By Mason B. Webb The easternmost Allied landing beach of the Normandy invasion of June 6, 1944, was code-named Sword. It was the responsibility of British Maj. Gen. Thomas Gordon Rennie’s 3rd Infantry Division, part of Lt. Gen. Miles Dempsey’s British Second Army and augmented by several special units that brought the total number of men who landed at Sword by nightfall up to 29,000. Rennie’s mission was to establish a bridgehead between Ouistreham and Saint-Aubin-sur-Mer. Once that was done, the 3rd would drive inland to be in position, along with the rest of the British, Canadian, and French forces landing at adjacent Gold and Juno Beaches, to take the city of Caen, 10 miles south of the coast. Sword was divided into four sectors labeled (from west to east) Oboe, Peter, Queen, and Roger. It was approximately six miles in width, a mile wider than Omaha Beach in the American sector. No one knew how the German defenders would react. Informants had told the Allies that one division—the 716th Infantry Division—was stationed in the area, and it was known through spies and aerial reconnaissance that there were numerous fortified bunkers and other fighting positions. One position in particular was worrisome: a four-gun battery at Merville, on the very eastern edge of Sword Beach across the Orne River from Ouistreham. The caliber of the guns was unknown, but the best guess was that they were 155mm with a range of 10.5 miles, powerful enough to do s


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