphibious DD tanks that were floated ashore amongst the leading waves. Within two hours the crust of the German defence was broken, although some pockets of Germans held out for much longer.

Once off the exposed sands, opposition was relatively light and the Canadians pressed relentlessly inland. Tanks of the 1st Hussars even reached the Caen-Bayeux Road but their success was not exploited. This troop of tanks was the only part of the entire Allied seaborne force to reach their D-Day objective. Despite this good start there were delays getting men and vehicles ashore. The delays were compounded by the rising tide and the small strip of beach was clogged with traffic. One consequence of this was a failure to link up with Sword beach to the east, leaving a gap of 2 miles into which part of the German 21st Panzer Division counter attacked in late afternoon. Fortunately this counter attack was unsuccessful. 

The Canadians landed 21,400 troops on Juno on D-Day, of these, 1,200 were casualties, which, although heavy, was fewer than feared.


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