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I know the allied fleet suffered heavy losses during the operation:

Naval losses for June 1944 included 24 warships and 35 merchantmen or auxiliaries sunk, and a further 120 vessels damaged.

source

But were these losses attributed only to canons and big guns positioned along the Atlantic wall, or was there a naval battle taking place during the landings?

I'd imagine there were mines placed along the coast, specifically I'm wondering were there any U-boats attacking the Allies.

  • Short Answer- Some U-Boats, but they didn't engage the enemy. – Jake W Mar 23 '15 at 17:55
  • Take note of actions by Germany midget submarines off Normandy as they were being developed to A High Degree Late In The War And We're Very Effective But Normandy Was A PRO ING Ground And They Had Little Impact – user16146 Jan 23 '16 at 5:57
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The Kriegsmarine had no direct effect on the invasion, but did have an indirect one: they laid a lot of mines.

The coastline was protected by large numbers of naval mines, and more would be laid by U-Boats and E-Boats. In addition to dozens of landing and patrol craft, mines took the largest toll on major naval assets. The cruiser HMS Scylla and destroyers USS Fury, USS Glennon, USS Rich, HMS Wrestler, USS Meredith and USS Osprey were all sunk by mines, or damaged so badly they were written off. In addition, the battleship HMS Nelson was damaged by mines.

The Allied loses were very light, considering they had almost 7000 vessels making a frontal assault on a fortified coastline. And it was peanuts compared to the losses in the Pacific where a single battle might see the loss of three heavy cruisers.

The invasion fleet was drawn from eight different navies, comprising 6,939 vessels: 1,213 warships, 4,126 landing craft of various types, 736 ancillary craft, and 864 merchant vessels

24 warships might sound like a lot, but keep in mind many of those warships were small vessels and landing craft. To get an idea of the make up of the naval force, here are the ships which supported the landing at Omaha.

To lift and land this initial assault force of 34,000 men and 3,300 vehicles required 7 transports, 8 LSI's, 24 LST's, 33 LCI (L)'s, 36 LCM (3)'s, 147 LCT's, and 33 other craft, while the escort, gunfire support, and bombardment missions employed 2 battleships, 3 cruisers, 12 destroyers, and 105 other ships. Force "O" also included 33 mine-sweepers and 585 vessels used in service work.

Further information comes from searching the list of US Navy losses and British loses for June 1944 which reveals mostly landing craft.

By this point in the war, the surface Kreigsmarine was largely ineffectual. The handful of cruisers remaining were no match for the Allied fleet and air supremacy, and would likely have been destroyed by air strikes long before reaching the invasion beaches. They were employed with shore bombardment and rescue operations on the rapidly crumbling Eastern Front. The battleship Tirpitz was bottled up in Norway. Torpedo boats proved troublesome, but largely ineffectual. They sunk one destroyer on D-Day.

U-Boats were nowhere to be seen, the Battle Of The Atlantic had been lost the previous year and the U-Boats withdrawn from the Atlantic. U-Boats were no threat in the heavily constricted and patrolled waters off the invasion beaches.

The Germans conceived of several designs of midget submarines to attack Allied shipping, but they were not ready in time for D-Day. Rushed designs, hastily trained crews, and the flawed idea of midget submarines in general doomed the programs, they were all total failures. The closest to practical was the Biber with 324 built, but it did not see action until late August 1944. It had little success and on most missions they didn't even reach their targets.

Many of the large gun emplacements expected to cause trouble turned out to be WWI vintage and proved to not have the range or accuracy to hit Allied shipping. Here is an excellent illustration of the major shore battery duels. The destroyer USS Corry and the sub-chaser USS PC-1261 were the few ships hit and sunk. Some were knocked out early in the battle, such as the Merville Battery. Others lasted for days, such as the Maisy and Longues-sur-Mer batteries. Most were specifically designed not to fire out to sea, but rather to parallel to the coastline. This protected them from naval bombardment and provided enflade fire on the attacking infantry.

Other loses were due to friendly fire, collisions and a large storm which swept through June 19th to 25th.

The biggest "loss" of tonnage was deliberate. Several obsolete battleships were deliberately sunk to form a breakwater for the artificial harbors used to land supplies over the beaches. HMS Centurion, the French battleship Courbet, and HNLMS Sumatra were all sunk as breakwaters.

  • Excellent answer Schwern, much appreciated. I didn't know the Germans were using vintage WWI guns, madness! And friendly fire never even entered my mind, I wouldn't have thought such a thing would occur in a battle between ships at sea and gunnery positions on land. – user8790 Dec 24 '14 at 11:04
  • @Daft Germany was severely overextended trying to hold off the Soviets and defend Europe from the Arctic to Spain. They and used whatever men and material were available. They had huge stocks of captured French, Polish, Czech and Soviet weapons and men. It was a logistical nightmare. – Schwern Dec 24 '14 at 18:18
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Yes, Nazi Germany did deploy naval assets. However, what little they could get into the area proved essentially futile. This did include U-boats.

As part of the counter-invasion measures the Germany Navy had formed a group of 36 U-boats known as the Landwirte Group, the task of which was to attack Allied shipping supporting the invasion.

- Schofield, Brian Betham. Operation Neptune. Casemate Publishers, 2008.

However, they were severely countered by Allied forces. The reality is that Allied technological advances had progressively rendered U-boats impotent since the Battle of the Atlantic was won in 1943. By the time of the Normandy Invasion, the U-boat threat was effectively nullified. The U-boats were not responsible for almost any of the (honestly, not that heavy) Allied losses.

Nonetheless, the U-boats kept up their attacks in the days after D-Day, ultimately achieving very modest successes. Several ships were sunk, such as HMS Blackwood, the Columbine, SS Maid of Orleans, and others. Several more were also damaged.


In addition to U-boats, the German E-boats saw relatively extensive action early on. In the first few days, they were able to engage Allied convoys, albeit with heavy losses. During these operations, the E-boats sank several Allied vessels including SS Brackenfield, the Partridge, and SS Dungrange as well as some LCT's and LST's. By 14 June however the E-boats force had been depleted.


The German Navy also attempted to send some light destroyers into the region. This flotilla consisted of the Type 32A destroyers Z24 and Z32, as well as a salvaged Dutch destroyer ZH1. Thet were however intercepted in a battle off Brest, turning back after losing two ships.

The remnants of the German heavy surface fleet in the Baltics did not react to the Normandy landings.

  • In what ways do I not "understand the question in the first place"? If this post does not answer your question, please explain why. – Semaphore Dec 23 '14 at 17:18
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There actually was a hit-and run attack by the Kriegsmarine at Sword Beach. The Norwegian destroyer Svenner was torpedoed and sunk by a sortie of Kriegsmarine suface vessels, who came through the Allied smokescreen to find themselves in the middle of the invasion. Svenner, which was essentially pinned in place by the surrounding landing vessels, was the nearest target of opportunity, and was hit by two torpedoes, resulting in a catastrophic explosion and its sinking.

Norwegian destroyer HNoMS Svenner (pennnant G03) HNoMS Svenner was a S-class destroyer built for the Royal Navy during the Second World War and loaned to exiled Royal Norwegian Navy. Svenner was sunk off Sword, one of the Allied landing zones in Normandy, at dawn on 6 June 1944 while supporting the British Army Normandy landings.

My great-uncle was a Gunner aboard Svenner, and was severely wounded in the attack, ultimately succumbing to his injuries in August 1945.

Some information on the Kriegsmarine ships involved - These Kriegsmarine "torpedoboats" were more akin to US Navy Destroyer Escorts:

Jaguar The Jaguar was part of the 6th Torpedoboot flotilla at the outbreak of the war and used for mine laying operations until Spring of 1940. The ship was send to the Channel in fall of 1940 where the ship was transferred to the 5th Torpedoboot flotilla in February 1941. After a short operation in Norway in April 1941, the ship was used in the Baltic Sea. The Jaguar took part in Operation "Cerberus" in February 1942 and returned to the Baltic Sea until March 1943 followed by an escort mission of battlecruiser Scharnhorst to Norway.

Returned to the Channel the ship operated against the invasion fleet in the Normandy and sunk on 15.06.1944 by British Lancaster bombers in Le Havre on 49°30'N/00°07E'.

Moewe. The Möwe was part of the 5th Torpedoboot Flotilla at the outbreak of the war, which was used for mine laying ("Westwall") until 24.09.1939. Escort duties for CLs to recover home going destroyer after mine laying operations in British coastal waters. Used during Operation "Weserübung" in April 1940, and torpedoed by British submarine Taku on 09.05.1940. Repairs of the heavily damaged Möwe lasted until Spring of 1943. Transferred to France in May 1943, the Möwe was sunk on 15.06.1944 by British Lancaster bombers in Le Havre after several attacks on the allied landing force in the Normandy (including the destruction of the Norwegian destroyer Svenner )

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    You might want to include a little more information concerning the above linked event. A link only answer will often get downvoted or deleted, since if the link eventually breaks the answer becomes meaningless. – justCal Sep 2 '17 at 14:56
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My father was an ASDIC operator on HNoMS Svenner. During the D-Day he was off duty but as the ship was on alert during those hours he was on duty on his second position which was loading shells to one of the front guns.The officer in charge drew his gun when they were hit because he was ordered to stay on duty at all costs. So they were not allowed to evacuate their position. Finally, when they started to sink, they were allowed to abandon the ship. All communication onboard was wiped out. They were in the water for hours before being rescued.

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