Tuesday, 13 April 2010

D-Day - civilian casualties

I’ve been reading Anthony Beevor’s impressive tome, D-Day. Beevor puts the number of French civilians killed in the months leading up to the 1944 Allied landings in Normandy at 15,000.

The Allies’ trump card was their air supremacy, but Churchill had mooted the idea of setting a ceiling of 10,000 for the number of French civilian casualties during the campaign. After that bombing would have to cease. The suggestion was rejected.

About 3,000 French people were killed in the first 24 hours of the operation, double the number of US service personnel who died. Among the places that suffered particularly heavy casualties during the invasion were Saint-Lo where about 300 died, and Caen, where the death toll was over 800.

The Germans, meanwhile, continued their systematic murder of French civilians. On June 8, 1944 they hanged 98 citizens of Tulle from the town’s trees. Two days later, in the most notorious massacre of all, they descended on Oradour-sur-Glane, shooting all the men, then herding the women and children into the church, which they set on fire. A total of 642 died, and the Nazis had got the wrong village. They were supposed to be taking revenge for an attack by the Resistance at Oradour-sur-Vayres, 15 miles away. Altogether, nearly 20,000 French civilians perished during the campaign.

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