At the beginning of May Eisenhower had met with his most senior commanders to settle the final date for the invasion of Europe, ‘D-Day’ and times for ‘H-Hour’. They needed a moonlit night for the airborne assault, followed by a low tide first thing in the morning so that the beach obstacles could be dealt with. The timings for the beginning of the Naval bombardment would be fixed around the time of first light.
The first date to fit these needs was Monday 5th June and Eisenhower had chosen to go on the first possible day. It was quite by chance that Rommel had commented, just recently, ‘knowing the Allies they will probably come on a Monday’.
In England the tension was mounting. All the troops were either on their ships or ready to board their planes late on the 4th. The US first wave assault troops had already left port. It was a fine summer’s night and everything looked promising when the Allied senior command team met to be given some bad news.
Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay had been responsible for drawing up the detailed plans which masterminded the despatch of thousands of warships and assault craft:
Commanders met here at 0415 to hear the latest weather report which was bad. The low cloud predicted would prohibit the use of airborne troops, prohibit the majority of air action including air spotting [for naval bombardment]. The sea conditions were unpromising but not prohibitive.
I pointed out we had only accepted a daylight assault on the understanding that overwhelming air & naval bombardment would be available to overcome the enemy coast and beach defences.
S.A.C [Eisenhower] therefore decided to postpone assault for 24 hours.
Forces U [Utah] and O [Omaha] would have started and must be recalled.
The weather got progressively worse from midday, having been lovely at 0415 making the decision to postpone more difficult. As the day went on the forecast became more fully justified. Force U had a bad time regaining shelter & will have suffered great discomfort. No enemy reactions.
It was a difficult day for the Naval forces. The force destined for Utah assault area did not receive the message “Bowsprit” which was sent to all Allied signalling the postponement. Fast destroyers failed to catch Force U and eventually aircraft had to be sent to turn them back. The men on the Landing Craft had to endure an uncomfortable sea passage back to port.
However, within a short space of time they would be sent out again:
At 2100 held another Comd[rs] conference at which the weather prophets were more optimistic & we decided to continue with the operation as ordered. The grounds were not too good and we were obviously taking a big chance but it seemed to be Tuesday or not this week at all. When informed, all Naval Force Comdr[s] showed great concern
This was just a provisional decision. The Commanders would meet again at 0415 on the 5th to review the weather situation once more.