Dr. Guyton shares history of D-Day with Kiwanians
Dr. Dan Guyton was the guest speaker at the Nov. 12 luncheon meeting of the Florence Kiwanis Club. Dr. Guyton’s father’s, the late surgeon Dr. Eugene Guyton, served as a medic during the D-Day Invasion of Normandy in World War II. Dr. Guyton brought a display of WWII memorabilia and spoke briefly of his father’s participation in the invasion that foreshadowed the liberation of Western Europe from Nazi Germany. Most of his talk centered on the preparations for the largest amphibious military assault in history.
Code named Operation Overlord, the invasion began in the early morning hours of June 6, 1944 and covered a 50-mile stretch of five beaches along the coast of the Normandy region of France. The plan was to gain a foot hole into France in a not-so-populated area and make it into a port. This stretch of beaches in Normandy fit the bill, Dr. Guyton noted. Thirteen nations, including the USA, Great Britain and Canada, participated in this air, land and sea operation that included over 5,000 warships,11,000 airplanes, 20,000 vehicles and over 150,000 troops.
As a diversion to mislead the Germans about the planned attack, the Allied Forces implemented a campaign that led them to believe Calais was their target. The deception included huge fake convoys, Dr. Guyton noted. Prior to the invasion, the Allied Forces sent in underwater demolition teams under the cover of night to clear the path for the beach landings.
They discovered the beach sand was shallow and on rock, which meant the invading troops could not dig foxholes. Another problem was the severe and changeable weather which meteorologists studied to choose the best date for the invasion. Even still, many lives were lost because of the weather, Dr. Guyton noted. Omaha and Utah were the code names of the beaches designated for the American landings.
The Brits and Canadians came in at Gold, Juno and Sword beaches. The American soldiers were hindered carrying heavy equipment. Also, coming in for the landing during low tide, they faced over 200 yards of beach to cross under enemy fire before reaching any natural protection. A problem for the U.S. paratroopers was too many latches to unhook from their parachutes and some died in the deep waters.
The British fared better with only one latch, noted Dr. Guyton. Some of the unique preparations for the invasion, included huge concrete pads towed in to create temporary harbors. Also Operation PLUTO, a secret Pipe Line Under The Ocean, supplied fuel for the Allied Forces in France. Dr. Guyton answered a few questions from his audience and invited them to view his WWII display of memorabilia.