D-Day

Page 4 – The build-up to D-Day

In the weeks before D-Day the Royal Air Force (RAF) prepared occupied territory in Europe for the invasion of ground forces. New Zealand pilots were among the many airmen to go behind enemy lines and attack strategic targets such as railway lines, troop trains and other transport.

Attacking enemy transport

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RAF Spitfire pilot Philip Stewart describes how he went about destroying enemy trains and other vehicles. See the transcript.

The RAF targeted the rail system in France and Belgium, used for transporting German troops and equipment. German reports wrote of the 'crippling' of the transport system. The destruction of railways and road communications successfully stopped German reserve troops getting to Normandy during the landings and for some time afterwards. By D-Day, Normandy had been virtually isolated by the combined Allied fighter and bomber offensive.

From April the build-up intensified. Strategic bombing also included military camps, arms factories in France and Belgium and batteries and radar sites along the French coast.

The LuftwaffeThe RAF also aimed to reduce the power of the Luftwaffe. Allied fighter squadrons flew systematic and debilitating attacks on German fighter airfields and planes on the ground in France, as well as waging battle in the air.

RAF fighters destroyed nearly 2000 enemy aircraft over the English Channel and surrounding countryside. This, combined with the fact that the bulk of the Luftwaffe was busy on the eastern front fighting the Soviet air force, meant that by D-Day the Allies had supremacy in the skies around England and the French coast.

How to cite this page

'The build-up to D-Day', URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/war/d-day/before-dday, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 17-May-2017