D-Day Casualty Figures and Estimates
The task of compiling casualty figures for the landing Normandy ought to be easy; but it is in fact impossible. Of the three countries involved in the operation, only Canada, it appears, has prepared post-war casualty statistics on the basis of the records of individual soldiers of the units concerned.
The only figures available for the United Kingdom and United States forces are the rough and necessarily approximate ones set down at the time; and for some sectors there are really no figures at all. In these circumstances it might seem useless to attempt a compilation; but Operation “Neptune” was so significant an enterprise that an account of it without casualty figures would be an historical absurdity. Accordingly the attempt has been made with the following results.
Approximate Casualties of the Allied Armies by Sectors, Normandy, 6 June 1944
|U.S. / UTAH||197|
|U.S. / OMAHA||2,000|
|U.K. / GOLD||413|
|CAN. / JUNO||1,204|
|U.K. / SWORD||630|
|9,000 total (of which 3,000 may have been fatalities)|
UNITED STATES AIRBORNE SECTOR (82ND AND 101ST AIRBORNE DIVISIONS)
Here specific contemporary figures are available. On the basis of the divisions’ reports, Gordon A. Harrison, Cross-Channel Attack (Washington, Department of the Army, 1951), pp. 284 and 300, gives casualties of 1259 for the 82nd Division and 1240 for the 101st, or a total of 2499.
“UTAH” SECTOR (4th U.S. Infantry Division)
Casualties here were extremely low. An official publication gives them as 197 (Utah Beach to Cherbourg, Washington, Department of the Army, 1947, pg. 55).
“OMAHA” SECTOR (1st U.S. Infantry Division [and 29th U.S. Infantry Division])
Casualties here were extremely heavy, and there appear to be no really reliable figures. Harrison, p. 330, gives “about 2,000” as “frankly a guess”: and this official estimate has been accepted.
“GOLD” SECTOR (50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division)
The only figure found for this division is in a compilation in a report of the (British) Army Operational Research Group, which concludes on the basis of examination of war diaries that there were 413 casualties on the beaches. The figure for the day as a whole would of course be somewhat higher. It is relevant that this compilation gives the casualties on the beaches for the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division’s area as 805; we know that Canadian casualties for the day as a whole were 961, and another Army Operational Research Group report calculates those of British units on the beaches in the Canadian sector (including No. 48 Royal Marine Commando) as 243.
“JUNO” SECTOR (3rd Canadian Infantry Division)
Canadian official figures for this sector are 961 casualties; it is impossible to distinguish between beach and inland casualties. Adding 243 on the beaches for the British units (see above under “Gold” sector) the total for the day is 1204; it should be somewhat higher to allow for British casualties inland.
“SWORD” SECTOR (3rd British Infantry Division)
The only figures found is that of the Army Operational Research Group: 630 casualties on the beaches. The remarks above, under “Gold” Sector, also apply here.
BRITISH AIRBORNE SECTOR (6th Airborne Division)
The division’s undated report states that the first two days fighting “cost the division over 800 casualties in battle”, while in addition “the missing from the drop still numbered approx. 1000”.
A War Office analysis gives the final figures of missing for the two parachute brigades in the initial airborne operation as 658 all ranks. The glider units would presumably raise it to at least 800; in addition, glider pilot casualties are given at 95. Since the the fighting on 7 June was considerably less heavy than that on D Day, perhaps 600 of the 800 “battle” casualties might be assigned to 6 June. This would give a roughly estimated total of 1500 D Day casualties for the sector: a figure comparable with those for the U.S. airborne divisions.[Note: The British 6th Airborne included the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion.]
The figures accepted above give a grand total of 8443 casualties. But this is probably low, because the figures for the 50th and 3rd British Divisions cover losses on the beaches only, and there are higher figures for “Omaha” than Harrison’s conservative 2000.
The unsatisfactory nature of the statistics is reflected in the fact that United Kingdom official historians make a considerably higher estimate—10,865. On the basis of the foregoing Canadian calculation, the total casualties of the Allied armies might be somewhat more than 9000 men. If we use the Canadian experience as a criterion, roughly one-third of these men must have lost their lives.
Source: Colonel C.P. Stacey, The Victory Campaign (Official History of the Canadian Army in the Second World War, Volume III).
For more information on Gordon Harrison’s guesswork, see bookmark in “Cross-Channel Attack” excerpts.
For numbers by the official British historian, see D-Day numbers from “Victory in the West”.