Like the navy, the Allied aviation played a vital role in the operations which took place on June 6th 1944.
Since spring, it had been carrying out numerous operations over France, relentlessly bombing aerodromes, radar stations, munitions dumps and the artillery batteries of the Atlantic Wall, in order to weaken the Germans’ defensive capabilities prior to D-Day. It then turned its attention to railway stations and road and rail bridges, in order to isolate Normandy little by little from the rest of the country.
By the beginning of June 1944, General Eisenhower, Supreme Commander for Operation Overlord, had more than 11,000 aircraft of every kind at his disposal, placed under the responsibility of Air Chief Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh Mallory. The Germans had fewer than a thousand aircraft to send against them, and this massive imbalance would be one of the keys to Allied success on D-Day.
In the night of June 5th-6th, while transport planes were dropping thousands of paratroops over Normandy, the heavy four-engined ’planes of the RAF’s Bomber Command were dropping 5,300 tonnes of bombs on the ten German coastal batteries judged to be the most dangerous. At dawn, this job was taken over by the bombers of the Eight and Ninth US Air Forces.
All day long on June 6th, the Allied aviation, now the masters of the sky, made endless sorties. Fighters and fighter bombers provided tactical support for the troops on the ground, while bombers attempted to destroy communication hubs in order to delay the arrival of German reinforcements at the front. Stations and bridges were systematically attacked. The centre of Caen was ravaged by bombs in the early afternoon. In the evening of June 6th and overnight, ten towns in Lower Normandy were pitilessly destroyed, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of civilians ‑ men, women and children alike.