JUNO BEACH

Sandwiched between the British beaches of Gold and Sword, the Juno Beach sector corresponded to the portion of coastline allocated to the Canadians. It was occupied by large coastal villages which had become pretty seaside resorts at the end of the XIXth century. Although there were no heavy batteries here, a number of smaller defensive structures housing antitank guns or machine guns were located at regular intervals along the shore, often on the sea walls, so as to be able to rake the beaches with fire.

The task of capturing Juno Beach fell to Major-General Keller’s 3rd Canadian Infantry Division, supported by the tanks of the 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade and backed up on the left by No. 48 Commando of the Royal Marines.

Poor sailing conditions made the Canadians’ task particularly arduous. The barges carrying the first assault wave were delayed by both the strong swell and the presence of hazardous coastal reefs. When the landings did begin, at around 8 am, the beach obstacles had mostly been covered up by the rising tide and created havoc. During their comings and goings, many craft were blown up by mines attached to posts stuck in the sand.

On the beach itself, there were heavy losses. As the tanks were late in arriving, many of the infantry troops had to face heavy enemy fire unaided. But the Canadians are tough fighters, and by dint of perseverance, they eventually smashed through the Germans’ first defensive wall. It was to take a long time to clear the villages, however. The narrow streets slowed their progress and caused worrying congestion on the beach, which gradually shrank as the tide rose and was soon cluttered with a mass of heavy equipment.

Despite this, the vanguard immediately headed inland, taking Sainte-Croix, Reviers, Tailleville, Bény, Basly, Pierrepont and Fontaine-Henry.

By the end of the day, more than 21,000 men had been landed and the Canadians held a solid beachhead roughly twelve kilometres deep. Although they did not manage to reach the N13 and Carpiquet Aerodrome, west of Caen, they were at least within sight of these objectives. On their right flank, they had joined up with the British troops who had landed on Gold Beach. East of Langrune, however, where the fighting continued as night fell, they remained separated from Sword by a corridor that was still in German hands.