Tuesday, June 06, 2006

D-Day: June 6, 1944

To discover what the Allied invaders faced, American, British, and French operatives risked their lives—and sometimes gave their lives—in the process of filling in the BIGOT maps. Revelations about Normandy's undulating seafloor came from frogmen who also got sand samples on beaches patrolled by German sentries. Such BIGOT map notations as "antitank ditch around strongpoint" or "hedgehogs 30 to 35 feet (9 to 10 meters) apart" were often the gifts of French patriots. French laborers conscripted by the Nazis paced distances between obstacles or kept track of German troop movements. A housepainter, hired to redecorate German headquarters in Caen, stole a blueprint of Atlantic Wall fortifications.

French Resistance networks passed on precious bits of information, particularly the condition of bridges and canal locks. Wireless telegraph operators transmitted in bursts to evade German radio-detection teams. Other messages got to England in capsules, borne by homing pigeons that the Royal Air Force had delivered to French Resistance agents in cages parachuted into German-occupied Normandy. Germans, aware of the winged spies, used marksmen and falcons to bring them down. But thousands of messages got through.

Today is the anniversary of D-Day. The above is taken from the National Geographic site.

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