10 incredible technologies developed for D-Day

Along with bravery and determination, it took innovation and ingenuity to capture, secure and hold the Normandy beaches on D-Day. Technology played a key role. While not every innovation worked as planned, used together these all helped ensure victory in Operation Overlord.

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    LST (Landing Ship, Tank) - While the famous “Higgins boats” were able to get the men ashore, it was the LSTs that ensured that tanks, vehicles and cargo would also get to shore without docks or piers. The bow of these LST vessels even had a large door that was used for the unloading of vehicles, while the flat keel allowed the ship to be beached yet stay upright. In addition to delivering men and material, 38 LSTs were converted to serve as small hospital ships, while other LSTs were modified with extra cranes to deliver ammunition to the beaches in the days and weeks after the D-Day landings. This image shows LSTs preparing for the invasion of Normandy. (WWII Signal Corps Photograph Collection).
    Photo Credit: USAMHI
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    LCVP (Landing Craft, Vehicle Personnel) - Known as the "Higgins Boat" after its inventor Andrew Higgins, these were made of plywood and could operate in just 18-inches of water. The boats would also carry up to 36 men ashore, and after the beaches were secured played a crucial role in keeping the men supplied. General Dwight D. Eisenhower was so impressed that years later he said, "Andrew Higgins is the man who won the war for us." This photo shows a Czech hedgehog anti-tank obstacle and a Higgins boat used during Operation Overlord on D-Day, seen outside Normandy Victory Museum in La Fourchette near Carentan on, June 1, 2019, in La Fourchette, Carentan, Normandy, France.
    Photo by Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images
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    Airspeed AS.51 Horsa Glider - Among the 15,000 airborne troops that landed behind enemy lines on D-Day more than 1,000 arrived on the Horsa Gliders that were made of little more than plywood and fabric. While not as well known in the USA as the Higgins Boat, the glider played a key role in several notable operations in World War II, including the invasion of Sicily. More than 250 gliders were used during the Battle of Normandy and the first soldiers to arrive in France in the early hours of June 6, 1944 when six Horsas were used by a unit of glider infantry of the 2nd Battalion, the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, British 6th Airborne Division, commanded by Major John Howard to capture Pegasus Bridge as part of Operation Deadstick. This photo shows a double row of Horsa gliders flanked by Halifax bombers photographed in England before the invasion of Normandy.
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    Tide Prediction Machine - The Allies had put serious consideration into where the invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe should occur, but it was up to British mathematician Arthur Thomas Doodson to provide the when. He started working with tide-prediction machines and in 1944, using a modified device he was able to identify the three ideal days for a landing in early June. While weather delayed the scheduled June 5 landings, Doodson's calculations ensured that the Allies had the right window for a low tide landing. This photo shows US soldiers on a Coast Guard vessel as it crosses the English Channel to deliver reinforcements to the French coast during D-Day operations, early June 1944.
    Photo by PhotoQuest/Getty Images
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    Mulberry Harbours -The Allies knew that it wouldn't be easy to capture a French or Belgian harbor intact, so Allied planners instead opted to create two artificial harbors, which were codenamed "Mulberries." These required the sinking of outdated ships or "Corncobs" to create the outer breakwater or "Gooseberries," along with large concrete structures "Phoenixes." Floating roadways and piers were codenamed "Whales" and the result was an improvised port facility. Unfortunately, a major storm on June 19 completely destroyed the one at Omaha Beach, while the second one at Gold Beach – which became known as Port Winston – actually saw use for eight months. That was five months longer than its expected life cycle. It was used to land more than 2.5 million men, 500,000 vehicles and more than four million tons of supplies. This photo shows the 'Mulberry' floating harbor at Omaha beach.
    Photo by Keystone/Getty Images
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    PLUTO - By some accounts, this was among the greatest feats of military engineering – even if it didn't live up to the hype. The Pipeline Under The Ocean (PLUTO) was designed to supply fuel from the Isle of Wight to Port-en-Bessin, which was the linkup point between Omaha and Gold Beaches. In the end, it only supplied a fraction of the fuel needed for the Allied war effort. This photo from Sept 13, 1946, shows the crew of the S.S 'Empire Ridley' winding in the 'Pluto' pipeline.
    Photo by Harry Todd/Fox Photos/Getty Images
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    Hobart's Funnies - Named after British Major-General Sir Percy Hobart these were actually a series of tanks that were designed to fill specific roles during the D-Day landings. The most famous was arguably the DD tank – the Duplex Drive –which was an amphibious tank fitted with a large watertight canvas housing that actually enabled it to float while a pair of propellers provided propulsion. The DD tanks worked well in the reasonably calm waters off Gold, Sword and Juno beaches, while 27 out of 28 tanks reached Utah Beach. However, in the rough waters of Omaha Beach, almost all of the tanks launched offshore were lost. Other "Funnies" included the "Crocodile," which was a Churchill tank that was modified with the addition of a flame-thrower; and the Crab, which was a Sherman tank equipped with a mine flail to clear a path through a beach minefield. This photo shows a Sherman Crab Mark II minesweeping flail tank during preparations for Operation Overlord on April 27, 1944.
    Photo by Sgt. J Mapham/ IWM via Getty Images
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    Rhino Tank - Another modification for tanks came not from Major-General Hobart but from American, Sergeant Curtis G. Culin, who developed a type of metal sawtooth that could be fitted to the front of a tank. Made of little more than scrap steel this allowed the Allies to break through the heavy “bocage,” or hedgerows in Normandy. The teeth helped prevent the vulnerable underside of the tank from being exposed to enemy fire when it cut through the bocage. It was soon dubbed the Culin Rhino device or Culin hedgerow cutter. This photo shows an American M5 "Stuart" light tank with a Rhino cutter in Normandy in 1944.
    Photo from the collection of John Adams-Graf
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    D-Day Cricket - While this wasn't technically developed by the Allies for the D-Day landings, it does show ingenuity. After the parachute landing in Sicily in 1943, it was realized that communication was difficult and that isolated paratroopers had no way of telling friend from foe. General Maxwell Taylor of the 101st Airborne Division found a simple way for troops to communicate. It was the "Acme 700 clicker," which was produced by J. Hudson and Company of Birmingham, England as a device for band and orchestra leaders. It was soon dubbed the "cricket" by the troops as it made a "click-clack" sound. One click-clack from a soldier was to be answered with a double click-clack response. This photo shows an original D-Day cricket.
    Collection of John Adams-Graf
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    M1 Garand - This also wasn't developed specifically for D-Day but the M1 Garand, the .30-06 caliber semi-automatic rifle developed just before America's entry into WWII, gave the G.I.'s a major advantage over the German Kar98K bolt action rifle. The M1 Garand held eight rounds, compared to the five-round Kar98K, and it was both reliable and durable. General George S. Patton even described it as "the greatest battle implement ever devised."
    Collection of Peter Suciu
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